University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Erling Haaland Isn’t That Good

Kian Shayegan

ByKian Shayegan

Apr 25, 2024

It’s opinions like these that make my parents regret not putting me up for adoption. But listen, if you’ve made it to even just this sentence without spitting on this article or throwing it in the bin out of sheer disgust, then I’ll take that as a win. 

To clarify, I’m aware that he is an absolute goal machine, and the numbers he’s put up in the Premier League are unlike anything  we’ve seen before or will probably see again in our lifetimes. But the reality is, if you put him in the current Bournemouth side, he doesn’t score as many goals as Dominic Solanke, nor would he in the current Aston Villa side as Ollie Watkins; I’d even go as far to say he couldn’t score more goals for West Ham than Jarrod Bowen, and he plays on the bloody wing. I get these are all ifs and buts, but I have two main points as to why this is the case, and don’t worry I’ll make sure to acknowledge all the obvious rebuttals. 

First point: He never scores when it really matters. Take last year’s record breaking season: let me give you the list of all the top half teams he scored against when his team actually needed a goal i.e. when they’re a goal behind or the game was deadlocked: Brighton, Aston Villa. Yep, I’m done. 

Ok now here comes the obvious rebuttal, ‘Oh but because he plays for the best team in the world, they’re always winning games anyway so there’s rarely any opportunities for him to score a goal they desperately need’. 

Well…no. I can give you three examples, just in the last two months of when Manchester City needed a goal in an important game and he failed to deliver. Chelsea at home – the Cityzens drew 1-1 and were 0-1 down for most of it and not only did he not do anything, but he missed one of the easiest chances he could have possibly been given. Manchester United at home – whilst City won 3-1, and Haaland did in fact score, his side were 0-1 down for most of the game, and once again, he didn’t do anything and missed one of the biggest sitters you will see all season (and his goal was scored when they were already 2-1 up with about 5 seconds left to play, wow amazing, what a cheat code clutch player). Liverpool away – the visitors drew 1-1 and once again, you guessed it, ghost mode activated. Speaking of missing big chances, it’s funny how people make fun of Darwin Nuñez for just not being very good at football. While he’s missed 20 big chances this season, Haaland the ‘cheat code’ himself has missed 26. 

And yes, obviously I know he gets way more big chances so it’s unfair to use this statistic on its own, but another stat that doesn’t cover Haaland in too much glory is that none of the golden boot winners from the previous five seasons were ever first for big chances missed. 

Just to clarify, this was what he was specifically brought in to do – score big goals in big games. If they wanted to sign someone to score important goals against Luton and Sheffield United, Pep Guadiola may as well have bought Charlie Austin instead. 

It was no different last season. The biggest games last season were Arsenal at home, the two Champions League semi-final legs against Real Madrid as well as the final against Inter, and the FA Cup final against Manchester United, and the only time he decided to show up and score was when his team were already 3-1 up against Arsenal, missing sitter after sitter when the game was actually tight. 

Another common rebuttal people will say this time would be that, as he’s the best player, teams will come up with tactics solely based around doubling up and marking him out of the game. That’s a fair point, but you could say the same for the 2022 World Cup final, with both Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe being by far the standout players of their teams, but Messi still notched twice and Mbappe scored a hat trick. Cristiano Ronaldo has played in 6 Champions league finals, being the key player in every single one, and still managed to score 5 times. One of the greatest ever Premier League strikers Didier Drogba scored 9 goals in 9 finals for Chelsea. I could go on. 

This leads me on to my second point: he can’t score a wide enough range of goals.I’m not saying he only scores tap-ins, but certain techniques required for certain goals from certain angles are simply beyond Haaland’s capabilities. For example, do you remember any of Haaland’s goals having curl on them, or using the outside of his foot, or being scored on the volley using his laces? Or even a time when he skilfully wiggled his way round a group of defenders? 

Of course, it doesn’t matter what type of goal you score, if you’ve scored 36 goals, you’ve scored 36 goals. However, with all of the great strikers we’ve seen in the Premier League, the likes of Shearer, Henry, Suarez, Aguero, Kane; the one thing they all had in common is that you couldn’t give them a sniff, no matter where they were on the pitch from practically 35 yards out inwards, due to them all being able to score all types of goals from all types of angles. This simply isn’t the same for Haaland. Hence, despite not putting up anywhere near the same numbers as him, a striker like Aleksander Isak at Newcastle will go on to have a more successful and prolific career in my opinion. 

I am of course aware of how young Haaland is, and at the age of 23 he has plenty of time to prove me wrong and level up even more on all aspects of his game. But right now, I just feel like the amount of praise and hype people have been giving him isn’t fully warranted, and until he has an Aguero vs QPR moment, or a Drogba vs Bayern Munich, or an Mbappe vs Argentina, my thoughts will remain this way. 

Leave a Reply