Pep Guardiola has admitted Manchester City lack the “weapon” of a prolific striker that Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and other rivals possess.
Guardiola missed out on his summer target Harry Kane after Tottenham refused to sell the centre-forward. United have Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani, Liverpool have Mohamed Salah and Chelsea brought in Romelu Lukaku, all of whom are consistently high scorers. Guardiola stated his team would have to share the goals around, as they did last season when Sergio Agüero was injured for long periods.
The manager was asked before Saturday’s game at Chelsea whether a centre-forward such as Kane could have made a material difference to his side. “I completely agree with you,” Guardiola said. “Strikers are strikers. We don’t have this weapon that teams like Chelsea, United or Tottenham or others have. We don’t have a player to score 25 league goals for himself so we have to do it as a team. This is what we will try this season.
“These are the most difficult players to take [buy]. We had the privilege to have Sergio for many years. Unfortunately for the last year and a half he was out with injuries and we could not use him much. We survived without him in a good way – in the way we played. There are two options that we have right now: complaining or saying we have exceptional players.”
Although Guardiola is operating with a false No 9 this season because of the lack of a striker, he has also done so when having one – through choice. But he denied that his preferred mode of play, in which midfield is packed, means a bespoke goalscorer is an unnecessary luxury.
“Always I had a striker in my career,” said Guardiola. “Like goalkeepers, strikers are the biggest specialists. I played with Samuel Eto’o [at Barcelona], maybe the best or one of the best strikers I ever trained. What a player Samuel was. And [Thierry] Henry [at Barcelona], I don’t know if he’s a striker or what he is but Lionel Messi was able to score a few goals. There was [Robert] Lewandowski, Thomas Müller [at Bayern Munich], Sergio here: always I play with a striker. Gabriel [Jesus] likes to play more in lateral ways than central. We want it as a club because I think the club knows, not for me, that it needs a striker in the next years.”
Guardiola acknowledged that Chelsea, who beat City in May’s Champions League final, are even better after Lukaku joined in the summer from Internazionale.
“I’m not going to deny what a player Romelu Lukaku is,” he said. “At Inter Milan he took another step. Antonio Conte has the ability to improve every single player that works with him and he came back to the champions of Europe.
“How he [Lukaku] plays with long balls, how he is supported by the attacking midfielders and wing-backs and with the quality of players they have in the middle to put the balls between the lines … it is a stronger team than last season but this is the challenge. I’m not going to say I’m sad or disappointed regarding the squad we have.”
Guardiola has injury concerns over Ilkay Gündogan, John Stones, Rodri, Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko. “Not all of them [are in contention],” he said. “Some of them came back to training Friday, but we need to see how they react and tomorrow [Saturday] we will see.”