Pep Guardiola defends Erling Haaland following Jamie Carragher criticism

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The Manchester City manager said being a centre-forward is the most difficult position on the pitch.

Pep Guardiola has defended Erling Haaland following recent criticism, but admitted the Manchester City star can still improve.

Jamie Carragher claimed in his Telegraph column that Haaland must become a more rounded player if he is to win the Ballon d’Or and said the 23-year-old is the ‘ultimate luxury footballer’.

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“The Norwegian does not press high, retain the ball especially well, demonstrate outstanding physicality in deep areas, or link the play with his midfielders,” wrote Carragher, who added Haaland has been too easily dealt with by Antonio Rudiger, William Saliba and Virgil van Dijk in recent weeks.

It’s not a view Guardiola seems to share, however, with the City boss pointing to the complexity of playing as a centre forward up against two centre-backs. “We scored three goals [against Real Madrid],” he said ahead of this weekend’s Premier League encounter against Luton Town. “They have two central defenders close to him so it is not easy. 

“It is the most difficult position on the pitch. Every player has one player, but with the central defenders it’s two against one against the striker. He has two players and they were so tight and really good defenders.”

Despite that, Guardiola admitted there are areas of Haaland’s game that can be improved. “He is a young player who has some departments in his game that he has to improve, like a player who is 33-years-old can have margins to improve. But it is more about the team than him.

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“The target is not to win the Ballon d’Or,” Guardiola added, in response to Carragher’s article. “The target is to win the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup and Carabao Cup. He has done it and without him it would not be possible. 

“What we won last year, five titles, without him, no chance. Impossible. He is a key player for us and he will improve. For his age, his desire, more games and more experience, to arrive at the last stages in the competitions, never happened in his career [before last season]. This will be his future. But not just Erling, any player, even when 33 years old, you can be better.”

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