Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City must find a way to get Erling Haaland more involved after the Norway international was reduced to a peripheral role in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Manchester United.
Haaland, who managed just 19 touches at Old Trafford and was limited to half-chances, has now gone three games without a goal after scoring 27 times in his first 21 outings.
City’s recent stumbles have sparked debate over whether the introduction of the prolific forward has forced the team to change their approach after becoming accustomed to operating without an out-and-out striker over the past two seasons.
Former City midfielder Dietmar Hamann said on social media that Guardiola’s team “were a better team without Haaland, even if he scores 40 goals this season”.
Guardiola is still working on integrating his £51 million ($62 million) signing, who joined City from Borussia Dortmund last June.
“At the moment we have that process because when teams are sat in their 18-yard box, it is more difficult but we have to find him a little bit more, yes,” said the City boss.
City have struggled for consistency this season, particularly since the World Cup, drawing at home to Everton and now suffering back-to-back defeats against Southampton in the League Cup and United in the league.
But Guardiola, whose defending champions are second in the Premier League, eight points behind Arsenal, refused to blame a change in the system to accommodate Haaland.
“I would say the inconsistency was in terms of results but not performances,” he said. “In general, (but) not against Southampton, we were consistent in our games.
“Of course against Everton we played better, but they had one shot on target and we drew. They punished you when before it didn’t happen—we always found a way to get the results.
“If we play good or bad, we always had that chance. I think this is our strength and we have to improve but in terms of performance, I think we are consistent.”
City took the lead at Old Trafford but Bruno Fernandes scored a hotly contested equaliser and Marcus Rashford netted what proved to be the winner just four minutes later.
But despite disappointment at the result and frustration with the decision to allow the Fernandes goal to stand, Guardiola was much happier with the performance.
“We were there all the time, I could recognise my team,” he said. “That is all I can say. At Southampton… what is this? What is this team? But this was the opposite. I recognise my team from many, many years.”
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