It was yet another special goalscoring moment for Mason Greenwood. His goal against Watford took his tally to 11 goals in 33 appearances this season. This averages to a goal every three appearances, a respectable return for a young striker in his first full senior season.
Break down the statistics further and Greenwood’s goalscoring ability appears even more remarkable. While he has made 33 appearances, he has only played 1560 minutes, giving him an average of a goal every 141 minutes.
This means Greenwood has a better goal return than the joint Premier League top goalscorer Jamie Vardy who averages a goal every 146 minutes, but that's obvious given Greenwood has played significantly lesser minutes than Vardy.
In a sport where a striker’s effectiveness is measured in goal statistics, Greenwood delivers. But it is in the goalscoring moment that a striker showcases his art and Greenwood is proving to be a precocious master of the moment.
Look up a compilation of Greenwood’s goals and you see a familiar sequence –a strange stillness when he collects the ball in the final third followed by a sure shot. With the ball at his feet, surrounding defenders appear to slow and the stadium seems to fall silent.
It is an unusual calm that Greenwood conjures amidst the pressure of the goalscoring moment. Once in this zone, he takes a few neat touches, does the odd stepover or feint before firing his now-signature sure finish with either foot, no matter to him.
When the ball hits the back of the net, as it tends to do, life jerks back in the stadium and the strange calm ruptures and gives way to rapture. Amidst celebrations, a wide-eyed Greenwood wheels away on his own celebration, wearing an almost goofy smile that reminds us of his youth.
This has been the sequence for Greenwood goal after goal. He is a curious embodiment of footballing chronological incongruity – a fast-tracked 18-year-old with goalscoring ability beyond his years and an uncanny ability to find not necessarily space, but time in the frenetic final third.
For the goal against Watford, Greenwood once again twisted time, this time dialling it forward. He collected the ball in his own half, fooled and floored an oncoming Étienne Capoue with a feint inward, burst down the middle, played a neat one-two with Bruno Fernandes, took two touches and unleashed a stinging shot that rattled the crossbar and ricocheted into the goal, all in 10 seconds.
This latest goal was a product of unfamiliar speed and power combined with the same astute sureness. No over-elaboration, just lethal efficiency. There was nothing slow about the goal. Greenwood needed just about a second to make three deft touches with his left foot – one to control, one to set himself up, and another to finish.
As the shot bounced off the back of the net, he fell to the ground, legs together and taut from cramp. He slows down now, lying still with his arms spread.
Time bends for Greenwood. Hitherto it slowed whenever he got into a goalscoring moment. But against Watford he forced time forward, driving up the pitch and then taking three touches that were simply too swift to stop.
This emergence of an electric pace that puts him a step ahead of his opponents is also a fitting reminder that this eighteen-year-old has mastered the art of goalscoring well ahead of time.Published 25 Feb 2020, 19:21 IST