Pep Guardiola is confident Erling Haaland and Julián Álvarez can be prolific goalscorers in their first seasons at Manchester City.
Both forwards could both start in Saturday’s Community Shield against Liverpool at the King Power Stadium after joining the Premier League champions this summer. Haaland cost £51.5m from Borussia Dortmund having scored 85 times in 88 appearances for the German club, while Álvarez arrived for £14.1m from River Plate having registered 53 goals in 120 games for the Argentinian side.
Last season City scored 99 goals in the Premier League despite often operating without a conventional No 9 – given the pedigree of his new attacking recruits Guardiola was somewhat jokingly asked before facing Liverpool in Leicester if his side could score 199 goals in the coming campaign.
“First, we played with a striker [sometimes] last season, Gabriel [Jesus] is a striker,” he replied. “The second point: if we make good football, respect the process like we know, create a lot of chances, put the ball close to the box, what we saw in the numbers with the last pass, we know that Erling and Julián have this incredible talent to score goals.
“But they will not do it alone. We have to help them, and the way to help them is to make good processes, offensively, defensively, [create] the most amount of chances close to the box. And after we have the feeling that they will score. But if we play no good, if we play bad, they will not score goals that’s for sure.”
Guardiola does not believe City’s style will alter markedly following the arrival of Haaland and Álvarez. “They both have the ability to drop [off] and play football,” he said. “I don’t like strikers waiting in the box to score a goal, even for them it is boring. If you ask them, they want to touch the ball, they want to play and that is what we have to do. And after they have the special sense, smell, quality to score a goal – they will do the rest. I can’t teach them to score goals, they know what they have to do.”
In Haaland City have acquired one of the world’s most-coveted strikers. Guardiola offered an insight into his character. “He’s ready to play, and the first impression as a guy is really good – a funny guy,” said the manager. “He has settled really well with the team. That is important. Apparently people think it’s not one of the most important things but it is: good vibes in the locker room is more important than any advice or any other thing you can say.
“We try to settle well [his] family … try to get to know each other in training, see what we want to do, what we did in previous seasons. When I see [him] in the canteen and corridors around the club it’s really good. The new guys are embraced really well from the guys here from day one, that’s why it’s so easy.”
Haaland, though, is not 100% fit. “When I spoke with him over the last few days, he felt a little bit but he can train and move,” Guardiola said. “At the end of August he will be better. Now we have one game a week, with more training. After that we start the crazy schedule.”
Guardiola also confirmed that he will be without centre-back Aymeric Laporte until September: “He is injured. He had knee surgery after last season – [he] played the last two or three games with an important injury, making an incredible effort.
“So far he is doing really well but you have to be careful with a knee problem. I think August will be out, September I think maybe he will start to be with us.”