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Erling Haaland’s arrival leaves no room for fatigue against City this season

It took the Norwegian striker just over half-an-hour to bury a disappointing Community Shield showing and claim his first goal in the Premier League.

A darting run in behind West Ham’s injury-riddled defence, including make-shift centre-half Ben Johnson, was found by Ilkay Gundogan, whose deft pass was pushed around Alphonse Areola by Haaland, who was clipped on his way past and on his way to sweeping home his debut Premier League goal from the spot.

The heat was on display at the London Stadium. By halftime, the likes of Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne’s cheeks were rosy and various Hammers were puffing, a consequence of their inability to obtain much of the football, forced into a headless pursuit of the City machine.

With the heat, and the complete lack of possession – City ended the game with 75 per cent of the ball and nearly four times as many passes as the Irons – came the inevitable fatigue, and a lesson for other Premier League sides.

When Haaland is on the field, fatigue is simply not an option. It sounds harsh, but it is in fact true.

Just after the hour mark, after a rare foray into the City box by West Ham was dealt with by City’s defence, Pep Guardiola’s men looked to slowly work their way out of their half, moving the ball calmly from touchline to touchline until it eventually found Jack Grealish, who laid a simple ball infield for Spanish pivot, Rodri.

(Photo by Getty Images)

From here, the danger begins. Rodri, unmarked and unpressured, turns, takes a single touch, and plays a ball into De Bruyne’s feet. The Belgian, who’s a few metres within his own half, takes one touch, enters the opposition half, and sprays an inch-perfect pass into the onrushing Norwegian’s feet.

Crucially, West Ham captain Declan Rice is within a few metres of City’s chief playmakers, but presumably from the fatigue induced by both the heat and the constant, gruelling defensive shift he had put in up to that point, he was unable to close down City’s No.17 and within 10 seconds the ball marched up the field and the final goal of the game was scored.

For West Ham, it was a cruel but undeniably deserved final nail in a coffin constructed by City’s poise, control and ruthlessness, a slick, three-player, two-pass move that capped off a stellar debut for Haaland, some two decades after this father made his.

For the rest of the Premier League, the former Dortmund man’s second goal was a warning of the impacts of fatigue against this City team. In years gone by, when Guardiola opted to operate with a false 9, fatigue could go unpunished with no City capable of making the movement and the finishing of Haaland.

But this new iteration of Manchester City is not that. A single ball into a channel could result in a goal, and given the quality of De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Gundogan, Phil Foden and all the other chief creative talents the reigning champions possess, that decisive ball can come from anywhere on the pitch, at any moment.

City have levelled up this season, and that means that not only will they be able to pass you to death, as they did against West Ham. But instead of scoring off beautiful, sweeping 35-pass moves, as they have done in years gone by, they will be able to score in three passes.

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