MANCHESTER, England - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola claimed his squad depth is the lowest in the Premier League after Sunday's victory over Aston Villa left his side just three points off the top.
Goals by Rodri and İlkay Gündoğan and a penalty by Riyad Mahrez sealed a 3-1 win at the end of a week in which the champions were charged with more than 100 cases of alleged financial wrongdoing by the Premier League.
City have spent close to $2.41 billion on players since Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan became owner in 2008 — winning six Premier League titles in that time.
Guardiola's current squad is valued at $1.12 billion by website Transfermarkt and on Sunday he started with the likes of England internationals Kalvin Phillips and Phil Foden and Argentina striker Julián Álvarez on the bench. Yet the Spaniard claimed he is working with a squad of less than 20 players as they chase league leaders Arsenal and attempt to win the Champions League for the first time.
"We have just 18, 19 players. Our depth is so, so small, maybe the smallest one in the Premier League by far," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "It's important that we don't have injuries but we have an incredible methodology for training to manage the fatigue and avoid injuries. We have incredible doctors and physios and everyone. I fight for that for many years."
City will face an independent commission to answer 115 charges brought by the Premier League, dating back to 2009. If found guilty City, in the worst case scenario, could face a points deduction or even be relegated with Guardiola saying this week that the club had already been "condemned."
Despite the cloud hanging over the club, reigning champions City have the chance to knock Arsenal off the top of the league standings when the sides meet in London on Wednesday.
"Arsenal have a game in hand. We will see after all the games when the Premier League is finished," Guardiola said of the title battle with Mikel Arteta's side. "But we are going to London to try and get a win. When one team has made 50 points in the first leg it is because they are very good. We closed the gap today because the performance from the team was really, really good."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)