Pep Guardiola believes Erling Haaland will only get better after being able to build his fitness during the World Cup break.
Haaland struck his 19th and 20th of the season to help beat Leeds 3-1 in only his 14th Premier League appearance for the club. The Norwegian arrived in the summer from Borussia Dortmund where he missed large portions of last season through injury. Due to Norway’s absence from Qatar 2022, Haaland avoided the mental and physical stress of tournament football.
“I think he is still not at his best because of the injury, to move his huge body is not easy for him but as much as he can play, minutes will be better,” Guardiola said. “I had the feeling he is not at his best. It is a matter of time. [He is] always an incredible threat for the opponent. The numbers are unbelievable but I have the feeling he is not just coming here for the numbers, he wants to win it. Still there are 70 points to play for.”
Haaland admitted he could have scored five at Elland Road to add to his incredible tally. “He missed chances, hopefully he can do better, but the numbers are exceptional, an incredible threat for us and always in the right position at the right time,” Guardiola said.
The victory at Elland Road puts City five points behind leaders Arsenal with Haaland completing 90 minutes as he looks to grow sharper in front of goal. He scored against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup last week in the first game after the break that saw him recuperated. “When we started to train in Abu Dhabi he could not train one single day, maybe the last one.”
The rest has done him good. “I kind of recharged my batteries and to watch other people score and win games in the World Cup kind of triggers me and motivates me and also irritates me,” Haaland told Amazon. “I’m more hungry and more ready than ever.”
Haaland’s goals at Leeds got the better of his former RB Salzburg coach Jesse Marsch, who he is still close to. “I am just really happy for him,” Marsch said. “In some ways watching him score is painful, I want him in a different kit.
“But when you know some of these young men, and you see their qualities as people, you want them to do their best, just not against your team. But my gosh, I am happy for him, he is such a great person.”