Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City will need to sharpen up when facing opponents intent on defending.
Guardiola’s City were held for a third successive home Premier League game as Middlesbrough claimed a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
City dominated the contest as promoted Boro, perhaps fearing an onslaught, defended deeply.
The hosts enjoyed 71 per cent of possession and had 25 shots but could only breach the visitors’ rearguard once through Sergio Aguero in the 43rd minute.
Much to manager Guardiola’s frustration, Boro’s obduracy was eventually rewarded in stoppage time as Marten de Roon headed a last-gasp equaliser.
The result cost City top spot in the table and left Guardiola with work to do to improve his side’s strike rate.
Guardiola said: “We took the ball, attacking 10 guys there. We controlled it, we didn’t concede counter-attacks, but in 90 minutes there will be some moments when the opponents arrive and take a chance.
“What happens here in the Premier League is that when they arrive they punish you. That’s why we have to try (to score) when we arrive there, like (with) the chances we had in the first half.
“When 10 players don’t want to play and 10 players are there (defending) it is always difficult, but we created enough chances to score a goal.”
Guardiola is confident his approach to the game is the right way to combat such tactics. The key to success is in the execution.
He said: “In 90 minutes always you miss something and make a small mistake, and they are clinical there.
“I remember the first game against Sunderland. Sunderland didn’t arrive before the goal from Defoe. That is a talent.
“I’m not saying it isn’t a good thing, because it is, but I think if you have more chances and concede few then you have more opportunities to win the game. That’s my point of view.
“People say, ‘Use the counter attack’ but how are we supposed to use the counter-attack when the opponents don’t attack? You have to attack 10 players. It is not easy but you have to keep going in that way.
“My feeling is that we are playing better when 10 players are there (than in previous games) but we have to improve.”
Guardiola insists he was well aware of how tough the Premier League would be when he arrived.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, the former Barcelona boss said: “I know you want me to say the Premier League is the hardest league in the world! Every time you are waiting on that.
“I tell you, you have to be so proud, the Premier League is the most difficult! Of course it is difficult but I expected it like this. I am so happy to be here to handle those situations.”
Such was the frustration for City after conceding so late on, defender Pablo Zabaleta spoke of the result as if it was a defeat.
The right-back said: “If you look at the whole game, we did everything to win it. We had our chances, we missed them and then we conceded that goal at the end.
“When you lose a game in that way, obviously it’s very hard to take.”
City captain Vincent Kompany was again on the bench as he is eased back into action after a groin injury but his recent troubles have not prevented him being called up for international duty by Belgium.
Guardiola said: “He is available to play. It will be good for him to get minutes and hopefully he will come back fit.”