Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City have the attacking firepower to mount a more effective title challenge next season.
Victory over Watford and their outgoing boss Walter Mazzarri at Vicarage Road on Sunday will secure third place in the Premier League for City in Guardiola’s first season at the helm.
However, their potential 78-point haul leaves them comfortable shy of top two Chelsea and Tottenham and the ex-Barcelona coach has regularly lamented his side’s aptitude “in the boxes” – often noting a raft of missed chances when points have been dropped against more clinical opponents.
Chelsea and Spurs are the only sides to have scored more goals than City heading into the final weekend, but Guardiola has no doubts over a key area for improvement following a trophy-less campaign.
City have been heavily regularly linked with a move for Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez, while Guardiola’s recent praise of 31-goal top scorer Sergio Aguero has not been a constant feature of his time in Manchester.
Since the arrival of Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus in January, Kelechi Iheanacho has been confined to a role on the margins of the first-team squad and the 20-year-old was reported to have attracted £20million attention from Everton and West Ham this week.
Nevertheless, Guardiola namechecked all three of his main strikers, along with midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and wingers Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling as men who can be involved in alleviating the main bugbear of his first year in Manchester.
Shooting drills and free-kicks in our pre-@WatfordFC work-out…
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 19, 2017
“We have to play a little bit better to create more chances, to create more goals,” he said. “If we reduce that gap, maybe our gap against Chelsea and Tottenham will be short. If we don’t it will be the same.
“I think we have the quality of the players to score goals. Keli, he didn’t play too much for my reasons, but he has the quality. Sergio there is no doubt about that; Gabriel there is no doubt about that.
“Kevin I think is a guy to score 12 or 14 goals per season, no problem at all. And our wingers scored goals.
“Leroy, his impact in the second part of the season was amazing – he scored a lot of goals – and Rash in the first part of the season was top, creating chances, crosses, penalties, assists and goals.
“It’s just, especially at home, for the chances we create we have to score more goals. Here in England when the result is 1-0, 2-1 anything can happen until the end.
“We have to be stronger in the boxes because our game, I think, is better and better and next season will be better because we know each other better and will stay more time together. I think it is going to happen.”
16 – Kevin De Bruyne has provided 16 assists in the PL this term, the most by a Man City player in a single season in the competition. Key.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 16, 2017
Close-season attention could therefore fall upon the other end of Guardiola’s team, with long-serving right-back Pablo Zabaleta in line to make his last appearance for City at Watford following an emotional farewell to the Etihad Stadium after the 3-1 win over West Brom on Tuesday.
Fellow defenders Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna are also out of contract, along with goalkeeper Willy Caballero, Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas.
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