EPL

Guardiola admits Man City lack striker 'weapon' after Aguero exit

By Sports Desk September 24, 2021

Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City must cope without the "weapon" of a 25-goal clinical striker after being unable to replace Sergio Aguero.

On Saturday, City will face a Chelsea team which has been strengthened by the addition of Romelu Lukaku from Serie A champions Inter, for a shade under £100million.

For much of the transfer window, City were expected to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham, but that failed to come to fruition and they are instead looking for a squad-wide contribution to the goals account.

The Stamford Bridge test will give an indication of how well City can compete against fellow elite teams as they bid to retain the Premier League title.

With Champions League holders Chelsea adding Lukaku, Manchester United beating City to a deal for Cristiano Ronaldo, and Kane staying at Spurs, there are major clubs in England that have obvious focal points in attack.

Guardiola declared strikers to be unique in their sensibilities, saying: "They live outside of the bubble a team creates.

"They say, 'I am here to win the game'. We had privilege to have Sergio. These are the hardest players to take."

Aguero suffered with injuries during the closing stages of his 10-year City career, before leaving for LaLiga powerhouse Barcelona, and manager Guardiola found ways to cope without the leader of his attack, notably opting at times for a 'false nine', meaning his team was often stacked with attacking players but had no natural spearhead.

"We don't have this weapon like other teams have, like [Manchester] United, Chelsea or Tottenham. We have to use what we have as a team," Guardiola said.

"We don't have a player who scored 25 goals himself. We do it as a group and that is what we will try this season."

Guardiola has previously confirmed he would have liked to sign Kane, if he became available.

He reflected on his career as a coach and manager, pointing to always having had identifiable leaders and prolific scorers in his forward lines. Although Gabriel Jesus remains at City, Guardiola considers him a slightly different front player to a central striker.

"Always I had a striker in my career," said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.

"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. 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 Muller [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 still believes City are a formidable prospect, and the Chelsea game followed by next week's clash with Paris Saint-Germain are tantalising prospects.

"When our squad is fit – all of them – I know what we can do because I have seen it in previous years," he said.

"It is a privilege to go to London and play there and then Paris. You will not hear me one single second complain about this season or about the players I have."

City have won three of their last six Premier League away games against Chelsea (L3), more than they had in their previous 23 visits to Stamford Bridge in the top flight (W2 D8 L13). Guardiola's side are looking to win back-to-back away top-flight games against Chelsea for the first time since January 1955.

In his managerial career, Guardiola has lost more games against Chelsea than he has versus any other opponent in all competitions (eight). Indeed, the Blues could become the first team to win four consecutive matches against the Spaniard.

Related items

  • MLB playoffs 2021: Bellinger gets Dodgers off life support, fast-finishing Astros level ALCS against Red Sox MLB playoffs 2021: Bellinger gets Dodgers off life support, fast-finishing Astros level ALCS against Red Sox

    Cody Bellinger saved the Los Angeles Dodgers with their season on life support as he crushed a game-tying three-run homer in a 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

    World Series champions the Dodgers were facing a 3-0 deficit in the NLCS, with the Braves leading 5-2 in the eighth inning before Bellinger's intervention at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

    With Will Smith and A.J. Pollock on base, Dodgers star Bellinger crushed a Luke Jackson fastball into the right-field bleachers.

    Three batters later, Mookie Betts laced a go-ahead double with Chris Taylor touching down, before Kenley Jansen closed out the come-from-behind win.

    Jansen moved to outright second most MLB postseason saves with 19.

    Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have ever erased a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series, so the Dodgers significantly revived their hopes of reaching another MLB showpiece.

    The Dodgers had opened a 2-0 lead in the first inning after Corey Seager's two-run homer, but the Braves produced a four-run fourth inning, before Adam Duvall drove in Ozzie Albies in the fifth inning for his second RBI of the game to build a 5-2 advantage.

    The Braves held that lead until Bellinger's intervention in the eighth inning, with the Dodgers staying in the NLCS at 2-1.

    Meanwhile, the Houston Astros levelled the American League Championship Series (ALCS) after a seven-run ninth inning guided them to a 9-2 rout of the Red Sox in Game 4 at Fenway Park.

    The Red Sox had led 2-1 from the first inning after Xander Bogaerts' two-run inning, before Jose Altuve's game-tying home run in the eighth, which marked his 21st playoff home run, behind only Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22) overall.

    With two out, Jason Castro hit a go-ahead double in the ninth inning, setting off a rush of runs – including Michael Brantley's three-run double. The Astros' seven-run ninth inning tied the most ever in the ninth inning of a postseason game.

     

    Braves at Dodgers

    The Dodgers will look to level the NLCS when they host the Braves on Wednesday, with Julio Urias confirmed to start on the mound for the storied Los Angeles franchise in Game 4. Elsewhere, the Red Sox and Astros will meet in Game 5 of the ALCS.

