Heading into the September international break, most Manchester City fans will be content with their club’s start to the season.
Two blips away at Newcastle United and Aston Villa aside, the Blues remain unbeaten in the Premier League and have a 100 per cent record in the Champions League. Saturday’s 3-0 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers rounded off another great week for Pep Guardiola’s team but the gaffer will be aware of the challenges October will throw at his side.
Home matches vs Manchester United, Southampton and Brighton and Hove Albion are to come next month as well as trips to Anfield and Leicester City, plus three Champions League fixtures against FC Copenhagen and Borussia Dortmund. Only a postponement stopped this schedule becoming even more packed with the visit to Arsenal set to be rearranged.
With so many matches, in a short space of time, against some of the most difficult opponents in the league on the horizon, City will need to rely on some different players and test some new partnerships. One of these partnerships has been called for by supporters already, and Guardiola seems to be a fan of it too.
Before the trip to Molineux, fans were crying out for Julian Alvarez to be given a start in the front three alongside Erling Haaland. From what we have seen of the Argentine so far, he has what it takes to become the new heir to Sergio Aguero.
Of course he is still young and it is easy to get carried away but his speed and strength do show shades of the City legend. Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez’s underwhelming performances against Dortmund would only increase the calls for more Alvarez game time.
Grealish would go on to answer some of those critics on Saturday and justified his selection with an early goal but it remains to be seen how long this will placate them. For those wanting to see more of Alvarez though, Guardiola has given a hint which would spell good news for you.
“It is the second time I see Julian and Erling together in the last minutes. I like it together. A little bit more aggressive,” the boss explained. “It depends on them, the performance, the connection with them, they look at each other, they connected really well, so Erling passed to Julian and Julian to Erling in the short passes in that moment, they are not selfish, they look for each other.”
As the matches come thick and fast, it stands to reason that Alvarez and Haaland will play alongside each other more. The likes of Grealish, Mahrez and Phil Foden will need rests at some stage and the 22-year-old may even be given the opportunity to start down the middle to allow Haaland a breather.
The month of October will show just how much of a role the Catalan manager envisions for Alvarez in 2022/23. City’s big squad will be stretched to the limits over the next 31 days and the Argentine has the chance to show Guardiola what he has got.