How best to play Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez together ?

The sooner Pep Guardiola works out how best to play Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez together, the better.

In the next few weeks a newly-crowned world champion – the only one in his Manchester City squad – will become available for selection after enjoying a well-earned rest. Julian Alvarez was one of the stars of the 2022 World Cup, his four goals in Qatar bettered only by Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.

The 22-year-old Argentine played a significant role in his nation winning the World Cup for the first time since 1986, starting every game from the third group stage match onwards. However, as he found out before flying out to Qatar, regular starts at City are somewhat harder to come by.


Pep Guardiola has a proverbial headache; a nice one to have, but a headache all the same.

That’s because Erling Haaland also plays for City. Since arriving at the Etihad Stadium the Norwegian striker – almost six months younger than Alvarez despite looming over him – has scored 24 goals in 19 appearances. While it’s true that with Haaland in the team City do lose a bit of the control that made them so good last season, if he continues scoring with such ease then there’s no chance he doesn’t start when available.

Man City: Pep Guardiola backs Julian Alvarez as boss considers resting  Erling Haaland | Football | Sport |

Given that Guardiola prefers to play with one striker flanked by two wingers, that isn’t great news for Alvarez. All is not lost though for a player who would be the star striker at most elite clubs; there are a few ways Guardiola can get both of his young attackers into the starting XI.

Two up top

He might generally prefer it, but Guardiola is not married to 4-3-3. He showed that when City beat FC Copenhagen 5-0 in the Champions League back in October when Alvarez partnered Haaland to make a front two.

While City’s system that night was 4-4-2 on paper, in reality Alvarez operated as a second striker who dropped slightly behind Haaland when City had the ball. That allowed the Argentine to find space in which to operate, but it also created space for Haaland to run into.

The only other time both started as strikers this season was in the goalless draw away at Borussia Dortmund, but there’s no reason why Guardiola won’t return to the tactic.

Alvarez on the wing

Alvarez is extremely versatile, his energy and agility meaning he can operate from the right flank. That’s what he did in the 6-0 drubbing of Nottingham Forest earlier this season, and he was rewarded with two goals for his troubles.

Ferran Torres was used in a similar way during his spell at the Etihad. Like Alvarez, the Spaniard preferred to play as a striker but had the qualities to play out wide too. If Riyad Mahrez continues to perform inconsistently then Guardiola shouldn’t hesitate to turn to Alvarez.

Attacking midfield

As Alvarez has already shown in a City shirt and also at the World Cup with Argentina, he is not an out-and-out striker like Haaland. Of course Alvarez can run in-behind defences and finish chances inside the box, but he really thrives when dropping to get involved in build-up play and floating around the attack.

While Guardiola already has Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan at his disposal, Alvarez’s skillset suggests he could play as a no.8. He certainly has the legs and energy to do it, it’s just a question of continuing to develop technically.

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