Haaland goalscoring heroics a ‘surprise’, says Guardiola

Pep Guardiola says Erling Haaland’s astonishing scoring feats for Manchester City have been a “surprise”, with the Norwegian on the cusp of breaking the Premier League’s single-season goal record.

The 22-year-old netted his 34th goal of the league campaign in Sunday’s 2-1 win at Fulham, drawing him level with joint Premier League single-season record holders Andy Cole and Alan Shearer.

Haaland’s strike at Craven Cottage was his 50th goal of the season — he holds the all-competitions record by a Premier League player since the top flight was rebranded in 1992.

With a potential 10 games remaining for treble-chasing City this term, Haaland could even pass Dixie Dean’s all-time English record of 63 goals set in the 1927/28 season.

The Everton player’s mark of 60 top-flight strikes during that campaign will surely remain intact.

It has been an breath-taking first year in English football for Haaland, and even Guardiola didn’t expect such a spree from the former Borussia Dortmund star.

“It is a surprise for all of us — maybe not for him — to do what he’s doing in this difficult league but the way he behaves and has done it is for the success of the team,” he said.

“Of course it’s good for him and the team if he breaks the records. It’s a good sign.

“The magnitude of a record is because for a long time it was not broken. All records will be broken one day.”

– ‘Incredible self-confidence’ –

Guardiola believes Haaland’s second season with City could be even better than his first.

“I think he has the desire to get better as a player. As long as he has that he can do it,” he said.

“I know him a bit and he is so competitive and positive in his mindset. He has this incredible, positive self-confidence. It’s not arrogance.

“It’s self-confidence to say I am going to score and to arrive in his first season and score 50 already and equal the record for two legends in Andy Cole and Alan Shearer.”

Comparisons have also been made between Haaland and Argentina star Lionel Messi, who scored 73 goals for Barcelona in 2011-12.

But Guardiola insisted it is unfair to make parallels with Messi, who played under the Spaniard at Barcelona.

“No-one can compare with Messi. It will not help Erling. Messi is the most complete player I have seen in terms of vision, dribbles, passes, competitiveness, in many things that are difficult.

“Hopefully Erling can be so close to Leo, that will be great for us and him, but I don’t help anyone to compare them.”

In-form City put themselves firmly in control of the title race with their 4-1 rout of Arsenal last week.

But, after being pushed hard by Fulham, Guardiola is not taking anything for granted ahead of City’s home game against West Ham on Wednesday.

“West Ham maybe didn’t do the season they expected but that doesn’t mean the quality is not there,” he said.

“The weapons are there, they are a good team. I don’t have doubts about them. In one game anything can happen. We have to be absolutely ready.” -BSS

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