Man City players have been urged to change the way they play to help Erling Haaland find his scoring boots for his new club.
The Norwegian summer signing endured 90 minutes of frustration on his debut, as City were beaten by rivals Liverpool in the Community Shield.
While Liverpool’s £85million new striker Darwin Nunez impressed and scored in the 3-1 victory, Haaland barely got a sniff and capped off a tough game by missing a sitter in the closing stages.
Haaland had few chances to shoot, never mind score, and produced a wry half-smile after blazing the ball onto the crossbar and over with an open goal at his mercy, although looked very annoyed with himself after the final whistle as he watched the Reds’ celebrations at the King Power Stadium.
“He had chances, two or three in the first half, and one in the end, and always is there,” was Man City boss Pep Guardiola’s assessment of his performance, which saw Haaland frequently make darting runs to get in behind the Liverpool back-four, only for the ball to never come his way.
“He fought a lot and made the movements,” Guardiola continued. “It is good for him to see the reality of a new country and new league.
“He was there but today he didn’t score and another day he will score. He has an incredible quality and he will do it.
“He has had just two weeks, two weeks and a half, and I am really comfortable with what we are seeing since we arrived this season.
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“I am not absolutely concerned. The reality is we have two or three months ahead of us. He is going to help us.”
City have played their last two Premier League title-winning seasons without a traditional centre-forward, and it just wasn’t clicking for them, with even Kevin De Bruyne struggling to find Haaland in the areas he wanted .
It’s clear the striker and his new teammates are not on the same wavelength yet, and Stuart Pearce has told talkSPORT where they can improve.
But he believes it could ‘take years’ for Haaland and City to properly fit.
“I don’t think they have utilised their centre-forward as well as they possibly can, if I’m being honest,” said the former Man City boss, who was co-commentator for the curtain-raiser.
“I think if you asked Haaland at the end of the game, ‘Did they feed you as you would have liked’, he would probably say no. He wouldn’t be happy about that.
“He won’t be feeling the pressure. The kid is driven, he’s got a father who has been in the game to guide him in a great manner, I just think City have got to find a way to get the best out of him, and I’ve seen that today.
“They’ve got to pop the ball in behind when he offers himself, and if they do that he’ll score more goals and they’ll be a better team for it.
“City have been very predictable and slow in their build-up on occasion, that’s just a little bit of misunderstanding between the players and that will come the more they play on the training pitch and in games.
“I think they’ll understand quickly that he needs it in quicker and earlier than other centre-forwards they’ve had. It’ll come, I have no doubt about that.
“I think it’ll take him time to settle in. Man City play in a slightly different way, they dominate the ball more than any team in England and the one thing the opposition do is deny you space in behind.
“Haaland likes to have open spaces to run in behind into, I’m not sure how much he’ll get in this county – teams are very defensive minded and play very, very deep against a team like Man City.
“I’ll be interesting to see if he can adapt to that, and the interaction between him and the players around him.
“There are a lot of intelligent players in that team who can feed him, but certainly they have to try and find him more than they have today, because you know if he gets chances, he will score.
“It might take a year or a couple of years for Haaland to properly settle in.”
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