Pep Guardiola said he won’t tell Erling Haaland to calm down on the pitch despite his battle with Everton defender Ben Godfrey on Saturday.
Haaland at times appeared riled by Godfrey during the 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium and was booked in the first half for a heavy challenge on Vitalii Mykolenko.
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But Guardiola insisted he wants Haaland to continue to be aggressive, particularly ahead of Thursday’s trip to Chelsea.
“I like it, the extra limit,” Guardiola told a news conference on Wednesday. “Not just him, everyone. His behaviours, you always have to use [your head]. But play with this passion. That is necessary. I prefer that than to be flat. Strikers have to handle tough, tough central defenders.
“It’s necessary. [Against Chelsea] he’ll have a battle with [Kalidou] Koulibaly and Thiago Silva. Always it’s a big challenge and that’s why the Premier League is so special.”
Haaland has already scored 21 goals in the league, and 27 in all competitions in just 21 games. But having only arrived in England from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, Guardiola said the 22-year-old is still learning about the physicality of the Premier League.
“I’ve said many times, a lot of things can improve,” Guardiola added. “As much as he scores goals, it’s OK but he still has a margin to improve many things. Of course, he’s young and he will be better in the future.”
After Arsenal’s draw with Newcastle on Tuesday, City can close the gap at the top to five points if they win at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United have also moved within touching distance after four straight wins, but speaking on Wednesday, Guardiola said he did not agree that all the pressure and expectation should be on his team.
“The advantage of Arsenal and Manchester United right now is nobody has to win the Premier League for 20 points ahead in November like Man City has to, and this is sometimes a big problem,” he said. “With this Arsenal winning all their games and you are eight points behind, it can happen. But at the same time, I see the way we played the last games, and the feeling is good.
“What I want to see is us still fight, don’t give up. Not now, until the last chance, until the last drop of water we can fight to win the Premier League and the moment we are not able to win the Premier League we have to be ready to compete next season. This is when teams are really good.”