Unless you’re decked out in blue, there has been an overwhelming sense of unfairness in the English Premier League this season. We already had the richest club in the world, with the best manager, the best squad, probably the best passer in the world, and we’ll just add the best finisher there is. As it came together so quickly this season, you couldn’t help but wonder why anyone was bothering (and it feels like only Arsenal are, and with serious questions about how much longer they can). It has felt like trying to beat your older brother, but in real life not just video games. The world is crashing down around you, repeatedly.
Erling Haaland on Manchester City has surpassed most everyone’s worst nightmares, so excessively and derisively that it’s probably gone around again and you simply have to stare in wonder at the numbers and the ferocity.
First the numbers. Haaland piled up his third consecutive hat trick at the Etihad against Manchester United today. He’s the first to ever do it. Here’s something galactically stupid:
Let’s pound your brain into mush even more:
The record for goals in a Premier League season is Mo Salah’s 32. Haaland is 44 percent of the way there. The season isn’t even a quarter old. Salah also set the English record for goals in all competitions in a season with 44. Haaland has 17, and it’s October 2nd. The domestic cup competitions haven’t even started for City yet, and there’s only been two Champions League games. The mind reels at where the numbers could end up.
That’s just the statsheet. Knowing the numbers isn’t nearly the whole story. Watching Man City, especially when they get in full flow, there is no heavier sense of impending doom. It was mostly this way for the past few seasons, but there was some forlorn hope that they could find a way to fuck up one of the glorious chances they always created consistently. The brief flicker of light, of any kind of hold to avoid sinking into the depths has been snuffed out in the most vicious fashion. You know exactly where it’s going now, and everyone is powerless to stop it.
The temptation is to deride Haaland as merely finishing off easy chances, but no one who still says that, and they’re a dwindling few, actually believes it. The instincts to be in the right place at the right time, the sense of timing and space, just can’t be taught. If it could, everyone would do it. Fuck, we could turn the USMNT’s Jesus Ferreira into this by November if it were that easy.
Take Haaland’s second goal today. It looks easy at first glance:
And it has to be said: The pass from De Bruyne is pornographic. But De Bruyne has been making pornographic passes his entire City career. United’s Raphael Varane knows Haaland is there and that he’s the only priority. And yet Haaland keeps finding just enough space. Sure, it helps that Haaland is 6-3, but there are plenty of tall strikers. Haaland gets down to the ground a beat earlier than you might expect, which leaves him in position to make solid contact on a pass that is fading away from him, and on one you see most players only get a toe on. He does this all the time. His wonder goal against Dortmund was no different.
His hat trick goal:
Again, this looks ridiculously simple, and the build-up play is exquisite (with some straight up United giving up helping out). But Haaland makes it look easy. This ball is fizzed at him, and the control to easily sweep it on target isn’t just some everyday thing. How many of these have you seen put into orbit? There’s no doubt what Haaland will do with it.
It used to be that Haaland wasn’t very good with his head, or that he didn’t contribute in any way other than us scoring. Well, his first goal was a header today, and he racked up two assists. So that’s fun.
Your humble correspondent once wrote of Haaland joining City that it was scary, but really how much better could City get? They rack up 90 or more points a season and score around or over 100 goals already. Were they really going to score 150? Of course, I and any other who said so were doing it out of fear, convincing ourselves that wouldn’t be what would happen. Well, they’re on pace for 138 in just the league right now.
We are all King Theodin. “What can men do against such hate?” (Yes, Two Towers was on TV last night.)