EPL

Erling Haaland will have last laugh despite missing more chances – Pep Guardiola

By Sports Desk September 22, 2023

Pep Guardiola has laughed off suggestions he should be concerned about the number of chances Erling Haaland has missed this season.

The Manchester City manager claims anyone who says the prolific Norwegian has become wasteful will be proved wrong – and forced to apologise – soon enough.

Haaland scored 52 goals in an extraordinary debut campaign at City last season and, on the face of it, has started this one strongly too with seven in eight appearances.

Yet analysis shows he has missed 12 ‘big chances’ this term, nine of them being in his last two outings against West Ham and Red Star Belgrade. After eight games last season he had scored 12 goals, with eight ‘big chances’ missed.

“I will not sleep tonight!” Guardiola joked when these numbers were put to him at a press conference to preview the champions Premier League clash with Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

“He has had incredible chances and he could have scored 14-15 goals now. What is important is he always says, ‘I have the chance, I have the chance, I have the chance. The problem is when I do not have chances, or I do not get balls or I am in the wrong position’.

“My advice is don’t criticise Erling too much. Criticise the full-back, the central defender or the manager, but never, never the striker who scored all those goals because he will and then you will be in a position where you have to apologise to him.”

Guardiola concedes Haaland was not fully fit at the start of the season, but that is not unexpected after last year’s exertions.

He said: “No (he was not fully fit) – it is quite simple – but in the pre-season I cannot expect him to be fully fit.

“Normally the new players come and are fully fit earlier. When you don’t start the last season, you are fitter earlier.

“When you win the treble maybe you think, ‘I wait a week longer to be completely fit’. It is a question of time.

“Erling is much better than in the first week. Every week he is better and everything is there.

“He is an incredible threat. He has had a lot of chances and that means we are playing good. Always I have the sense that the team are doing quite good by the number of chances Erling has.”

Related items

  • Onana decided to 'stand up and fight' after Man Utd criticism Onana decided to 'stand up and fight' after Man Utd criticism

    Andre Onana says he decided to "stand up and fight" after a tough start to life at Manchester United.

    The Red Devils are preparing to face Manchester City in the FA Cup final for a second consecutive season on Saturday after a poor campaign saw them finish in their lowest-ever league position in the Premier League.

    Certain players were singled out throughout the season due to their performances, with Onana coming under fire for a string of errors early on after taking over from David de Gea when he joined from Inter last July.

    However, the goalkeeper was adamant he did not let the criticism get to him.

    "I arrived as the best goalkeeper in the world and 'boom' it went down. It was like 'What happened?'," he said.

    "But that is how difficult football is sometimes. It depends if you want to stay down there or stand up and fight. I know what I did to arrive here. I know who I am. I decided to stand up and fight."

    Onana compared his experience to that of team-mate Marcus Rashford, who was left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2024 after scoring just eight goals this season.

    "We are talking about the same player [Rashford]. So now he's a bad player? No. You can have a bad season or a bad start, but the most important thing is how you end," he added.

    "Rashy, for me, is one of the best players in the world. But he is facing difficulty. It's not only him and me, but the whole club.

    "But he will come back. I know my killer will score some important goals for us. Hopefully, against City, he will score two, and we win the FA Cup."

    There is also a lot of speculation around the club concerning the future of Erik ten Hag, with reports suggesting he could be relieved of his position no matter the result in Saturday’s final.

    Onana, however, has thrown his support behind his manager, who he also worked with at Ajax for five years.

    The Cameroon international said: "I'm not here to back him because he's big enough to back himself, but he's a really good guy, a positive coach and, tactically, he is good.

    "If he had all his squad together, it would probably be different for him, for us, the club and the fans."

  • Girona 7-0 Granada: Dovbyk hat-trick sees hosts end fairytale LaLiga season in style Girona 7-0 Granada: Dovbyk hat-trick sees hosts end fairytale LaLiga season in style

    Artem Dovbyk netted a hat-trick as surprise package Girona claimed the biggest win in the club's history with a 7-0 thrashing of already-relegated Granada on Friday. 

    Defender Eric Garcia opened the scoring on the half-hour mark, pouncing on the visitors' sloppy defending to head home from close range before Viktor Tsygankov doubled the advantage with a tap-in three minutes later.

    Dovbyk made it 3-0 from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after a foul on Portu, while Tsygankov scored his second with a simple finish nine minutes into the second half.

    Granada were dealt a further blow when they were reduced to 10 men in the 61st minute thanks to Facundo Pellistri's second yellow card before Dovbyk scored again in the 75th. Minutes later, substitute Cristhian Stuani got on the scoresheet with a close-range strike.

    The Ukrainian then completed his hat-trick with a 90th-minute penalty to reach 24 league goals this season, ahead of Villarreal's Alexander Sorloth in the battle for the league's top goalscorer.

    Data Debrief: Girona go out on a high

    Dovbyk scored 24 goals in LaLiga this season, becoming Girona's top scorer in a single season in the competition, surpassing Cristhian Stuani's 21 goals in 2017-18.

    Savinho was also a bright spark for the hosts in this game, winning the final penalty to set up Dovbyk's penalty. His assist for Tsyhankov's goal was his 10th of the season - the most registered for Girona this campaign. 

  • Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City: Neville urges Timbers to be 'ruthless' Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City: Neville urges Timbers to be 'ruthless'

    Phil Neville has called for Portland Timbers to be more "ruthless" as they aim to get back to winning ways against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

    The Timbers sit 11th in the Western Conference having won just one of their last 11 matches, though their 4-2 comeback win against 10-man San Jose Earthquakes did come in their last home outing.

    Despite their poor run of form, Neville is pleased with what he has seen from his side in recent weeks.

    "We do feel as if we're heading in the right direction. There are signs," he said.

    "Now it's about us picking up points and making sure we stay in the pack and be more ruthless with what we're doing. It's time that we've got to go out there and deliver."

    Kansas City are three points behind Saturday’s opponents in 13th, having failed to win any of their last seven matches.

    After a U.S. Open Cup win over FC Tulsa on Wednesday though, midfielder Erik Thommy believes Kansas City can start to build some momentum.

    "It's the perfect time for us to turn the season around. We've got to start to collect the points as soon as possible," Thommy said.

    "We need the right players on the pitch and look forward while looking at what made us strong in the past. We need to believe in ourselves and trust in yourself and the club. We have to take all of these positive things [from recent matches] into the next game."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portland – Maxime Crepeau

    Portland’s 2-1 defeat to Minnesota marked the 10th straight regular-season match in which they have conceded multiple goals, the longest streak in MLS history. The Timbers have not kept a clean sheet in their last 20 regular-season games dating back to last September, and Crepeau will be hoping to change that.

    Kansas City – Johnny Russell

    Russell scored his 57th regular-season goal for Kansas City on Saturday, equaling Dom Dwyer for second in the club’s history. Only Preki (71) has scored more goals for Kansas City in regular-season MLS play.

    MATCH PREDICTION: PORTLAND TIMBERS WIN

    The Timbers have won four straight home matches against Kansas City dating back to 2019. Prior to 2019, Portland had managed just two wins in 10 all-time meetings with SKC at Providence Park (D4 L4).

    However, the Timbers have won only one of their last 11 matches (D3 L7) following a 2-1 loss at Minnesota on Saturday. Only CF Montreal (five) have collected fewer points than Portland (six) since this run began in mid-March.

    Kansas City are winless in seven straight MLS matches including losing the last four in a row. It has been 13 years since Sporting lost five straight MLS matches, last doing so in April-May 2011.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Portland – 40.3%

    Draw – 24.8%

    Kansas City – 34.9%

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.