On January 31, 2022, transfer deadline day, Manchester City confirmed the €17 million signing of Julian Alvarez from River Plate. Seemingly in need of striker that could provide something different until the end of the season, Alvarez seemed like a logical fit. He would allow the Citizens the ability to change the complexions of a match in novel ways, offering a pace and power in behind that contrasts City’s current false nine, strikerless system. But instead of riding the bench and entering the frame at City, Alvarez stayed at River Plate on loan for the remainder of the 2022 Liga Profesional season, seeing out his time in Argentina. Now at 18 goals in 21 games for the season, Alvarez has seen a slight drop off in remarkable scoring heights since his move to the Sky Blues. Unremarkably, he went almost two months from March to May without netting a single goal in any competition. But nevertheless, the small fee for a man so clearly potent in front of goal continues to be seen as an absolute bargain, and a move that should benefit City in the long-run. Or, so it seemed.Embed from Getty Images
On May 10, 2022, Manchester City confirmed the signing of another striker, who just so happens to be one of the best in the world. Erling Haaland has the potential to essentially be a carbon copy to Alvarez, just with heightened physical strength, brute force, and even greater goal-scoring ability. Alvarez is a small-frame 5’7 centre-forward with pace on the break for days, while Erling Haaland is an absolute machine, standing 6’4 and withstanding enough pace on the break for weeks (injuries aside). The signing of Julian Alvarez seemed to signal Man City’s intent to move away from a strikerless system in the future, and now the signing of Erling Haaland has smashed the titanic into the iceberg. With all due respect to a player of Julian Alvarez’s tremendous quality overseas, Erling Haaland has now proven himself at one of the biggest clubs in the world, scoring goals at a rate that matches the best strikers to ever play in the Bundesliga. Manchester City seem unlikely to play with a front two, and while Alvarez has the size of a typical ‘number ten’, he hasn’t quite adopted the playing style yet, and is best served closer to goal.Embed from Getty Images
On a more positive note for Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland’s injury record has been scary this season, and something that has clearly curtailed his 2021-22 campaign. From starting the season in the extraterrestrial manner we’ve come to expect, the Norwegian’s form since returning from injury has been more or less “whelming”. He’s scored in just 2 of the 9 competitive fixtures he’s played in for the Black & Yellows since returning from injury in mid-March. With a brace and a hat-trick in those pair of games, Haaland’s 5 goals in 9 matches, to the onlooker, appears as routine business. But Dortmund fans know that it’s been anything but, and his overall influence on the matches he’s taken part in have dropped. With a City move on the horizons and very little to play for, this isn’t entirely surprising. But what may be more surprising to you is that Dortmund’s +/- is actually slightly worse when Haaland is on the pitch, as opposed to off it this season (-0.08). Their only other top choice up front in Donyell Malen fares better, with an “On-Off +/-” of +0.11. In this sense, a player like Karim Adeyemi, who is more similar to Malen than Haaland in playing style, may actually offer Borussia Dortmund more of what Marco Rose desires within his tactical frame.Embed from Getty Images
We’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but the point is – Haaland cannot be guaranteed to start every single week for Manchester City, even despite his incredible scoring record. Julian Alvarez will provide an excellent back-up to the Norwegian, and allow the Citizens to continue operating with a natural striker even without their first choice. In specific matches, it’s accepted that Guardiola will opt for a false nine. But in giving his team a natural focal point up top and positioning someone to finish off the multitude of missed chances City spray into the box, Julian Alvarez provides a useful option. It may not be exactly what he envisioned when he moved to Manchester City, and it may very well turn out in similar fashion to Kelechi Iheanacho. But on the bright side, Julian Alvarez now has the ability to work alongside one of the greatest goal-scorers on the planet, under the leadership of one of the game’s greatest ever managers. Besides, at €17 million, why not sign both of them anyway?
The signing of Erling Haaland is not a death sentence for Julian Alvarez, and at risk of being overly-optimistic, both players could be in for long-lived stellar careers at Manchester City. Somehow that feels unlikely, and Alvarez may never fulfill his Sergio Aguero promise with Haaland in his way. But throughout time, Guardiola has always favoured rotation, and always found a way to get players working in weird ways. This could be one of those times.
So there it is! A quick-take tactical analysis on ‘What happens to Julian Alvarez now?’ after the signing of Erling Haaland. Be sure to check out more on both Alvarez and Haaland below, and follow on social media to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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-> Why Erling Haaland is perfect for Manchester City
-> Why Julian Alvarez is perfect for Manchester City
-> Erling Haaland – Player Analysis
-> Pep Guardiola – Manchester City – Tactical Analysis (2021-22 Edition)
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