Erling Haaland needs to “play with passion” against defenders who attempt to unsettle him, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
Haaland scored his 21st Premier League goal since arriving from Borussia Dortmund during the 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday.
But images emerged after the game of the Norway international arguing with Toffees centre-back Ben Godfrey, while James Tarkowski and Conor Coady were also involved in confrontations with the striker.
Guardiola was pleased with how the 22-year-old Haaland handled himself against three experienced Premier League defenders trying to wind him up, although he stressed he had to draw a line somewhere.
“I like it,” Guardiola told reporters ahead of City’s league visit to Chelsea on Thursday. “He just needs to limit his behaviour, not him [but] everyone.
“The decisions, you have to use here [points to head] but play with this passion. It is necessary. I prefer that than to be flat.
“Strikers have to handle tough central defenders. Tomorrow he’ll have a battle with [Kalidou] Koulibaly, Thiago Silva. That’s why the Premier League is so special.”
Mixtape dropping pic.twitter.com/KkVzI6SQFs
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 3, 2023
Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm since joining City in June, becoming the fastest player to score 20 goals in the competition, doing so in just 14 games, seven fewer than previous record-holder Kevin Phillips.
However, Guardiola feels Haaland can become even better, saying: “A lot of things he has to improve.
“As much as he continues scoring goals, he still has margin to improve on many things. Of course, he’s young, and he’ll be better in the future.”
Guardiola left it until the 87th minute against Everton before making a change, with substitutes Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and returning World Cup winner Julian Alvarez unable to steal three points late on.
Asked whether this was an error looking back, Guardiola replied: “Yes, definitely. What was the result? Yeah, a mistake.
“But even with substitutions 15 minutes earlier, maybe we would’ve lost. Maybe I should’ve done it earlier, but in that moment I took a decision.”
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 3, 2023
Arsenal took advantage of City’s draw with Everton by beating Brighton and Hove Albion to extend their lead at the Premier League summit to seven points, although a goalless draw at home to Newcastle United on Tuesday means Guardiola’s men can close the gap to five points with victory at Stamford Bridge.
The Gunners may have missed the opportunity to momentarily open a 10-point gap, but Guardiola was still impressed with their performance – albeit he is also pleased with how his team have played since returning from the World Cup.
“The way they [Arsenal] played yesterday impressed me a lot,” Guardiola added. “They dropped two points, but not in the quality they played.
“The way we played the last games, the feeling is good. My target always as a manager is try to do better than the opposition. First of all, be yourself, [but] if it doesn’t happen, it’s football.
“What I want to see is we still want to fight. We don’t give up, until the last chance we can fight and win the Premier League.”
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