After losing 1-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium on the opening day of the season, Man City have come back strong, getting back to back 5-0 wins against Norwich City and Arsenal.
After the departure of Kun Aguero at the end of last season, everybody expected the Citizens to replace him with a big name. After being linked to Harry Kane almost all through the transfer window, they were unable to sign him, and ended the window without replacing Aguero, thereby, not having a traditional number 9 centre forward for the new season.
Man City have started the last two games with the same front three of Jesus, Jack Grealish and Ferran Torres. Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus have been playing in the centre alternately, but neither of them is a complete, out and out, number 9.
In the game against Tottenham, they did not play Jesus and the signs were troubling as they could not carve out a goal despite dominating possession and the stats throughout the match.
The average position of the players showed the lack of a striker, as there was no one present to lead the line and get in the box to apply the finishing touches.
The game put up the question for Pep Guardiola, that will his team be able to retain the league title without a centre forward.
Pep Guardiola understood the problem in the first game and made multiple changes to his side. He now decided to use Grealish, Jesus and Ferran Torres as his front three players. He changed his tactics, and it did kind of work, as Man City won 5-0 at home against Norwich City.
The first goal of the game was an own goal by the Norwich goalkeeper, followed by a goal from Jack Grealish to put the Citizens 2-0 up before halftime. They got three more goals in the second half, one by defender Laporte, and one each by second-half substitutes Mahrez and Sterling.
Even though City came out with an easy victory, Manchester City were unable to get goals from both Torres and Jesus, who both played in the middle of the front three at certain points in the match.
The Citizens only had an xG of 2.4 in the match, and once again lacked presence inside the box. This problem was seen in last season’s UCL final against Chelsea as well.
On matchday 3, Man City hosted Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium and embarrassed the Gunners by beating them 5-0. Pep Guardiola stood with his front three from the Norwich game, and it seemed to be the correct decision with a goal from Jesus, and 2 from Ferran Torres who was playing as the central attacker. The average position of the City players in this match was very different from the first two games. It seems like Pep understood that he needs someone to play in the number 9 role, and decided that Ferran Torres is the man to do it. His average position was much more forward and central in this match, compared to the first two games. Torres had a great match, and it looks like he will be the one playing as the central attacker(if not as a centre forward or number 9) this season for Manchester City.
Manchester have scored the joint-most goals in the Premier League after the first 3 games, and have taken the second-most shots on goal with the third-highest xG. It would seem that they are not in need of a number 9, as they also won the league last season, where Aguero was out injured for most of the games.
The final answer to the question will come in due time, as the game against Spurs shows that it will be the bigger and more difficult matches that will tell whether they can win it without a striker or not. At the moment, it does seem like Ferran Torres is the go-to guy for Pep Guardiola to take up that position this season, and who knows, maybe he goes out and prove to be a great number 9.