Kevin de Bruyne has insisted that Erling Haaland is a good fit for Manchester City, but argued it’s not always easy for he and his teammates to find the striker’s runs.
Considering Haaland has scored 34 goals in 35 games in all competitions this season, it feels slightly absurd to question his suitability to Pep Guardiola’s side.
However, despite the goal-tally, the adaptation process has not been entirely smooth for the 22-year-old striker.
There have been games this season when Haaland has not been involved in the general play enough, and others where City’s midfielders have not found him when he has made his trademark runs in behind opposition defences.
The Athletic reported recently that City’s players have only supplied a third of Haaland’s runs with a pass this season.
A lot of it boils down to Guardiola’s desire to have a team that controls games through keeping possession of the ball, but that also feeds a dynamic striker whose strengths lie with sticking the ball in the back of the net, not passing it around.
Some supporters have blamed the likes of Kevin de Bruyne for not feeding Haaland’s runs, but the Belgian midfielder doesn’t think the issue is quite so simple.
“It’s not more different to the beginning [of the season], people are more anticipating his runs,” De Bruyne said on Monday ahead of City’s Champions League clash against RB Leipzig, via the Manchester Evening News.
“There’s always the first half and second half of the season, teams are more organised, they play for more.
“People are more prepared. Maybe he [Haaland] was prolific when he got the chances, but we don’t need to complain about him in anyway. He’s fine, if you see Crystal Palace, he had two or three chances, there’s no issue.
“People are always anticipating him to score two/three goals, his average is a goal a game. Seems fine to me.”
When asked whether City’s style is counter-intuitive to regularly finding Haaland’s runs, De Bruyne made a balanced argument.
“Yes and no. Sometimes it’s good to have different options. In the last few years, we don’t have the presence in the box, now people say [the] opposite,” he said.
“At the start of the season, [we were] winning lots of games, nothing going wrong. Lose a few points and it’s different. I don’t feel any issue, nothing going out of the team, Erling. People outside will judge, maybe we play a [different] brand of football in other years.
“But other games, Palace at home he won us the game. The team is really happy, he’s happy playing with us, we’re fine.”
On Tuesday, City will take on RB Leipzig in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. The aggregate score stands at 1-1.