  • Nets' Nash after Bucks loss: If you're not playing at high level against champs, you won't win Nets' Nash after Bucks loss: If you're not playing at high level against champs, you won't win

    Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was not happy with his team's performance after the NBA title-chasing franchise were blown away by defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks on opening night.

    After unveiling their banner and championship rings in a pre-game ceremony, Giannis Antetokounmpo fuelled the Bucks to a 127-104 rout following his double-double on Tuesday.

    Kevin Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds and fellow Nets superstar James Harden put up 20 points, eight rebounds and eight rebounds as he flirted with a triple-double on the road, while Patty Mills (21 points on seven-for-seven shooting from beyond the arc) tied the NBA record for most made threes on debut for a new team.

    But the Nets were no match for the Bucks in a repeat of last season's Eastern Conference semi-final after being outscored 37-25 in the opening period.

    "We weren't very good," Nash said. "If you're not playing at a high level against the champs, you're not going to win."

    It was a tough start to the season for Durant and Nets, who were without All-Star Kyrie Irving amid his absence because of not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

    "We can’t give a team 20 more shots than us," Durant told reporters after the Bucks made 48 of 105 shots, while the Nets finished 37-84 from the field. "Imagine coming to a game and say 'here, take the ball 20 times on offense before we get an offensive position.

    "This is one game out of 82 of them. We'll look at it that way. Every team will look at it that way. The Bucks won today, but they're still trying to fine-tune what they do, too.

    "I think every team in the league is going to look at their first few games, first few weeks and see where their team is going and then make adjustments."

    During preseason, Durant called the Bucks – spearheaded by Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday – a dynasty after they ended their 50-year wait for a championship in 2020-21.

    But after Tuesday's showdown, the former MVP told reporters: "Maybe I was reaching a little bit.

    "I just look at it as it's hard in the league for four or five guys to stay together as long as the Bucks did, through the ups and downs of losing in the first or second round, almost going to the Finals in 2019.

    "They've been through a lot together. That's probably what I meant more than anything."

    "They're just a team with some continuity," former Golden State Warriors forward Durant added. "I take that 'dynasty' thing back. I know it's a lot how that word gets thrown around. But they have some continuity a lot of teams don't have."

  • MLB playoffs 2021: Dodgers manager Roberts labels Bellinger's homer most important he's seen MLB playoffs 2021: Dodgers manager Roberts labels Bellinger's homer most important he's seen

    Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts cannot remember a more important hit than Cody Bellinger's game-tying three-run homer in the defending World Series champions' come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves.

    The Dodgers trailed 5-2 in the eighth inning in Game of the National League Championship Series (NLCS), facing a 3-0 series deficit before 2019 NL MVP Bellinger's three-run shot tied Tuesday's MLB contest.

    Mookie Betts hit a go-ahead double, driving Chris Taylor home, as the Dodgers completed a four-run eighth-inning rally, before Kenley Jansen closed it out in the ninth inning.

    The Dodgers had never won a postseason game in their history when trailing by three or more runs in the eighth inning.

    Bellinger's homer continued his remarkable postseason, hitting at .292 with seven hits and six RBIs after the two-time All Star endured a challenging regular season for the Dodgers, hitting at .165.

    "Pure elation, joy," Roberts said about Bellinger's homer during his post-game news conference.

    "It's hard to imagine a bigger hit that I can remember, given what was at stake. I couldn’t be happier for him. What a win. I'm kinda exhausted right now. Very happy for Cody."

    Bellinger's regular-season return for the Dodgers had been modest, with 10 home runs, 52 hits and 36 RBIs from 95 games, which Roberts described as "rock bottom".

    That was in contrast during his MVP-winning 2019 season he homered 47 times, with 170 hits and 115 RBIs, hitting at .305.

    "I think this is going to make him much better. It's tested his character and he's going to be a better baseball player through these struggles," Roberts said.

    "When you hit rock bottom, there's a lot of opportunity for openness and change. To his credit, he lowered his arms, understood he needed to hit the ball more square and flat and get the loop out of his swing.

    "You see the path of that at-bat tonight. All the credit goes to him."

    Bellinger, who hit at .212 with four home runs, 14 hits and 13 RBIs during the Dodgers' World Series-winning 2020 postseason, offered an insight into his mindset, labelling the playoffs as a "clean slate".

    "In a way it's a whole different season," Bellinger, who celebrated his fourth career game-tying or go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later of a playoff game – tied for fifth-most in postseason nhistory, told reporters. "Luckily for me I got a clean slate going into the postseason.

    "I was feeling good towards the end of the regular season. I just tried to continue that and help this team win."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.