Football Features

“He’s gonna cause mayhem” – WMD Erling Haaland explodes on Premier League debut as Man City beat West Ham

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:56, 7 August 2022

Erling Haaland shone on his Premier League debut, scoring twice as Manchester City beat West Ham 0-2.

The game started off well enough for West Ham as they powered and pressed Manchester City back towards their own goal and even forced a ropey moment from goalkeeper Ederson.

That was as good as it got for the Hammers, however. In front of a record-setting home attendance of 62,433 at The London Stadium, Manchester City took hold of the game and never let it go.

Though West Ham can take solace in the fact that, in order to break down their defensive structure, Manchester City needed the terrifying, stupefying, world-class ability of their new star striker Erling Haaland.

There’s a note that plays in The Dark Knight whenever The Joker is around. It’s a single note that keeps on playing, first as a low buzz and then louder and louder as if building to a big crescendo. Except the note never stops getting higher and higher, it just keeps going and going despite the impossibility of that situation.

That’s what it’s like watching Erling Haaland on the move.

Once the Norwegian takes off, there seems to be no gear into which he cannot accelerate. No speed he cannot reach. Defenders fall away like birds in the slipstream of a fighter jet as it goes supersonic.

Today, despite their fast start and subsequent dogged defending, West Ham felt like gulls in the wake of an F-22 Raptor.

West Ham had more or less contained City and Haaland with their deep block nullifying the spaces the Norwegian could attack. But just over half an hour into the game, Haaland dropped deep to bring the West Ham defensive line up.

Joao Cancelo played the ball to Ilkay Gundogan behind Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice didn’t immediately step up to stop him turning. He chose to retreat to his own goal, following the same movement that Erling Haaland was making.

As soon as Gundogan was facing the goal, Haaland was off. Gundogan wasted no time before slipping the ball into the space. It looked like Alphonse Areola could get there, but Haaland just kept on getting faster and faster until he beat the goalkeeper to the ball, skipping around him and drawing the foul, and the penalty.

Haaland picked himself up and slotted home with unerring confidence. 0-1 to City.

Then in the second-half, we saw that same devastating speed in open play. As West Ham pushed up to chase an equaliser, they succeeding in driving City back a bit, pressing Jack Grealish down their right.

Unfortunately for West Ham, they didn’t fully press and so Rodri was unmarked. Grealish kept his cool to find the Spaniard in space, and once Rodri turned and found Kevin De Bruyne, the fuse was lit.

The second the ball hit De Bruyne’s feet, Haaland was gone. The Belgian played a through ball in behind the West Ham defence and Haaland picked the ball up, shaped his body and passed it into the back of the net. Pure devastation. 0-2 to City.

“Watching him live, he’s just gonna cause mayhem,” said Micah Richards after the game.

For a team like Manchester City, the best team in the world, the team who had won four of the last five Premier League titles amassing gargantuan points totals and even wrestled the entire English game into submission with a Domestic Treble in 2018/19, to sign a player like Erling Haaland felt very much like a vulgar display of power. A sign of their strength.

In that sense, the Community Shield was very like like all those Nuclear Weapons Tests the USA used to run. City were still figuring Haaland out, working out the kinks in how to use him. They missed his runs (De Bruyne’s assist today was a carbon copy of a missed opportunity from last week against Liverpool) and he missed his chances.

Today, Manchester City detonated the bomb and blew West Ham away.

Haaland is the first player to score two goals on Premier League debut since Sergio Aguero did it 11 years ago. Given all that Aguero achieved, that bodes well for Haaland’s future. It took Andy Cole 65 games to reach 50 Premier League goals; can Erling Haaland break that record? On today’s showing, you’d back him to.

The Hammers may have been the first victims of Erling Haaland’s monumental destructive power, but they won’t be the last. In his post-match interview Haaland shoved aside talk of his great start, saying: “now it’s almost 30 minutes since I scored a goal.”

That is a terrifying mentality for a player that good to have.

Every team in the Premier League and Champions League better start preparing their air raid drills as Manchester City hover overhead with their weapon of mass destruction, ready to unleash hell on anyone in their path.