What To Expect From Manchester City’s New-Look Forward Line This Season

Everything has changed at Manchester City so far this year.

Following a second straight Premier League title win, club members felt it was time for a squad reshuffle, which saw departures for long-serving stars Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.

Manchester City’s attack in particular will look very different when the new season arrives this weekend, as the outgoing strikers have been duly replaced by two of the most promising young forwards in the world: Julián Álvarez and Erling Haaland.

It’s set to be an exciting season for Manchester City fans, so let’s take a look at what to expect from this new era at the Etihad Stadium.

As has been widely discussed, Manchester City have spent the majority of the past two years playing without a recognized striker.

With the departure of all-time top scorer Sergio Agüero last summer and the conversion of Gabriel Jesus to winger in the 2021/22 campaign, manager Pep Guardiola has changed his system to feature a false nine in attack.

A host of players – including Bernardo Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden, Cole Palmer, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres and Jack Grealish – have been tried out in the role, with varying degrees of success.

On paper, it looks like Erling Haaland and Julian Álvarez will compete to be that traditional central striker that Manchester City have gone without, but what should we expect from each player?

Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez celebrate. Action Plus Sports Images / Alamy

Neither man’s skills fully match the stereotypes attributed to them by casual viewers.

Referred to by many as an old-school target-style striker due to his size and strength, Erling Haaland is actually a much more well-rounded striker.

His pace lap isn’t what you’d describe as electric, as a 6’4″ Viking sprinting towards you at high speed is a far cry from “blink and you’ll miss him”, but he can certainly shift gears.

It’s this combination of pace and power that makes the Norwegian such a threat in transition, and the feeling of being bombarded by a one-on-one Haaland counterattack is a feeling that many German defenses have grown accustomed to over the years. last two years.

Conversely, you’d expect someone of Julian Álvarez’s build and physical ability to rely too heavily on speed, but as we’ve seen in the Argentine’s appearances on the pre-tour -season in the United States and in the Community Shield, he’s more than happy to get involved in a buildup like the false nine we’re used to seeing for Manchester City.

City fans may recall from the encounter between Pep Guardiola’s men and Borussia Dortmund in the 2020/21 Champions League quarter-final that Erling Haaland was reluctant to hold the ball or compete with Rúben Dias and John Stones in the air, preferring to run instead. on defenders and getting behind – the same tactic he employed against Bayern Munich in Green Bay and at the King Power Stadium against Liverpool.

A certain Kevin de Bruyne will be licking his lips at the prospect of a partnership with the Norwegian as his passes have so often gone unrewarded with an assist as Manchester City’s recent line-up of forwards squander opportunities one-on-one (assuming the New Man’s wayward end to the weekend was the exception to the rule).

The Belgium international could also thrive on Erling Haaland’s height, as despite that preference for balls on deck, the striker’s height and movement will surely mean crosses have been headed his way – whether de Bruyne or João Cancelo, just as creative. Jack Grealish or Riyad Mahrez are more likely to end up in the net.

We saw in the Community Shield that Haaland’s supporting cast seemed a bit reluctant to nurture him as he wanted, but once mutual understanding is established, Manchester City should reap the benefits.

Erling Haaland in action for Manchester City.
Erling Haaland in action for Manchester City.

So, will Haaland and Álvarez compete or match?

The latter was first replaced as a winger at the weekend against Liverpool, but the system quickly became as close as a Manchester City side to Pep Guardiola can get to a 4-4-2 at the old, with the two new attacking partners. the other through the middle.

The Argentine’s array of talents is helpful in structuring several different styles; his pace and ability to beat a man are hallmarks of a dangerous winger, while his willingness to dive deep and link play intricately are indicators he can trust either partner Haaland – doing some- some of the difficult jobs which the less agile man may find more trying, or leading the line himself.

Either way, the predatory instincts he displayed to score his first goal in blue on Saturday afternoon were – not wanting to put pressure on the 22-year-old at this early stage in his England career – reminiscent of another explosive Argentine striker of whom you may have a fond memory or two of…

The warnings are there for Manchester City to heed in reverting to a traditional point man; Romelu Lukaku’s very expensive return to Chelsea last summer didn’t quite go to plan, while other top clubs have also managed to use central players in unorthodox roles, such as Liverpool with Sadio Mané or Harry “Quarterback” Kane at Tottenham.

The suggestion has been made that Manchester City would be better off sticking with their current system of false nines and not quite forwards; he has won the Premier League title from them in each of the last two seasons, after all.

But in those campaigns, the Blues’ top scorers have been İlkay Gündoğan with 13 and then Kevin de Bruyne with 15 – solid totals for midfield players, but surely having a Sergio Agüero-like presence or two for (hopefully- the) guaranteeing in the region of 35 league goals between them can only make this super-team that little bit stronger?

If even one of the signings of Erling Haaland and Julian Álvarez works out, there is still one particular trophy to grace Manchester City’s cabinet that could now be within reach.

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