Pep Guardiola claims free-scoring Erling Haaland is ‘not at his best’ after Man City win over Leeds

The Manchester City forward has already scored 20 Premier League goals this season.

Pep Guardiola has claimed Erling Haaland is not playing at his best at present despite the Norwegian scoring three times in two games since Manchester City’s return after the World Cup.

Haaland opened the scoring in the Carabao Cup win over Liverpool last week, and netted a brace against Leeds United on Wednesday as City won 3-2. However, the striker missed several decent scoring chances throughout the game and found it difficult to get involved in the link-up play.

As a result, Guardiola claimed Haaland, who suffered from a foot injury prior to the World Cup, looked much sharper and more dangerous during the early weeks of the campaign.

“I think he is still not at his best that he was at the beginning of the season, but the injury he had at Dortmund [affected him] for a long period,” explained the City boss, following his side’s win at Elland Road.

“When we started to train in Abu Dhabi he could not train one single day, maybe the last one. To move his huge body is not easy for him but as much as he can play, minutes, minutes, will be better.

“I had the feeling he is not at his best. It is a matter of time. Always [he is] an incredible threat for the opponent. The numbers are unbelievable but I have the feeling he is not just coming here just for the numbers, he wants to win it.

“Of course we are delighted but that little pace he had at the beginning of the season, now he maybe struggles a little bit, but it’s a question of time,” Guardiola added. “I am still more than satisfied but I had the feeling in the first part of the season he was sharper.”

Asked what percent Haaland is currently operating at, Guardiola replied: I don’t know, it is a question of feeling. When I see him moving and everything, he can do a little bit better.

“He was a long time injured. He was a long time ago, since [the game against] Dortmund, playing Brentford but not perfectly. Then one-month holiday and after we restart he was not fit.

“He could not train and then the friendly game against Girona, he played 45/50 minutes and after he could not move his body. He was exhausted. After Liverpool he was good for 70/75 minutes, he made an exceptional goal because always he is there. He can do better. It’s a question of time. Like in the beginning when we lose the Community Shield it was ‘oh, Erling can’t adapt to play with us’.

“I had the feeling in the first half of the season, in the first minute against Liverpool [last week], and today the second minute against Leeds, it’s a goal. It is these details that are a little [less] sharp.

“But every cross, every action he is there. He has incredible sense; I didn’t teach him one concept about in the box. He moves really well and knows exactly where the ball is going to land.”