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Erling Haaland can stall Liverpool FC's assault on Man City goalscoring records

By Stuart Brennan

There is a supreme irony in the fact that in the week when Manchester City announced the solution to their striking problem, they are close to becoming one of the top three goalscoring English teams of all time. The news about Erling Haaland arriving this summer was neatly wedged between a five-goal blitz of Newcastle and another five at Wolves, as if the current City squad are making the addition of a natural predator seem a luxury rather than a necessity.

Liverpool have been excited about the fact that their current team has broken their own club goalscoring record, having already bagged 142 in all competitions this season. With four games still to go, they are almost certain to break up the Blues ’ virtual monopoly on the English goalscoring records.

Goals matter in title races, not least this season, when the Blues' recent blitz of 22 in their last five games has seen them overhaul Liverpool's sizeable goal difference advantage. That could yet be crucial on the final day of the season.

ALSO READ: Guardiola speaks on Haaland arrival

At present, City occupy five of the top six spots in the all-time list, headed by Pep Guardiola’s 2018-19 team which racked up a phenomenal 169 goals in all competitions. After that come Manuel Pellegrini’s 2013-14 title winners (156 goals), Guardiola’s 2019-20 side (149) and then the current team which has 145 with two games left to play.

Behind them are Guardiola’s 2017-18 team which equalled the 1956-57 Manchester United side’s 143 total, a record that stood for 57 years until Pellegrini's City broke it. Liverpool only need two more goals this season to break into that top six, but if Haaland can hit the ground running, as he did in Norwegian, Austrian and German football, the horizons seem limitless for Guardiola’s team next season.

Of course, it is always tough to predict how a new player will perform, but Guardiola’s track record on improving the players under his charge, and Haaland’s God-given ability to find the back of the net are likely to be a lethal combination. Kevin De Bruyne’s four-goal tour de force at Wolves on Wednesday night was a stark reminder that the Blues have goals sprouting from every part of the pitch - they have six players in double figures in all competitions this season, and even the centre backs have contributed 11 between them.

Compare that to the fact Liverpool have just four players in double figures, with the goals concentrated largely in Mo Salah (30), Sadio Mane (22) and Diogo Jota (21). The Anfield side’s good luck with - or good management of, depending on your viewpoint - injuries means that they have not been tested for depth in terms of contributing goals.

City have shown repeatedly in recent years that they can ride losing key players through injury and still keep scoring goals and winning trophies. The fact that they won the Premier League last season without a recognised striker, and are on course to repeat the feat this year, is proof of that.

There is a train of thought that Haaland could disrupt City’s natural flow and, while he might score goals, he will simply be replacing someone else on the scoresheet rather than adding more to the tally. The evidence would suggest otherwise.

In the other seasons when City have achieved phenomenal goalscoring totals, they have had a natural striker in top form - Sergio Aguero hit 32 in 2018-19, 30 in 2017-18, 28 in 2013-14, and as his powers waned slightly in 2019-20, Raheem Sterling stepped up with 31 goals.

City were excellent last season, after Aguero had left and they had failed to nail the signing of Harry Kane, but their goal output still fell considerably, as they managed a 'mere' 131 goals. That title success, and run to the Champions League final, owed more to their defensive solidity than their prowess up-front.

So Aguero was clearly a key figure in the fact that City have come to dominate the English goalscoring records chart, finishing top scorer, and averaging 30 goals a season, in three of the four campaigns in which they have beaten the Busby Babes’ old mark.

Haaland is more than a penalty area finisher - he also creates goals through his ability on the ball, his pace and his strength and aerial power. He is a phenomenon, and when you hold his goalscoring record against that of Aguero at the same age, the extent of that becomes obvious.

Erling Haaland has been prolific wherever he has played (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

In the summer when he turned 22, Aguero had netted 97 goals in 249 games for Independiente and Atletico Madrid, a strike rate of 0.39 goals a game. Haaland turns 22 this summer and he already has 154 goals in 199 games for Bryne, Molde, Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund - a strike rate which is literally twice as good, at 0.77 a game.

And if you discount the goals he scored in Norway, Haaland’s strike rate gets even better, going up to 114 in 115 games, virtually a goal a game. At 21, he is yet to finish developing as a striker, and Guardiola and his staff will undoubtedly help him with that, and improving his assists record is one area that will undoubtedly be targeted, although his tally of seven this season is a decent starting point.

Football is full of ifs and buts, and it is impossible to tell how quickly Haaland will settle into new surroundings, but even if he stays at his current rate of goalscoring - and he could well improve, playing in a better team - City could be on course to blitz even their own ridiculously high records.

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