Pep Guardiola accepts that Erling Haaland cannot continue at a strike rate of almost two goals per game after the Manchester City No 9’s first five league matches.
The 22-year-old scored a second consecutive hat-trick in Wednesday’s 6-0 defeat of Nottingham Forest to make his total nine goals as City took their points tally to 15 from the opening six matches. The manager was asked whether Haaland’s prolific start was causing unrealistic expectations.
Guardiola said: “People can expect it, it’s nice, it’s good. I’d prefer that – I want him to expect it too. I like that he wants to score three goals every game but this is not going to happen. I know it’s not going to happen, everyone in the world of football knows it’s not going to happen. If it doesn’t happen, OK it doesn’t happen. What’s next?
“We try to do it better next time. But the expectation is there because the numbers are incredible for this guy in his career. He’s scored nine goals in five games and it’s really good. But what’s important is not the perfect start. The perfect start is Arsenal’s [winning all five matches] but we are there, close, and the feeling is that we are playing good and we are going to continue to do that.”
Guardiola stated how Haaland can improve. “Read where the space is,” he said. “There are spaces where he can drop, but there are moments when it’s not necessary to drop because the space is not there. And of course he’s a guy who’s in the box. We want to play a lot of the time in there, to produce a lot of goals and put a lot of balls in there to make him feel comfortable and to use his incredible weapon.
“He’s a guy who arrives in the box and has a sense that he can score. This is what we want to do, the same with Julián [Álvarez].”
Guardiola said Aymeric Laporte may be out for longer than expected with a knee injury. “I’d say one month [more] – after the international break,” he said.
City bought Manuel Akanji for £15.1m from Borussia Dortmund as extra cover at centre-back, where they have Laporte, Nathan Aké, John Stones and Rúben Dias. “We have four incredible centre-backs before but sometimes we’ve had it tough with injuries,” Guardiola said.