Erling Haaland celebrates after scoring Manchester City’s fifth goal in their 7-0 victory against RB Leipzig.
On March 14, Erling Haaland surpassed Kylian Mbappé by becoming the youngest player to reach 30 goals in the UEFA Champions League. In just 63 minutes, Haaland registered five goals against German side RB Leipzig, equalling the record for the most goals scored in a Champions League game. The game finished 7-0 to Manchester City, comfortably sending them through to the next round of the competition, where they will meet FC Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. This proved to be a historic night for Haaland, becoming Manchester City’s most prolific scorer in a single season. His next three brought his goal count to 33, with 10 of those coming at Man City, 15 at Borussia Dortmund, and 8 at RB Salzburg. He now has 42 goals in 37 games this season for City, averaging just over 1.13 goals per game. In his current form, it is almost inevitable that he will find the back of the net in each game he plays. But what allows him to be so successful in front of goal?
In order to understand his success, it is important to first look at his physical characteristics. Haaland stands at a towering 6’ 4”, making him a significant aerial threat for defenders. He is also incredibly quick, reaching a maximum speed this season of 36.22 km/h, the fourth fastest in the Premier League. This combination of power and pace makes him a nightmare for the opposition’s defense. If they try to play on the front foot and be aggressive, all it takes is one ball to slip through and Haaland will be impossible to catch. If the other team decides to sit deep and let Manchester City keep the ball, players like Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez have the ability to deliver a cross for Haaland to latch onto.
While there are a number of strikers who can compete with Haaland in terms of physical prowess, Haaland separates himself from the rest with his elite anticipation and ability to read the game. Physical strength cannot be fully utilized if the player does not take up the correct positions on the field; this is what makes Haaland so good. He has an innate ability to read the flight or bounce of the ball, and connect perfectly with it almost every time. He is constantly aware of his surroundings, so when the time is right, he can break away from the defender and get free in the penalty area. While many believe Haaland is just getting fortunate when the ball bounces right at his feet, it is in fact the result of his astounding movement and experience, something so rare in a striker of his age.
The heights Haaland is reaching at just 22 are truly breathtaking. Each week, he is in the spotlight with all the pressure on him, yet it does not seem to affect his game. Many young players suffer due to excessive media coverage, but Haaland keeps on scoring. With each goal, Haaland continues to break records and set a new standard for Europe’s next generation of goal scorers.