EPL

Guardiola wants Haaland to 'play with passion' against defenders trying to unsettle him

By Sports Desk January 04, 2023

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."

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."

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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    Meshari Al-Nemer's 97th-minute strike salvaged a point for Al-Nassr, who had trailed for over half the game and played with a one-man disadvantage for over half an hour.

    Otavio had put Al-Nassr ahead only for Andre Gray to drag the hosts level, before Al-Aqel gave David Ospina no chance with a terrific overhead kick to make it 2-1.

    Al-Nassr's position was put in further jeopardy when Laporte was sent off following a bizarre off-the-ball incident which saw him grab and punch Al-Aqel on the elbow, while Cristiano Ronaldo came up with a glaring miss from Sadio Mane's pass across the six-yard box.

    Al-Nemer levelled at the death for Al-Nassr, though they still sit some 14 points adrift of champions Al-Hilal, who could complete an unbeaten season against Al-Wehda on Monday.

    Data Debrief: Laporte's horror show

    It was a game to forget for Laporte, whose bizarre punch on Al-Aqel put Al-Nassr up against it versus a team still in danger of relegation.

    Laporte did not attempt a single tackle in the game while his four duels contested were the joint-fewest of every outfield starter (alongside Khalid Al-Shuwayyi). He was also sent off in Al-Nassr's AFC Champions League quarter-final tie against Al Ain in March.

  • James advises Slot to block out Man City and target 90 points in first Liverpool season James advises Slot to block out Man City and target 90 points in first Liverpool season

    Arne Slot should block out any noise around trying to catch Manchester City and instead set his sights on compiling 90 points in his first season in charge of Liverpool.

    That is the view of former Liverpool goalkeeper David James, who believes securing Champions League football should be seen as the minimum requirement for former Feyenoord boss Slot, who is replacing Jurgen Klopp at Anfield.

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    James feels Slot should therefore focus only on what he can control and believes 90 points is an aspirational target that will at least put the Reds in contention.

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    "There could invariably be a situation where whatever it is, such as if Pep decides it is his last season, then it might be fairytale stuff again, that he goes for the quadruple and he does it.

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    "I would say minimum Champions League qualification and then just going for 90 points and see where it takes you. As I say, 90 points is the benchmark in the Premier League.

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    "I want to share it, especially with Mikel [Arteta] for the incredible job he has done until the last game, bringing us to our limits," said Guardiola.

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