Kevin De Bruyne credited Erling Haaland with making the spaces that helped Manchester City romp to a 4-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday.
Much was made of the fact the marquee signing got only eight touches in his 74 minutes on the pitch. The Norwegian did not get his first until the 19th minute, but it was a key one as he played in Ilkay Gundogan to score the opening goal.
De Bruyne then got City’s second and set up Phil Foden for the third before half-time, with Haaland sat on the bench by the time Jefferson Lerma’s 79th-minute own goal made it 4-0.
But it would be difficult to argue Haaland was a peripheral figure on his home debut. He drew three defenders as he set up Gundogan, and it was the same throughout his time on the pitch – his towering presence demanding the attention of Bournemouth players to leave space for others to exploit.
“It’s hard being that focal point in the system,” De Bruyne said. “We have 11 people behind the ball pretty much all the time so in these however many touches he was dangerous. You don’t need a lot of touches to be dangerous.
“He helps the team in many aspects and he didn’t complain, he was still helping and giving assists so it’s fine.
“I think he did well. If he doesn’t score they will say it but he set up the first goal, he had a couple of chances and he was there. He helped us make these chances, he did what he had to do and on another day he will score. It’s all good for me.”
Having played with a false-nine for the majority of the last two years, De Bruyne and City are adapting to having Haaland and Julian Alvarez this term.
Guardiola believes both players will not only score plenty themselves but make life easier for those around them.
“Against this type of defence we have to play with a striker or maybe two, to move left and right because the space is minimal,” Guardiola said.
“It’s coming. It’s a question of time. Against teams like that you have to find a solution to break them. Erland will score goals, Julian will score goals. It’s important many other players score goals.
“What is going to happen is the opponents will pay attention to runs from Gundogan, from Kevin, from the other ones, so there will be space. It’s a question of time.”
The arrival of both Haaland and Alvarez is likely to see striker Liam Delap, son of Rory, go out on loan after suffering an injury-disrupted campaign last season.
City do not want to sell the 19-year-old, but are open to him going on loan as they feel he is too good to play with the under-23s.
“Liam is in that process because we have Erling and Julian,” Guardiola said. “He needs minutes. For him the under-23s process is gone, it’s done. He has to go out there and play and show it.”
But one player City hope is going nowhere is midfielder Bernardo Silva, who continues to be linked to Barcelona despite their financial strife.
Guardiola is keen to keep the 28-year-old while admitting he can offer no guarantees, but De Bruyne expressed confidence the Portugal international will still be at City next month.
“I think he’s very loved,” De Bruyne said. “The way that I see it, I think that he will be here so there’s nothing that I’m worried about. Whatever happens he is great for us and I expect him to be here with us this year.”