Pep Guardiola has jumped to the defence of Erling Haaland in the wake of criticism of the forward following the 0-0 weekend draw with title rivals Arsenal.

Haaland enjoyed a phenomenal first campaign in blue both collectively and individually, winning the Treble with the team and a host of personal gongs like European Golden Shoe, Premier League Player and Young Player of the Season, FWA Men’s Footballer of the Year, UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and the Gerd Muller Trophy at the Ballon d’Or.

He bagged a record 52 goals across all competitions and the Premier League Golden Boot for a competition-high 36 goals.

This season, he once again leads the top-flight rankings with 18 goals.

Haaland, however, drew a blank in the Etihad stalemate against Arsenal which saw few opportunities for either side.

After the match, Roy Keane was critical of Haaland’s display against the Gunners.

Boss Guardiola was quick to defend the striker in his press conference today and disagreed strongly with the analysis of the Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United captain.

The boss stressed that the lack of goals and chances on Sunday was not the fault of Haaland.

“I don’t agree with him. Absolutely not. He’s the best striker in the world.

“He helped us to win what we won last season. 

“The reason why we didn’t create more chances wasn’t from Erling. We need more presence in the final third with more people.

“We played an exceptional game. I reviewed the game against Arsenal. We missed more people in the final third. Erling is exceptional.

“The standards that Erling has are unbelievable. The people expect everything. There are games where I could say ‘ah could be better’ but I felt it during the game that the reason we didn’t have chances is not because of Erling in that game. It was not.

“And of course, he has a specific quality like everyone knows, at 23, he will improve.”

Guardiola also reacted supportively in his media briefing when it was pointed out that Haaland had scored only one goal against the Premier League’s top five this 2023/24 season - the opener in November 2023’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the Etihad.

“Some actions he misses it. Sometimes lack of supply. Sometimes the decisions from the manager. Sometimes the opposition is really good. Many reasons,” the boss continued.

“In football it’s not just one reason. There are many.

“Sometimes when you have success or don’t have success, it’s many reasons. It’s a team sport. It’s not individual like golf or tennis. Everyone needs the other ones.”

Haaland arrived at the Etihad in the summer of 2022 as the hottest prospect in Europe due to his scoring exploits at the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Red Bull Salzburg and Molde.

While expertise in front of goal was there for all to see, the 23-year-old’s professionalism were less well known.

This dedication to his craft has delighted boss Guardiola during their hugely successful time together in Manchester, which has seen us lift the ‘Big Five’ of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Super Cup and Club World Cup.

“Really surprised from day one about that,” added the manager.

“When you sign players, you don’t know them until you are living or working with them.

“But I was definitely surprised by how incredibly he lives his life just for his football game to be ready.”