Pep Guardiola says Rodri is a key part of his Manchester City team, but insists Kalvin Phillips still has a role to play this season.
City signed Phillips from Leeds United for £42m in the summer, but the English midfielder has endured a nightmare start to life at the Etihad Stadium.
Phillips became one of the most sought-after midfielders in the Premier League thanks to his performances at Elland Road and for England, but a series of shoulder complaints and fitness issues have wrecked his season so far.
The 27-year-old has made just 10 appearances in all competitions this term, and his only start came in the 0-2 defeat to Southampton in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup. He looked well off the pace that night, as has been the case in most of his cameo appearances.
Phillips’ other problem is that he is directly competing for minutes with Rodri, arguably the best holding midfielder in the world. Even without injury and fitness woes, this season was never going to be an easy one for the new recruit.
That said, with the fixtures coming thick and fast as City fight on three fronts, it would suit all parties if Phillips could relieve Rodri of his duties from time to time.
What did Guardiola say?
In his press conference on Monday ahead of City’s FA Cup meeting with Bristol City, Guardiola admitted that Rodri is a crucial cog in his team.
However, he said that Phillips is slowly but surely getting to grips with life at City, and could soon offer an alternative in midfield.
“Rodri is so important for us and is playing really well,” Pep said, via the Manchester Evening News‘s Jack Flintham.
“Kalvin [Phillips] is adapting, adjusting a little bit. Some players need a little more time, we had the feeling he needs [to learn] a little bit more [about] our rhythm.”
Phillips replaced Rodri in the 55th minute of City’s 4-1 win against Bournemouth on Saturday, suggesting how he might be used in the coming months.
“It was so important for him to play the minutes he played in the last game. We will see tomorrow and yeah of course we need him until the end of the season because there are many games. Rodri is so important right now.”