Erling Haaland can resume his productive streak for Man City under Pep Guardiola

Erling Haaland, a striker for Manchester City, has recently struggled with his form, but Pep Guardiola knows how to turn things around.

 

It is absurd to claim that the Premier League’s top scorer, a position he has held since August 2022, isn’t actually playing that well right now.

However, that’s just the exceptional bar Erling Haaland has set for himself.

 

After only eight games of the new season, Manchester City’s sensation has already scored eight goals. Haaland would finish the season with 38 points and another record if he continued to score at that rate for the remainder of the game.

 

He’s not yet operating at his peak, though. His statistics are lower than last season, when he had already scored 15 goals at this point.

That’s a remarkable return, and he shouldn’t be a victim of his own success, but a dropoff of almost 50% might be cause for concern.

 

The biggest problem isn’t just the declining goal totals; it’s also his recent lack of participation.

He only made 15 touches over the course of the entire game against Wolves, despite having two brief chances to score.

Prior to the international break, he had 23 touches at Arsenal but no shots on goal, leaving him with an xG of 0 points.

 

Despite a brace during the international break, Haaland’s return to the scoresheet came only against mediocre Cyprus, and when Norway faced Spain, he was once more kept off the scoresheet.

In a game that Norway had to win in order to advance to Euro 2024, he only had 19 touches.

 

It is concerning that he has played absolutely no part in a game as significant as Arsenal, and the frustrations have followed him to the international game.

The machine contains a monkey wrench. The system that functioned so flawlessly during the march to the treble has a bug.

 

Thank goodness, Pep Guardiola has seen this issue before and knows how to solve it. Despite Haaland’s impressive start, City initially had trouble fielding a team with a dedicated striker.

Due to the excellent passing and pressing of whoever was manning the position of a false 9, City had grown accustomed to essentially playing with another midfield in attack, which gave them much more ball control.

 

Haaland is not a player who prefers to drop deep and participate in the build-up play.

To widen the back line, he leans on the defender’s shoulder while actively searching for empty space.

City were essentially operating with one fewer man after he was injured in the side and had to find a way to make up for the loss.

 

The process required months of testing with erratic outcomes.

In order to guard against counterattack vulnerability and encourage patient play rather than the risky, incisive passes Haaland was begging for, Guardiola initially kept his midfielders in reserve.

As a result, Haaland frequently cut an isolated figure.

 

But ultimately, John Stones emerged as the answer.

When City had possession, the Blues manager had been practicing pushing a defender from the back into midfield. It would open up more passing lanes for recycling possession and enable his current attacking midfielders to move closer to Haaland without leaving huge gaps in front of them.

 

Although Bernardo Silva, Rico Lewis, and Manuel Akanji had varying degrees of success, it wasn’t until Stones took up the torch that things really took off.

Stones admitted it was difficult for him to learn his new job.

Given that he played two positions and constantly needed to be in the right place at the right time, it’s not surprising.

However, the more he played, the more self-assured he became, to the point where he was controlling the midfield against Real Madrid and in the Champions League final.

Without Stones, both City and Haaland would have been less able to benefit from Haaland.

 

Stones didn’t play until late against Arsenal after missing every other game, and it’s clear how much his absence was felt.

Without the defender, Guardiola has had to improvise his set-up, which hasn’t been as effective.

 

While left-winger Phil Foden has moved inside, Kyle Walker has advanced but has stayed on the right flank.

The result has been a lopsided team with crowded attacking areas and insufficient quality on the ball in the middle. With Stones back, City can go back to their earlier season tactics, which may lead to an improvement in everyone’s performances, not just Haaland’s.

 

Although Haaland’s performance has been concerning, Stones’ return should be the answer to all of his issues.

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