SOCCER

Is Erling Haaland the ‘last piece of the puzzle’ for Manchester City in the quest for the Champions League?

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Four games, six goals and a Premier League hat-trick – is Erling Haaland ‘the final piece of the puzzle’ for Manchester City in their quest for Champions League glory?

Norwegian striker arrived in town from Borussia Dortmund with goal guarantee this summer, and has now scored 161 times in his last 148 starts for club and country.

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Haaland remarkably scored 13 hat-tricks during that span.

And his 19-minute hat-trick on Saturday helped City turn another potential home loss to Crystal Palace in a comfortable 4-2 victorywhich earned him a standing ovation when he was substituted late.

But having reached three quarter-finals, semi-finals and one final in the past five seasons, could he be the man to lift Pep Guardiola’s side into European football’s elite club competition?

Erling’s efficiency

Haaland’s ruthless efficiency in front of goal has been a key aspect of City’s early Premier League appearances.

In the club first win at West HamHaaland left the London Stadium with two goals – despite just 32 touches.

As City won easily, v Bournemouth he was limited to just eight touches and didn’t see the ball for 27 minutes in the second half.

However, the problem for defenders, as Palace found out the hard way, is that he is capable of bursting into life at any time – his three goals came against the Eagles on seven shots and just 16 touches on the clock. total.

Haaland’s physical qualities, anticipation and acceleration were all evident at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday with his goals coming from a header, a tap-in and a powerful run between defenders that ended in a cool finish.

“He came for that. When you get the feeling he’s not involved in the game, he’s always there,” Guardiola said.

“As a striker, it’s amazing. He doesn’t touch the ball, but he feels the ball is there and he’s always involved.

“He’s there to score through the effort of John Stones – the attacking sense is there.

“And the third with the ball at his feet, he used his body – he put the ball in the net somewhere where the keeper can’t save it. Look at his numbers – it’s amazing. Erling did that all his Everywhere he went he scored goals.

How much for Haaland?

The Norwegian was the fastest and youngest player to reach 20 Champions League goals, and has a current goals-per-game ratio of 1.21 in the competition with 23 goals in 19 appearances.

Club/Country Appearances Departures Goals Hat tricks
Norway 21 20 20 2
Mussel 50 28 20 1
Red Bull Salzburg 27 17 29 5
Borussia Dortmund 89 79 86 4
Manchester City 4 4 6 1
Total 191 148 161 13

His arrival at City saw Guardiola return to using an orthodox centre-forward, having won the Premier League title last season without one.

It has already paid off for Haaland, who is the division’s top scorer, and former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer says he is capable of scoring over 30 goals.

“When you have someone as good as him, it frees up other players – and that’s why it’s going to be so difficult to play against them,” Shearer told BBC Sport.

“That’s why he should be looking to score 30, 35, 40 goals, and I think he will because of the number of chances they create.

“For so long City have played without this central striker. There is no doubt that he is seen as the final piece of the jigsaw to get them over the line in the Champions League.”

Only eight forwards have scored 30 or more goals in a Premier League campaign – Andy Cole, Shearer (three times), Kevin Phillips, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah – but if Haaland continues on his present trajectory that the target is well within reach.

At this rate, Haaland will also reach the 18 Premier League goals scored by his father Alf Inge by October 20 when City face Arsenal.

“[My dad] will probably say he’s scored more Premier League goals than me, so I’m going to pursue that!” he said.

“These games are what I’m here for – to turn things around when there are tough times. Amazing feeling of scoring a hat-trick.”

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