Julian Alvarez has earned a more involved role at Manchester City after the World Cup, so others may have to accommodate him.
Julian Alvarez will receive a hero’s welcome when he returns to Manchester City from the World Cup, as soon as Argentina’s jubilant celebrations in Buenos Aires are over.
Alvarez scored four goals on the way to winning the World Cup, finishing the tournament as third top goalscorer behind only Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe scoring more in Qatar. The City understudy emerged from Messi’s shadow to become a key cog in Argentina’s title charge, doing the dirty work so Messi could shine.
If City were using Alvarez as an alternative to Erling Haaland, they could look at his performances for Argentina to consider a change in roles for their number 19. And that could have a knock-on effect to the rest of the squad.
Alvarez has impressed for City at times in the pocket behind Haaland, while he looked dangerous for Argentina on the right. He’s always expressed a preference for playing centrally when asked, but his World Cup form might see him used out wide for City.
That versatility will only strengthen a formidable frontline, and should also raise the bar for the other forwards looking for minutes. Of all the positions so far this season, right-wing has arguably been Pep Guardiola’s most problematic, so Alvarez offers another solid option there.
Phil Foden has impressed on the right, even if his natural position is on the left, while Riyad Mahrez ended the first part of the campaign strongly so hoping to make use of his six-week rest to make up for lost time in 2023. Jack Grealish has been bright on the left, just without the goals or assists to show for it.
If Alvarez gets more minutes upon his return from Argentina, the likely candidates to drop out are Grealish and Mahrez. Both are confidence players, who tend to play better with a bit of competition. Knowing a player on form like Alvarez could be coming for their places, both will be looking to stake an early claim for both wing positions when the fixtures resume this week.
The renewed competition could have positive knock-on effects for the City squad, especially regarding those two players with a point to prove in the new year.