Erling Haaland’s early impact is already looking ominous for the Premier League

Erling Haaland's early impact is already looking ominous for the Premier League

While Erling Haaland was swearing on live TV and Pep Guardiola was getting a little passive aggressive, David Moyes was getting defensive.

The West Ham manager had been talking about how his side had been preparing for the Norwegian’s runs all week. They had watched their game against Liverpool and tried to apply the lessons from the previous games against Manchester City.

It didn’t matter though. There was little they could do about it.

However, Moyes was not ready to heap all the praise on Haaland.

First, he said his side should have cut out Kevin De Bruyne’s pass that set up the new signing’s sublime second goal. He then refused to admit that the main difference was Haaland.

Moyes spoke at length about how City’s biggest change was actually the height that full-backs Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker played, rendering much of the build-up before the West Ham game irrelevant .

As Guardiola might say in his calmer moments, however, all this is only part of the whole. City were clearly capable of playing this way, or willing to, because Haaland allows a different shape to the team. Instead of the team being gently surrounded in terms of formation and how they move (a flow of passes), the Norwegian’s runs allow for irregular angles, which can stretch opposing sides in an instant. That’s why full-backs who get up so high, to also create more space for De Bruyne in the middle, are so influential.

There is also a broader point.

It means that, for a team that has dominated the Premier League with four of the last five titles, they are now a new proposition. The manner of Haaland’s second goal, which in fact shares some characteristics with the play that led to the penalty, emphasized that the team will have to work on it again.

This can be ominous. The first half of the season could be Haaland repeatedly exposing defenses that aren’t used to handling him.

Haaland unlocked the West Ham defense with his acceleration

(Getty Images)

Then, even worse, once they have the 17 test matches to study, the World Cup will move on to allow the Norwegians five weeks of rest and recovery. He may return at Christmas as an even different prospect, fully accustomed to the league and much fresher than most of the competition.

There are some caveats here, of course. It’s just one game, and that game was against a West Ham side where there have been rumblings of a tired team with the manager’s approach. The lack of power in the display was noticeable, although the heat probably played a role as well.

The second goal still feels like a scene we’ll see again and again this season, scrambling through unprepared defences.

If so, it would be a complete reversal of last week’s discussion that Haaland will take time to adapt to the league. Guardiola couldn’t help but mention it when asked about the forward’s performance. This is where he got passive aggressive.

“A week ago he couldn’t adapt to the Premier League. Now he’s up there with the best, Titi Henry, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Guardiola then declared that the “debate” was “over” because Haaland was simply “born to score goals”.

It’s hard to disagree. He was met with that attitude again after the game, where the striker declared that he was “crap**” not to have scored a hat-trick.

Guardiola believed Haaland’s display had silenced early doubts

(Getty Images)

Guardiola at least laughed it off.

“I don’t know him very well because we are together for three weeks or a month, so we need time to see how he can react to situations.

“I know how he handled a lot of criticism this week, he was very calm and trained very well. But the way he took the ball to take the penalty, I liked it. He is direct and if someone goes to catch his ball he will punch one of his teammates in the face. I’m pretty sure of that.

“It’s about confidence, ambition and mindset. This showed me. I liked. And then, of course, he scored it.

“He’s been here for five years. Hopefully he stays for this time and more. We want all the guys to be happy, feel good about the city and the team. And push him a little bit more.

“He’s an incredibly talented guy, he scores good numbers, but we’d like to add something more to his game to be a better player. Not just a guy who scores goals, which is so important, but that’s why we want to try to give everything to make him a better player.”

It already looks dangerous. The Premier League has now had its first proper glimpse in England, rather than on television or with a foreign club.

The question now is how everyone responds and if they can respond.

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