Phil Foden was given the grand total of one minute of game time at the end of Manchester City’s Champions League group stage game against Dinamo Zagreb, but that’s all he required to make an impression, finding the net to cap a comfortable, if uninspiring, win on Tuesday night.
The 19-year-old must have felt a burning sense of vindication. Foden has found himself on the peripheries of the City first team so far this season, making just one substitute cameo in eight Premier League games. In fact, his only start this season came in the Carabao Cup win over Preston North End.
After the Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb, Guardiola was keen to apologise to Foden for not giving him more time on the pitch. “He deserves to play. I want to give him minutes. Every time I don’t play him, I am in front of him saying I’m sorry,” said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
“But it’s Kevin de Bruyne there, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, I’m so sorry. I know the best way to grow up is to play minutes, but he’s so young. I don’t know how many players that age play have played more minutes in the recent past, the minutes he has played the last season with us, but he’s going to be an incredible player for us in the future. We trust in him a lot. But it is what it is.”
But Guardiola needs to stop apologising to Foden and start giving him the game time he deserves. This is a player who has been billed as a one in a generation talent. A player Guardiola has gushed about time and time again. But the Catalan’s team selections paint a very different picture.
It’s time for Foden to start demanding first team football or start plotting a route out of the Etihad Stadium. Now 19 years old, the midfielder must start developing week-on-week. Guardiola has previously said that he wants Foden to be more vocal, to find his voice. Well, now is the time for the teenager to knock on the manager’s door.
There is no denying Foden’s talent and there is some weight in the theory that he is in the best possible place for his development. He is a City academy product and Guardiola has a track record in bringing through players of his type. But that theory falls down if he’s only being given next to no game time.
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