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Pep Guardiola hints at spending spree but insists City have much to fight for | Football


Blue Moon Rising is the title of Noel Gallagher’s latest single, not an accurate summary of Manchester City’s season, though Pep Guardiola is refusing to get too despondent about being 22 points behind Liverpool. “Two years ago we did something similar and people were saying we were unstoppable,” the City manager says. “Last season it was much more equal and now it is Liverpool doing something incredible. Now there is one team clearly dominant, but that has happened in the Premier League before.”

Liverpool are not playing this weekend so City appear to have a chance to reduce the gap slightly with Sunday’s home game against struggling West Ham, when their end product is bound to come under scrutiny after indecisive finishing cost them points in their last Premier League game, at Tottenham. Raheem Sterling is out with a hamstring injury that could take several weeks to heal, Leroy Sané is back in training but nowhere near ready and Riyad Mahrez has been out of form of late so as usual the burden is likely to fall on Sergio Agüero.

Guardiola is happy with the number of chances his side create but accepts the conversion rate could be better. He has often complained that his forwards need to be sharper and more clinical in front of goal. City’s overall excellence elsewhere on the pitch has tended to mask that failing in the past but now Liverpool have pulled ahead and the defending champions are finding it hard to manage a reply, an overhaul may be needed in the summer.

“I have an idea but I am not ready to think about that while the season is still progressing,” Guardiola says. “We have to do something because David Silva is leaving and in some positions we need to strengthen but I don’t know how many or how much because the market is always difficult and there are still two or three months to go.

“A lot can change in that time, look at Vincent Kompany last season. For most of the season he hardly played because of injuries, then he came in for the last couple of months and looked like the best defender in the world, so anything can still happen.

“There is still a lot for us to fight for even if we are too far behind in the league.

“We are in a final in a few weeks, we have the FA Cup, there is second place to aim for to secure qualification for the Champions League next season and two big games coming up against Real Madrid.”

Guardiola seems determined to enjoy the return to Spain the Champions League draw has set up this month, even if he knows another early-round European exit would detract from any success gained in the domestic cups. He is not shrinking from the challenge and nor does he feel that Liverpool’s evident superiority in the Premier League is affecting his players’ confidence. “If your rival is so far ahead there must be something missing, but I don’t think confidence has dropped,” he says.

“When I watch the players train it feels just the same as it has for the last two years. I have never seen a game where my players didn’t try and I still enjoy watching them play. I like the way we play. We are a good team.”

At the moment Guardiola has little difficulty in either identifying players who would fit into his plans or persuading them to join the club, though there is a danger that may change if the perception gains ground that he might not be in situ at City for years to come. His present contract runs to the end of next season, by which time he will have been manager at City for longer than any of his previous clubs. While he is happy in Manchester and relaxed about the contract situation, no one imagines Guardiola will be around indefinitely.

“I do not think I am the only reason why players join this club,” he says. “Manchester City is a big enough club now to be attractive in its own right. People know who we are, and want to play for us. Coming to Manchester City is not a bad solution for most players.”

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