Pep Guardiola praised Erling Haaland’s mentality after Manchester City’s 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, but insisted there are areas the striker can still improve in.
Haaland scored a second half penalty to give City the three points at Selhurst Park, on an evening when everything seemed to be going against him.
The striker’s 27th league goal of the season came after he had missed a number of opportunities, including one guilt-edged chance that he spooned over the bar following Nathan Ake’s cut-back.
Haaland kept his cool though and secured a win that temporarily closed the gap between City and table toppers Arsenal to two points. Arsenal defeated Fulham 3-0 on Sunday to restore their five-point lead.
The Norwegian goalscorer showed his emotions at full-time, celebrating passionately with his teammates and supporters and bellowing “come on!” as he walked back to the dressing rooms.
Speaking after the match, Guardiola praised Haaland’s mentality and ability to cope with pressure.
“The way he celebrates his goals and his mates’ goals shows how happy he is at City and how we are with him and his personality,” Guardiola said.
“He is young, and to take the ball under this pressure and put it away with determination and score was great.
“This guy doesn’t score [in] one or two [games] and the people go, ‘oh he’s not the same!’ He is always there so the numbers speak for itself. One of the biggest attributes I’ve discovered is the fact he can miss one chance, second, [but] he’s not getting depressed, he’s not sad.
“He’s thinking positive, he knows [he] will have the chance, he knows he will be there. And this is an incredible attribute as a football player.”
As Guardiola has pointed out all season, Haaland brings much more to City than just goals. There have been games this season where Haaland and his teammates have not looked on the same page, and it’s along those lines that Guardiola believes Haaland can get even better.
“What I’d like when I finish our period together is that he could improve the game with the association with the team, with the right tempo, realising how he can be involved in our game, not just putting the ball in,” Guardiola said.
“The net [goals] will happen all the time in his life.”