Pep Guardiola has said he will not be kept awake at night by Erling Haaland’s missed chances in Manchester City’s past two matches and insisted the striker should not be criticised for his profligacy.
The Norwegian has scored seven goals in five Premier League matches but was wasteful against West Ham and Red Star Belgrade. Haaland will be hoping – and expecting – to add to his total against Nottingham Forest on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium, a game he scored a hat-trick in last season.
“I will not sleep tonight,” Guardiola joked when asked about Haaland’s conversion rate. “He has had incredible chances and he could have scored 14-15 goals and it would be the same debate, but what is important is what he always said: ‘I have the chance, I have the chance, I have the chance. The problem is when I do not have chances, or I do not get balls or I am in the wrong position.’
“My advice is don’t criticise Erling too much. Criticise the full-back, the central defender or the manager, but never, never the striker who has scored all those goals because he will [score] and then you will be in a position where you have to apologise to him.”
Haaland’s conversion rate has dropped significantly compared with the same point last season. In his first eight games for the club he took 60% of his big chances, scoring 12 goals, whereas this season the statistic has dropped to 29%, and he has missed nine big chances in the past two matches alone.
“It is important for him to get rhythm and that was more difficult in pre-season because we were in Japan and Korea and there was not much time for training,” Guardiola said. “But every week he is better and everything is there. He is an incredible threat. He has had a lot of chances and that means we are playing good. Always I have the sense that the team is doing quite good by the number of chances Erling has. When he is not involved in chances, something wrong has happened with our process and dynamic.”
Guardiola will be without John Stones, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, and Mateo Kovacic is a doubt, but Jack Grealish is likely to be back in the squad as City aim to maintain their perfect record in the Premier League this season.