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Erling Haaland’s Form Implies That One Man City Title-Winner Will Have To Be Patient

The arrival of Erling Haaland at Manchester City is proving to be the success that everyone expected it to be. After just eight matches so far this season – including the Community Shield final – the Norwegian striker has registered 12 goals and one assist – which has included two hat-tricks.

While the 22-year-old has been urged to do more for the team by his manager and teammates, his goal return since moving to City from Borussia Dortmund in the summer is simply staggering. He could quite easily go on to break several goalscoring records this campaign, and Pep Guardiola would probably still want more from his striker.

As many expected, it didn’t take long for Haaland to form a frightening partnership with Kevin De Bruyne, who has already helped himself to a goal and five assists this term. The Belgian’s cross for Haaland’s goal against Aston Villa last weekend was a simple demonstration as to why the City forward will not struggle for service – not that anyone claimed he would.

Haaland has also linked-up well with England international Phil Foden in the opening few matches of the new campaign – with the pair threatening to cause havoc whenever they’re within five yards of each other. Foden, who has scored twice this term, has already proved that he, like De Bruyne, is more than capable of helping the Norwegian out.

Although Haaland’s transition to the Premier League has been seamless, it has seen Riyad Mahrez forced to settle for a reduced role so far this campaign. The Algerian winger has featured on seven occasions for Guardiola’s side, but only three of his appearances have come as a starter.

Given that the 31-year-old registered 24 goals and nine assists last season, and has recorded 109 goal contributions since signing from Leicester City in 2018, he is, undoubtedly, a key member of a City side that has been incredibly successful in recent years.

Last season, with no Haaland or Julian Alvarez in the picture, Mahrez was a prominent figure for City, starting on the right-wing in several of Guardiola’s side’s ‘bigger’ games. Despite Gabriel Jesus making 41 appearances last term, it felt as though De Bruyne – operating as a false-nine – was the preferred attacker.

With the Belgian playing higher up the pitch on a number of occasions, it allowed Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan to partner Rodri in midfield. This, in turn, reduced the amount of competition Mahrez had on the flank – it was, typically, him on the right, with either Foden or Raheem Sterling on the left.

However, this season has been different. Haaland was also going to play, and Sterling’s departure gave Foden the opportunity to make the left-wing his own. With De Bruyne dropping back into midfield on a more regular basis, Mahrez was presented with a problem. As has been the case this season, he is often competing with Bernardo for the starting berth on the right of the attack.

In the games Mahrez has started this term – against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace in the Premier League, and Liverpool in the Community Shield – he showed glimpses of the quality that everybody knows he possesses. And yet, despite failing to record a goal contribution, he probably hasn’t had enough of an opportunity to fully get in on the act. Yet, anyway.

The on-pitch relationship with Haaland is bound to take more time to develop for some players than it will for others, and it appears as though it might take Mahrez a bit of time to figure it out.

While the Norwegian star is stealing the headlines at the Etihad Stadium, it is important to remember that he has simply improved what was already a spectacular team – and Mahrez has been a big part of that. The Algerian might have to be patient this campaign and wait for his opportunities. He might, in many ways, fall victim to ‘Pep roulette’, but it is vital that he looks at the bigger picture.

Despite his slow start to the season, it is important that the City winger remains focused. It is easy to become frustrated when you’re in and out of the team, but the long-term goal needs every player – not just Haaland, or his goals.

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