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Haaland ‘challenges’ Guardiola – AS.com

Guardiola is recognized for a multitude of tactical resources, but without a doubt within his work he stands out Messi’s change of position to false nine. With that movement and the collection of later titles it transcended in a symbolic way. In recent seasons at City, since Agüero’s injury slump, Guardiola also dispensed with a classic reference up front, which he now recovers with the figure of Haaland. The arrival of the Norwegian is a challenge in itself for the coach sky blue. Despite the Norwegian’s powerful debut in the friendly against Bayern, City lost the first title of the season against Liverpool and the official coming-out of the former Dortmund player was not at all encouraging. It is logical, given the height of the preseason, but the game leaves a background that forces Guardiola to intervene.

Haaland was very fixed up front between Matip and Van Dijk against Liverpool, notoriously out of touch with City’s game. Guardiola’s team is characterized by fluid possession, with players interspersed between lines and significant positional dynamism. With Haaland he gains a resounding footballer in the area, with an incalculable scoring facility, but in some contexts such as in the Community he may yearn for more play between the lines.

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No one behind the Liverpool midfielders. Haaland fixes the centrals.
Same situation.  No one between the lines.

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Same situation. No one between the lines.

Haaland’s reference distances the defensive line and should allow City’s midfielders more freedom. However, against Liverpool there were many situations in which nobody was outlining Fabinho’s sides, unlike when the team sky blue he acted with a false nine. Mahrez and Grealish had a double order. On the one hand, give amplitude; on the other, get inside. And they did it when they could, giving Walker and Cancelo space to gain height, something that later helped Haaland to have finishing options in the lateral center if the opportunity arose. Even so, City lacked to repeat this mechanism. De Bruyne was very lonely in his appearances behind the Liverpool midfielders. The Belgian found an ally when Foden entered the pitch.

Grealish gets inside and Cancelo stretches outside.

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Grealish gets inside and Cancelo stretches outside.

It is true that Bernardo Silva’s position so far behind in the creation, a decision by Guardiola to overcome pressure from Liverpool, prevented him from having more players between the lines. In most games he won’t need Bernardo to drop that far back and that will benefit Haaland as well. When the Norwegian threw supports in the positional attacks and dragged the central reds, Interesting action occurred with tackle from behind by other players. Haaland managed to give some continuity. It wasn’t all bad.

Haaland fakes support and leaves room for the break.  He plays first after.

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Haaland fakes support and leaves room for the break. He plays first after.

Additionally, Haaland proved to be a continuing threat to space. City enjoys a physical machine, unstoppable in the race. Each misaligned pressure from Liverpool led to advantageous situations for Guardiola’s men, who did not resolve well due to poor decision-making or technical errors. When De Bruyne is able to receive between the lines and spin, Haaland’s breakout will prove unstoppable. He is also a differential footballer when he comes to support in his own field to activate transitions.

De Bruyne pitches for Haaland's breakup.

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De Bruyne pitches for Haaland’s breakup.
Haaland support and start of transition.

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Haaland support and start of transition.

The Community Shield was the first (summer) blow of the Haaland era at City. Surely Guardiola is not worried about the chance he missed in the final stretch. That’s an occupational hazard. More doubts left him with the tactical fit that he must adjust in high-flying matches. Before they did not have a striker like Haaland, a walking goalscorer, and City charted the paths to goal in more imaginative ways. Creating a favorable environment for the Norwegian without blurring the signs of identity of his team is a pending task for Guardiola. He knows that in the area the goals that he missed in some circumstances will fall, but you have to approach it as well as he has done these years.

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