Pep Guardiola insisted Manchester City are doing “absolutely everything” in tough circumstances as they fell further off the pace in the Premier League with a 1-1 draw against West Ham.
Phil Foden came off the bench to cancel out Michail Antonio’s brilliant overhead kick but City were unable to force a winner as Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez spurned late chances.
A return of eight points from five matches is the club’s worst start to a campaign since 2014-15, when they struggled as defending Premier League champions under Manuel Pellegrini.
Foden entered the action in place of Sergio Aguero, who sustained a hamstring injury having started three games in a week on his return from meniscus surgery.
Aguero was pressed into such frequent action due to Gabriel Jesus being sidelined, while left-sided defenders Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake and Benjamin Mendy were all unavailable at London Stadium.
Fernandinho is set to miss the next six weeks after pulling up during the closing stages of Wednesday’s 3-1 Champions League win over Porto, while Laporte, Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan have all tested positive for coronavirus this season.
Guardiola was able to give Kevin De Bruyne a return from the bench but concedes the compressed nature of this season after reaching the final stages of the Champions League in August is taking a toll.
“I would prefer to have results, but I have to analyse the situation we’re in,” he told a post-match news conference.
“We struggle for the many injuries, the lack of preparation and no recovery time between the incredibly tough games we’ve played so far.
“The players did absolutely everything, gave everything on the pitch. They fought and were incredibly tired at the end.”
Guardiola accepted the depth of talent in his squad means sympathy will be in short supply.
He continued: “Of course, there is plenty of quality. I’m not complaining about that. I could complain about the first goal of West Ham [Tomas Soucek appeared to handle in the build-up] but I did not say anything.
“We struggled with just one or two weeks for preparation, we had guys with COVID, we did not have enough regeneration for the players.
“Our striker [Jesus] was injured in the first game against Wolves, could not play more. Sergio came back after four or five months, Kevin was injured, Gundo this was the first time he could play 90 minutes.
“To play three competitions every three days, you need all the squad. If you don’t have all the squad it is more difficult.
“This year we finished and started later than usual. They needed a break. I’m not saying this is the reason why, I’m just putting on the table what our situation is.
“It’s time to struggle, we knew it. Don’t drop many points and continue. This is the reality.”
Opposite number David Moyes, who lost his own striker Antonio to a hamstring complaint during the second period, acknowledged Guardiola is in a tricky spot.
“I think that Manchester City are probably slightly different to us, as they went to the quarter-finals of the Champions League,” he said.
“We were having some sort of holiday time. We had a mini pre-season if you want to call it that. Manchester City haven’t.
“With the international players having to play three games a week ago and three games coming up and the amount of club games coming up at the moment, it’s going to take its toll somewhere along the line.
“In the Championship you become immune to it, but I think for the Premier League players, with the speed and the tempo of the games, I do think they’re liable to be injuries if we’re not careful.”
Antonio will have a scan to assess his problem, which also hindered him during last weekend’s dramatic 3-3 draw at Tottenham.