Pep Guardiola admitted Manchester do not possess a ‘weapon’ like Romelu Lukaku – and believes his bosses know they must sign a striker next summer.
City failed to replace Sergio Aguero ahead of this season as Tottenham stood firm in keeping hold of Harry Kane, and Guardiola is likely to continue deploying false nines.
On Saturday they face a Chelsea team boasting new £97.5million front man Lukaku, with the clubs’ difference in goalscoring options potentially the ultimate difference in the title race.
Pep Guardiola (L) is preparing to face familiar counterpart Thomas Tuchel at Stamford Bridge
The City boss has discussed the challenges of dealing without a striker like Romelu Lukaku (C)
‘There are two options that we have right now: complaining or say we have exceptional players,’ Guardiola said. ‘These players have taken this club to another level and I’m still fascinated by the way they train, their commitment. That is enough for me.
‘We don’t have this weapon that others teams have like Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham or other teams. We don’t have a player to score 25 league goals for himself, so we have to do it as a team. I cannot deny what a player Romelu Lukaku is.’
City still lifted last season’s Premier League without being able to call on Aguero for large spells but, despite realising the need to recruit his successor, went into this title defence without a recognised No 9 after Gabriel Jesus revealed a preference for operating wide. City are expected to be in the mix for Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland next summer.
‘You will not hear me moaning for one single moment in this season that we don’t have this player, because the players that have been given to me by the club –what things they have give to us in recent years,’ Guardiola added.
‘We survived without Sergio in a good way, in the way we played. I think the club knows – and not for me – that it needs a striker in the next years. Sometimes it is possible, sometimes not because they’re the more expensive ones.’
City have a huge week to tackle, with trips to Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool following Saturday’s clash at Stamford Bridge.
City are operating without an out-and-out forward following the departure of Sergio Aguero (L)
Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have returned to training but Guardiola has half a dozen of his squad short on match fitness.
‘We are the champions because we rarely complain about many stupid things,’ he said. During the season, and especially in this brutal schedule, we’ll have situations that are uncomfortable to deal with but we have enough in the squad to go with.’ Ends
Tuchel can on Saturday become the first manager to beat Guardiola four times on the bounce.
The German insisted this game was not about their personal battle – ‘we don’t play a match of tennis or chess’ – but he admitted coaching rivalries do matter. So would four successive defeats by one coach rankle with him?
The rivals met when Tuchel led Borussia Dortmund and Guardiola was bossing Bayern Munich
‘Yes, of course,’ he said. ‘I had to suffer from that – he beat me, I think, four times in a row so I had to also deal with it and come back from it.
‘Nobody likes it, everybody on this kind of level, in this building – any player – we absolutely hate to lose and when we have to accept it, it’s all the time a challenge to swallow it, to digest it and then absolutely what we hate more is to lose a second time to the same team or the same coach.’
Tuchel has come a long way since he sought advice from Guardiola in the early days of his coaching career. It was suggested yesterday that the City boss might regret being so helpful.
‘Ha, nothing he taught me at these dinners helps me now to build a confident team to compete with him!’ Tuchel said.
‘If you are a coach at Mainz you cannot come up with the idea of ‘let’s play like Barcelona’. So it was more about understanding how he implements, how much of an influence (he had), what did he do.’
Guardiola admits that it took him some time to deal with a succession of defeats against Tuchel
Tuchel insisted ‘I am not a fanboy!’, adding: ‘It was like a honour to speak to him and have the chance to hear his beliefs.
‘Is it like I go home and the next day I am a different coach with my team? No. But it questions my beliefs and it’s understanding to hear how deeply he believes in his beliefs… it was so far out of reach to be able to even compete with him on the same level.
‘So that’s why I am absolutely grateful now and, believe it or not, I’m happy that I arrived at a club and a team with confidence that, okay, if we play at our very best level we are a team that can compete with Pep’s team – and this is actually a good feeling because it means you are in a good place as a coach.’