Pep Guardiola said he has been taken aback by Erling Haaland’s desire to succeed after Manchester City’s new striker announced his arrival in English football by scoring twice on his Premier League debut last weekend. City beat off competition from around Europe for the Norwegian after he scored 86 goals in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund.
But any doubts over Haaland’s ability to fit into Guardiola’s system after City won the Premier League for the past two years without playing a natural striker were quickly quashed by his match-winning performance in a 2-0 win at West Ham. “He is an exceptional player,” said Guardiola at his pre-match press conference ahead of Bournemouth’s trip to the Etihad today. “It is not necessary to tell you, everybody knows it, but we are just a few times together. He is an incredible competitor, and he wants to win.”
Haaland has repeatedly spoken in his first few months at City of the need to still improve his game and Guardiola is keen to develop his new exciting quartet of attacking options. Argentina international Julian Alvarez also arrived at the Etihad this summer, while academy graduates Phil Foden and Cole Palmer are expected to get more game time this season after the departures of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling.
“I would like to make these players better. Erling can be a better player and I think he has the will to do it,” added Guardiola. “I never see a player that at 21, 22 years - maybe (Lionel) Messi - are the finished business. Always you can improve and we will try. When he (Haaland) leaves, we want him to say he is a better player than when he arrived.”
Guardiola also confirmed the arrival of Sergio Gomez, although the club have not officially announced his signing from Anderlecht. A reported fee of £11mn ($13mn) has been struck between the clubs with the Spanish under-21 international set to add depth at both full-back positions. And Guardiola dismissed the suggestion Gomez could be sent out on loan this season. “He is going to stay with us,” said the City boss.
Meanwhile, Tottenham face a truer test of their credentials away to Chelsea tomorrow. Antonio Conte has been heavily backed in his first full season as Spurs boss with the signings of Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic, Djed Spence, Clement Lenglet and Fraser Forster in the transfer window.
But none of the six new faces started in an impressive 4-1 win over Southampton to underline the strength in depth now on offer to Conte. Spurs, though, have only won once in the league at Stamford Bridge in 32 years and beating the Blues would send an early season statement of intent that they can bridge the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool.
Chelsea also got off to a winning start in less flamboyant fashion as they needed a Jorginho penalty to see off Everton 1-0. Thomas Tuchel has demanded an improvement this weekend, but believes Chelsea will get better as the season goes on after a turbulent 2022 that saw the club suffer sanctions before Todd Boehly’s consortium took control from Roman Abramovich.
The American has not held back in backing Tuchel with the signings of Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marc Cucurella and Carney Chukwuemeka.
And Sterling believes Chelsea are also on the up as he outlined his reasoning for leaving Manchester City on Thursday. “You look at Chelsea in the last couple of years, it’s four or five finals that they’ve been in,” said the England international.
“It’s a team that shows that they are competing and they’re only going to get better. So with the new ownership and the takeover it made a lot of sense.”
Former England teammates Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard go head-to-head on the touchline for the first time today as Aston Villa host Everton with both seeking their first points of the season. Gerrard’s decision to strip Tyrone Mings of the Villa captaincy and drop the England international for a desperately disappointing 2-0 defeat to promoted Bournemouth on Saturday has upped the pressure on the former Liverpool captain.
Expectations were high for Villa in Gerrard’s first full season after Diego Carlos and Boubacar Kamara turned their backs on Champions League football with Sevilla and Marseille respectively to sign over the summer. But Gerrard’s men have won just two of their last 12 Premier League games dating back to last season and those were against relegated Norwich and Burnley. Everton only narrowly avoided the drop last season and another difficult campaign lies ahead with Richarlison sold to Spurs and England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin out injured for the first six weeks of the season. Despite the Toffees struggles to comply with financial fair play, Lampard has been given the resources to bring in Belgi
Fixtures (all times GMT) Today: Aston Villa v Everton (1130), Brighton v Newcastle, Manchester City v Bournemouth, Southampton v Leeds, Wolves v Fulham, Arsenal v Leicester (all 1400), Brentford v Manchester United (1630) Tomorrow: Nottingham Forest v West Ham (1300), Chelsea v Tottenham (1530) Monday: Liverpool v Crystal Palace (1900)
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