Pep Guardiola feels lucky to have the prolific Erling Haaland at his disposal.
The Manchester City boss is grateful not only that the Norwegian has scored so many goals, but that he chose to join the Premier League champions at all.
The 22-year-old claimed his 26th Premier League goal of the season, equalling Sergio Aguero’s club record, in Wednesday’s crucial victory over title rivals Arsenal.
Football pundit Jamie Carragher recently raised eyebrows by saying he felt Haaland “wasn’t the perfect fit” for City.
This has not been a popular opinion with all connected to City but Guardiola admits he can see why somebody would think that way.
“I understand it,” he said. “I am open to all opinions. He has his argument but it is important that he feels so happy here.
“His commitment – not because he’s scored 26 goals – is incredibly well respected. It was a surprise for all of us – a really big surprise.
“We didn’t know him. We knew his stats, his numbers when he played in Dortmund, but we are – all of us – really surprised.
“We are delighted to have him and we are delighted he chose us because he had all the world in his hands to choose where he was going to play – to stay in Dortmund or go to Madrid or Barcelona or other teams in England, but he chose us and that is why we are more than happy.”
City’s 3-1 win over Arsenal took them back to the top of the table on goal difference.
With Arsenal, who led by eight points last month, having failed to win any of their last three games, momentum appears to have shifted towards City.
Yet the London side still have a game in hand and Guardiola, who takes his team to Nottingham Forest on Saturday, expects them to bounce back.
He said: “Right now we could be 10 or 12 points behind. We are a bit lucky.
“We won but we felt how strong they are. We cannot be confused. Just because in the last games they didn’t win, I don’t have the feeling they don’t follow (manager) Mikel (Arteta) or are disappointed at the lack of results.
“Still they are alive and will be alive until the end of the season.”
Guardiola has also attempted to clear up a misconception he was unhappy with Bernardo Silva’s performance at left-back at the Emirates Stadium.
The Portuguese playmaker was deployed in the unfamiliar role in the first half before Guardiola changed what he later described as “horrible” tactics.
Guardiola insists he was referring to his choice of formation, not his team selection.
He said: “I said the general aspect of how to figure out the game didn’t work, not because Bernardo played at left-back. I didn’t say that.”
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who famously scored twice as City beat Aston Villa to clinch the title on the final day of last season, is out of contract this summer.
Guardiola is keen for the German to stay but will not push the midfielder to decide.
“For what Ilkay has done against Aston Villa last season he can do whatever he wants, but he knows exactly my opinion about him,” he said.