Behind Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez has had the challenging task of trying to find a spot in the Manchester City lineup. The dynamic has changed to be more equal.
Considering his minor role, his first season at the club finished with a Treble and the World Cup. He also had a respectable goal-scoring performance. His manager claims that towards the end of his second season, Alvarez had established himself as “undroppable”; this week, Alvarez was indeed released from his contract.
Pep Guardiola sent on Alvarez to play in the spaces behind Haaland when City was in control but still needed a goal against RB Leipzig. This was a return to the system that had produced eight straight victories at the start of the season. As the Norwegian was largely marked out of the game, Alvarez stepped up and turned one point into three with a beautiful goal and cool-headed assist.
With his pivotal contribution, Alvarez improved his season total to six goals and five assists from 11 games, or one goal per 70 minutes. Haaland set the astounding goals-per-minute records in the previous session. After two months of the new season, Haaland must now catch up to Alvarez instead of the other way around.
But it doesn’t mean Haaland isn’t making a contribution, of course. His 10 appearances and eight goals and two assists, one of which was for Alvarez, equals one goal involvement every 89 minutes. It is not at all alarming.
“I consider that to be the dressing room’s most wonderful feature. Rico Lewis responded when asked about Alvarez’s performance this year following Leipzig, “Everyone pushes each other.
“Last season, we possessed the top scorer in the world. Currently, someone is pushing him to improve even more, and they will continue to push one another. When we do that, our teamwork and as a whole will only improve. You can’t make a better choice than that.
“Julian is a lot more technical with playing in those spaces, but then Erling stretches the pitch — even today he takes the defenders back and gives the midfielders more space.”
True, the Alvarez-Haaland combination has been crucial to the team’s early-season success. Alvarez’s performance at the number ten position helps City get closer to Haaland and generate more opportunities, according to Guardiola, who has said as much on numerous times. Lewis noted that even if Haaland isn’t scoring, he is making room for others to do so.
Alvarez’s late performance at Leipzig might lead to his inclusion in the starting lineup against Arsenal this coming weekend, where he would have a decent chance of scoring once more. It’s a nice dilemma to have to figure out how to line up two scorers who are on fire.
Guardiola might reconsider dropping him, especially if he is now more productive than Haaland.