Football Features

Is Man City star Erling Haaland meeting expectations at the Etihad?

By Will Evans | Twenty3

Published: 14:32, 16 April 2024

Erling Haaland is polarising opinion this season.

No Premier League player has scored more times than the Manchester City forward, yet his 20-goal return feels underwhelming compared with last term’s sensational output.

The 23-year-old netted a mammoth 36 strikes in 2022/23, but is highly unlikely to match that tally with six games remaining.

So, why has Haaland’s goal return dipped — and he is still the top flight’s most fearsome frontman?

Is Haaland underperforming?

This season’s numbers portray Haaland’s season as a mixed bag.

On the one hand he tops the Premier League goalscoring chart, is responsible for the most big chances scored (16) and shots on target (48) and his 23.69 expected goals (xG) and non-penalty xG of 19.75 are also league-leading totals.

However, those expected metrics are some way above his actual return of 20 goals with 14 from open play, raising questions about Haaland’s efficiency in the final third.

He also plays in a City team that create a high volume of opportunities — only Liverpool (87) have produced more big chances than their 83 — which inherently boosts the Norwegian’s goal potential.

Form a factor

There is a degree of recency bias when it comes to criticism of Haaland.

It has been a year of peaks and troughs for City’s No.9, who was enjoying a hot streak as recently as February and early March — scoring eight times in five matches across all competitions, including a five-goal FA Cup haul against Luton Town.

Recent weeks have been less productive, though, with just two goals in six Premier League and Champions League fixtures.

But with fixtures against Brighton, Nottingham Forest, Wolves and Fulham on the horizon, it may not be long until Haaland catches fire once again.

Goals imminent?

It is impossible to discuss Haaland’s campaign without juxtaposing it with 2022/23.

The 6ft 4in marksman’s 1.17 goals per 90 last season were some way above this year’s 0.82, as were his 0.78 open play goals per 90 — compared with 0.58 this term.

But it is worth noting that he is actually attempting more shots (4.2 vs 3.99) and registering more shots on target (1.98 vs 1.95) in 2023/24, leading to a higher xG per 90 (0.98 vs 0.93).

With nothing to indicate a terminal decline in the Leeds native’s finishing ability, this would suggest that his goal return will eventually increase.

Expecting a similar output to last season’s remarkable tally was perhaps always unrealistic, but do not be surprised if Haaland starts scaling similar heights in the near future.