Pep Guardiola Says Phil Foden Is 'Ready to Play' for Manchester City 1st Team

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2019

NEWPORT, WALES - FEBRUARY 16: Phil Foden of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his sides third goal during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Newport County AFC and Manchester City at Rodney Parade on February 16, 2019 in Newport, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)
Harry Trump/Getty Images

Phil Foden's "ready to play," despite having to compete with a host of stars for minutes on the Manchester City first team, according to manager Pep Guardiola.

Foden scored a brace as City thrashed Newport County 4-1 away in the 2019 FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.

The performance was enough to convince Guardiola the "brilliant" 18-year-old Foden is ready for more, per Stuart James of The Observer: "Phil has to compete with Kevin [De Bruyne], with [Ilkay] Gundogan, with Bernardo Silva, with David Silva, but he's a player who is ready—ready to play."

It's a star-studded contingent Foden must infiltrate, but Guardiola identified the qualities the English teenager can add. Guardiola dubbed Foden "a guy who [gets] close to the box and has this mentality to score goals."

Guardiola was wowed by Foden's brilliance in the Cup.
Guardiola was wowed by Foden's brilliance in the Cup.Michael Regan/Getty Images

For his part, Foden believes City "can definitely win every competition," per BBC Sport. Doing so would mean an historic quadruple for a squad Foden admitted Guardiola regularly rotates.

Refreshing his options will be vital for a manager targeting the Premier League title, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and UEFA Champions League this season. Being able to field two or three different starting XIs without losing quality is the key to negotiating a congested fixture list.

Foden will surely help after assisting City's path into the last eight of the FA Cup. He took his goals brilliantly against League Two opposition at Rodney Parade, finding the net in the 75th and 89th minutes:

The attacking midfielder would have scored earlier had he chosen to react to Leroy Sane's cross-shot six minutes after the break. Instead, Foden opted not to prod the ball over the line from close range, fearing he may have been deemed offside.

Even so, he eventually beefed up his season's tally, having now netted five times in Cup action.

Getting opportunities to prove his worth has understandably been difficult for a youngster vying for time alongside some of the best playmakers in Europe. Foden has made just seven starts across all competitions this season, all of them coming outside the Premier League, where he has come off the bench eight times.

Starts in the league are likely to remain elusive given the intense run-in City face against nearest rivals Liverpool. The Reds are only outside the top spot on goal difference but have played a game less.

Guardiola has been content to rely on workhorses Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan for the big games in the league, most notably the recent 6-0 thrashing of Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.

Gundogan and Silva are among the many established stars Foden is competing against for first-team chances.
Gundogan and Silva are among the many established stars Foden is competing against for first-team chances.Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are the experienced technicians who will be expected to make the difference for City in Europe.

It's likely to be a different story elsewhere for Foden, though. He's given himself an excellent chance to at least make the bench for the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on February 24, when City will attempt to retain the trophy at Wembley Stadium.

City have also been entered into an FA Cup draw featuring lower-league opposition in the form of Championship outfit Millwall. Brentford, Swansea City, Bristol City and Doncaster Rovers have the chance to join them in the hat.

Being drawn against any of those teams would surely mean another start for Foden. Regardless of the opposition, the player's reputation is beginning to precede him:

Guardiola would be wise to accelerate Foden's seemingly inevitable ascent to the first team as he looks for an eventual successor to 33-year-old Silva.

Either way, the manager's endorsement means Foden is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz, academy graduates who moved to Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, respectively, in the hope of getting more first-team chances.   

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