Erling Haaland: Pep Guardiola defends Manchester City striker after Roy Keane criticism

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has defended striker Erling Haaland following Roy Keane’s criticism after Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal.

The ex-Manchester United captain said Haaland’s “general play” is “so poor” and “almost like a League Two player”.

“I don’t agree with him, absolutely not,” said Guardiola when asked about Keane’s comments.

Haaland scored 52 goals in all competitions last season and has 29 this term – 18 in the Premier League.

“He’s the best striker in the world,” added Guardiola of the 23-year-old Norwegian.

“He helped us win last season and the reason why we didn’t create many answers from Erling is we need more presence in the final third with more people.

“We played an exceptional game, I reviewed the game against Arsenal but we just missed more people in the final third. The quality and different skillset we have, Haaland is exceptional.”

City are three points behind leaders Liverpool after Sunday’s match, which saw the home side fail to score in a Premier League game at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since October 2021.

Speaking as a pundit on Sky Sports after the game, Keane said of Haaland: “The levels of his general play is so poor, and not just today. His general play for such a player, it is so poor, I think he has to improve that, he’s almost like a League Two player.”

But Guardiola responded: “Some actions he missed, sometimes it’s the managers, sometimes the opponent is really good, there are many many reasons.

“In football there is not just one reason, sometimes where you have success or you don’t have success, there are many reasons, it’s football, it’s a team sport.”

Haaland criticism ‘total nonsense’ – Sutton

Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton said Haaland just came up against “brilliant defenders” in Sunday’s match against second-placed Arsenal.

Speaking on Radio 5 Live’s Monday Night Club, he added: “It was total nonsense and unfair on Erling Haaland. Everybody has sung [William] Saliba and Gabriel’s praises all season.

“When [Manchester City goalkeeper Stefan] Ortega was clipping balls into Haaland, they’re probably the best at working off a centre-forward’s touch, being really clever with their defending.

“Could Haaland have been a bit stronger, could he have been a bit cuter, could his brain have worked better in those moments? Of course. But at times you come up against brilliant defenders, which [Saliba and Gabriel] were on Sunday.

“He wasn’t brought into Manchester City to play a creative role, he was brought in to occupy the centre-halves and for others to create for him because he’s the monster finisher.

“He was never going to hit the heights he hit last season. He’s still an outstanding striker, he’s just off it.”

However, former City defender Micah Richards did feel the forward could add more to his game.

“No-one’s asking Erling Haaland to become a number 10, be like Harry Kane and play 30 to 40-yard balls,” he said.

“All they’re asking for is that for somebody of his size, when the ball comes to him, can he just hold it up?

“Gabriel and [William] Saliba on Sunday, every time they got close to him they would use their strength and get the ball back. All people are asking for is to use his body more. We’re not asking him to be a [Dennis] Bergkamp.

“There are times when you’re not going to get an opportunity but you need to do other things to help the team out in terms of a build-up.”

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