Mark Hughes admitted last night that Man-chester City need "four or five players" to challenge consistentlyfor honours. Hughes, who is reported to be about to spend £60 million during the transfer window, had to endure boos from the club's supporters after City were beaten 3-0 at home by Nottingham Forest to go out of the FA Cup.
This means the richest club in the world had surrendered their last chance of domestic success this season. It follows an inauspicious start to their Premier League campaign that leaves City only two points above the relegation places.
"We're bitterly disappointed with our performance," Hughes said. "Forest deserved to win. They worked very hard, showed more desire and energyand chased lost causes to force us into errors. We never really got a foothold in the game, never dictated. We were weakened by the loss of Stephen Ireland, Robinho and Shaun Wright-Phillips, so our creative spark was not there. Maybe that shows we rely on them too much.
"We haven't got the strength in depth. We aren't in a position to compete on all fronts. We are in the Uefa Cup but we aren't strong enough to be in the FA Cup as well as competingfor Premier League points.
"I have known from day one there are frailties. We need to have eight, nine or 10 players to be playing at the best of their ability to win games.
"We need more players in this window. We have brought Wayne Bridge to the club but we need four or five to complement the players we have. We need a physical presence to go up against teams who are wholehearted. We have to match that to allow our talent to come to the fore."
Liverpool's captain, Steven Gerrard, charged with assault and affray on Tuesday, gave an outstanding performance as his team won 2-0 at Preston last night. He was involved in both goals – the second scored by Fernando Torres on his return – and Liverpool's assistant manager, Sammy Lee, said of him: "We've seen what he is today. He's a great servant and ambassador for this club and he's gone out and given a terrific performance."
Elsewhere in the FA Cup, a last-gasp Peter Clarke goal earned Southend a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and a replay. The early shock came at Victoria Park, where Hartlepool beat Stoke 2-0, and Forest Green Rovers suffered late heartbreak as Derby beat them 4-3, while Arsenal were 3-1 winners over Plymouth.