Erling Haaland vs. Darwin Nunez. In the build-up to this past Saturday’s Community Shield, that was all the press seemed to want to talk about: Erling Haaland vs. Darwin Nunez. Both men were set to play some part in the game, so who would impress more? Would Erling Halland hit the ground running, tear apart the Liverpool defence, and send out a stark warning to the rest of the Premier League ahead of the new season? Or would Darwin Nunez justify his incredibly high price tag and show just why Liverpool had splashed out £85 million on him?
Now that the dust has settled on the match let’s take a look at Erling Haaland vs. Darwin Nunez and see just what we’ve learned.
Man City Need To Play To Erling Haaland’s Strengths
Man City has played the last two seasons without a recognized front man—with Sergio Aguero being out injured for most of the 2020-21 season and moving to Barcelona for 2021-22—meaning that they’ve had to adapt their style of play to deal with not having a focal point to their attack. This means that City has become more fluid, and considering they were pretty damn fluid to start with, that’s saying something. It does also mean that they’re not as used to whipping in crosses and balls over the top as they used to be, and on Saturday it showed.
Erling Haaland is a brilliant all-around footballer, but let’s be honest here, he’s at his best when he’s baring down on goal or getting into the 18-yard box to meet an inch-perfect cross. Tiki Taka is all well and good, but it doesn’t give Haaland what he needs: a regular supply line for him to turn into goals.
There were few times that he got to show what he could against Liverpool as he was expertly marshaled by the combination of Big Virgil and Big Joel, but when he did get a chance he looked dangerous, right up until he hit it straight at the keeper—a man who usually can’t catch a cold—or missed so spectacularly that you had to watch the reply five or six times because it was just so fu…er…I mean, because you couldn’t believe your eyes.
Let’s be real for a moment though, shall we? The Community Shield is nothing more than a glorified pre-season friendly so Erling Haaland’s performance—or lack of—shouldn’t bother anyone. The lad is too good to not be able to adapt to the Premier League in a quick fashion. He’s going to be a success and we can just put Saturday down as an off day.
I mean, as long as he scores next weekend, then there’s nothing to worry about.
Darwin Nunez Has Hit The Ground Running
Liverpool’s pre-season has been less than stellar. Some poor results and performances had me and a few other Reds worried about what the upcoming season will bring, but one of the shining lights we had was that Darwin Nunez has hit the ground running.
Four goals against RB Leipzig were followed by a blistering 30-minute cameo against Man City that saw him almost win one penalty that was ruled out for offside (though I think the keeper got the ball anyway), have a seemingly personal running battle with Ederson, win another penalty that saw Mo Salah put Liverpool 2-1 up and cap off a brilliant half hour by netting the third and killer goal with a sweet stooping header.
Whereas Erling Haaland looked at times, dare I say, lost, it seems that Darwin Nunez and his Liverpool teammates are already all reading from the same hymn sheet. They know to give him balls to chase, they know to get crosses into the box, and they know that nine times out of ten he’ll be on the end of them to cause all sorts of havoc. The Man City defence didn’t seem to know how to deal with him from the moment he stepped on the pitch, and though he is—by all accounts—a very humble guy, he seemed to want to upstage Erling Haaland, and boy, did he do that.
I am not going to sit here based on one game—one that means very little in the grand scheme of things—and tell you that I think Erling Haaland is going to be a massive flop because he’s not. I’m also not going to sit here and tell you that I think Nunez is going to run riot every time he steps out onto the pitch, because everyone has off days.
What I am going to say is that in Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez, Man City and Liverpool have two of the most exciting young talents in world football today and that they are going to light up the Premier League this season. Both Mo Salah and Harry Kane are looking to bag their fourth Golden Boot award this season to match the record holder, Thierry Henry, but with Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez around, there’s a very big possibility that neither one of them will pick up that award again.
Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez are both going to be devastating this season. Mark my words.