Pep Guardiola can solve his Man City headache with Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland – Matthew Hobkinson
Pep Guardiola has a problem that any Premier League manager dreams of having.
The depth of the Manchester City squad has always been one of their biggest strengths, with the Blues boasting a tantalizing array of talent in almost every position. One of Guardiola’s main issues since taking over at the Etihad Stadium has been how he has spaced out all his stars.
This problem will not be repeated with the return of Julian Alvarez from Qatar after his World Cup victory in Argentina. The striker was stunning for Lionel Scaloni’s side as they lifted the trophy after a thrilling final on Sunday afternoon.
ALSO READ: ‘Messi, don’t run’ – Man City ace Julian Alvarez hailed for ‘brilliant’ World Cup campaign
In comparison, Erling Haaland spent the month resting and recharging his batteries due to Norway’s absence from the competition. City have been looking to replace Sergio Aguero for some time, but they may have only found two replacements in one summer.
Haaland’s goalscoring record this season is unprecedented. The Norwegian has managed to score more than one goal per game in all competitions – finding the net 23 times in 18 total appearances.
Alvarez has made just three Premier League starts so far, scoring three times in 12 competition appearances. The Argentine showed glimpses of his talent during his cameos under Guardiola, but the 22-year-old burst onto the scene at the World Cup.
The South American returns as a different player to the one who left, flooded with a newfound confidence that has allowed him to lead his country’s attack on the world’s biggest stage. In doing so, he poses a serious problem for his Catalan coach: how does Guardiola find space for Alvarez and Haaland in his City squad?
The City manager has already hinted at a post-World Cup future for the pair, explaining how the duo will start working together following the Blues’ Carabao Cup win over Chelsea last month.
“They can play together,” Guardiola told Sky Sports. “Against teams that defend so deep, they can share. Great players, they can always play together, and in this team we have a lot of them. »
Alvarez will know he’s not City’s first-choice striker, but being told he’s likely to play against sides that drop deep won’t be short-lived for the Argentine in the long run. In pre-season, Guardiola was also asked if the pair could be combined as he offered another way for Alvarez to start alongside Haaland.
“If we play tighter wings, I can see [Alvarez] as an assistant to Haaland. If we play more open flanks, not so much.
“Julian has adapted. A good player can adapt in two afternoons. If you have it, you have it in Argentina and in England. »
The term ‘complementary’ from the City manager may come across as a little condescending to some, but any player in Guardiola’s side knows that selflessness is not just a positive trait, it is essential to success.
Despite the ‘it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ argument, Alvarez’s World Cup performances threw a spanner in the works.
City will find themselves five points behind league leaders Arsenal when they face Leeds on December 28, knowing they will need to bounce back as they look to get back on the Gunners.
While Guardiola is quietly confident his side have what it takes to catch Mikel Arteta’s side, the City manager will find it accelerated if he loses and launches Alvarez alongside Haaland in the Premier League. Although the game against Leeds was too early for the Argentine after his efforts in Qatar, his displays throughout the tournament mean it surely won’t be too long until he gets his chance to shine at home. side of the Norwegian – instead of his place. .
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