Pep Guardiola has explained why Phil Foden has not played much football for Manchester City since the World Cup.
Foden played an integral role in City winning the Premier League title last season, but the 22-year-old has started just four of City’s 15 matches in all competitions since the World Cup.
While he was absent from the matchday squad in three of the 11 matches he hasn’t started, in the other eight he was available for selection but started on the bench.
Speculation has grown in recent weeks that something behind the scenes might not be right, that perhaps Foden reportedly being part of Guardiola’s ‘sad faces brigade’ was impacting his game time.
However, speaking ahead of City’s Premier League trip to Bournemouth on Saturday, Guardiola explained that injury has taken its toll on the young England international.
What did Guardiola say?
He has to be himself. I saw other players better than him, in terms of after the World Cup, he struggled with an ankle [problem] after the World Cup, and a lot,” Guardiola said, via BeanymanSports and CityXTRA.
“He played an incredible effort playing with pain. He arrived in one moment saying, ‘Pep, I cannot anymore!’ So I have to rest, I have to recover, and we gave him a long time ago, I think one week, two weeks off.
“And after, Riyad (Mahrez) was in his best moment of the season, Jack (Grealish) made a step forward… If you pretend to say that I’ve lost trust with Phil, forget about it. Phil is our diamond.
“Some players after the World Cup struggled a little bit. Other ones no, but there are players that struggled a little bit. And I think all the clubs, a little bit.
“I think Phil as well, partly due to the physical situation. But he comes in at the best part of the season, and always I said to him, ‘The best part is here. You are so young, next season is a new one’. You drop a little bit in comparison to the previous one? It’s absolutely a normal process.
“How do you handle it? This is the question. Handle it good? Still training as an animal because Phil in that is no doubt about that, and he will be back. “He was back against Nottingham – it was brilliant, honestly, it was perfect. Just continue.”
Will Foden play on Saturday?
Foden spent Wednesday evening’s 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig on the bench, so he should be well rested should Guardiola decide he wants to bring him into the starting lineup.
That said, both Grealish and Mahrez have been in good form of late, so Pep might opt for continuity in the attacking third.