Pep Guardiola said that a new striker this season would not have helped Manchester City beat Southampton.
The Blues made it a priority to sign a marquee centre-forward in the transfer window but interest to varying degrees in Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo never amounted to a deal. With Gabriel Jesus preferring to play wide and Sergio Aguero leaving on a free transfer, City went into this season with two fewer strikers than previously.
Raheem Sterling reprised his role up front against Southampton with Ferran Torres rested but the England international was starved of service as Southampton limited the home team to just one shot on target – that coming in the 90th minute.
Guardiola had anticipated a question about the absence of a striker, and put his case for why the team failed to score against a well-disciplined Saints side.
“Today we didn’t win not because we didn’t have a centre-forward, we didn’t win because our process to make the buildup or give better balls for players up front were not good,” he said. “When they are good, they can run, arrive in other positions.
“We had just one shot on target but they had four or five blocks in the six-yard box so they were there.
“But that is not the reason. The reason is because we didn’t do our process for our back four and Fernandinho. The five guys who have to bring the ball to the other players were not good today.”
Guardiola had warned about the lack of preparation for this game in comments that got lost among the furore over attendances, and thought that their exertions in the Champions League in midweek had contributed towards fatigue in the squad.
“They had seven days to prepare, we had 10 minutes yesterday,” he said.
“The Premier League is 38 games and everyone against everyone but it is not true for the teams who play in the Champions League,” he said.
“I would have loved to have more time to recover and be fresh but today we didn’t have this freshness in our mind. I would not say in our legs because we had four or five new players but sometimes there are these days.
“It’s a pity. They could run and arrive in the 18-yard box with chances to shoot but didn’t shoot much and we were there but we could not be more clinical in the final third. We have to create more and from behind we were not good.”