Teamwork makes the dream work

Foden, Rodri show Man Metropolis’s depth is essential in title race

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Pep Guardiola determined he may do with out Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne in opposition to Aston Villa, however the Manchester Metropolis supervisor could not convey himself to relaxation Phil Foden or Rodri.

With Haaland and De Bruyne on the bench on the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, Guardiola’s two stars of the season stepped as much as assist Metropolis win 4-1 and keep in contact with the Premier League leaders.

Foden scored a chic hat trick — his second of the season — after Rodri had obtained the primary. There was a quick spell when Jhon Durán‘s equaliser threatened to push Guardiola’s staff additional behind within the title race, however the aim solely appeared to ignite Metropolis’s spark, and a Villa aspect with out Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Martínez, Pau Torres, Leon Bailey, John McGinn, and Youri Tielemans have been ripped aside. Ultimately, Metropolis’s first win over a staff at present within the high 5 was achieved with one thing to spare.

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“We convey unbelievable power, 4 or 5 gamers up entrance,” mentioned Guardiola afterwards. “The measure of the staff is what number of possibilities we create and the way a lot management we’ve got. It’s the measure. We have been actually good.”

Guardiola branded Metropolis’s 1-0 defeat at Villa Park in December their worst efficiency of the season and one of many causes for it was Rodri’s absence via suspension. The Spanish midfielder has missed three Premier League video games this season — in opposition to Wolves, Arsenal, and Villa — and Metropolis have misplaced all of them, the clearest indication of simply how vital he’s to this staff.

Haaland and De Bruyne are world-class, however ask any Metropolis fan for the title of the participant they most want on the teamsheet within the largest video games and the bulk will say Rodri. With nobody else within the squad who can do the identical job, he should keep match and obtainable if Metropolis are going to make a critical cost in direction of one other treble.

He scored the primary aim right here — his eighth of the season — after roaming into the penalty space to get on the top of Jérémy Doku‘s cross earlier than getting an help for Foden within the second half after dancing via Villa’s midfield. It was solely when the rating reached 4-1 halfway via the second half that Guardiola felt assured sufficient to take him off.

“Rodri is the very best,” mentioned Guardiola. “In his place, he’s the very best so he can do every little thing. The standard, he reads the sport, his mentality, he’s at all times prepared and Rodri is a high, high [player]. He’s so good at many issues. This type of factor at this stage. The presence, the physicality, he’s full and he’s a younger participant. Manchester Metropolis did one thing unbelievable to signal him.”

Foden’s type this season has gone extra underneath the radar, however it’s been no much less spectacular. This time final yr he was out of the staff and did not begin any of the most important video games of the treble run-in in opposition to Bayern Munich, Actual Madrid, Manchester United, or Inter.

However quick ahead 12 months and he is a participant Guardiola can not threat leaving out. The 23-year-old has began each league sport since Nov. 4 and, barring damage, might be within the staff for the Champions League quarterfinal first leg in opposition to Actual Madrid on the Bernabeu subsequent week. He warmed up for his assembly with England teammate Jude Bellingham with a hat trick in opposition to Villa: the primary a low free kick that discovered the underside nook, the second a first-time end swept throughout Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen, and the third a curling strike from exterior the field.

They have been his nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty first targets of the season — already his greatest tally in a single marketing campaign and there are nonetheless two months to go. The one gamers with extra Premier League hat tips earlier than the age of 24 are Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Harry Kane, and Haaland.

“He can do no matter he needs,” mentioned Guardiola. “I feel he’s a very top-class participant. We all know it. He’s nonetheless open-minded, he needs to be targeted, typically he’s a bit distracted. However he has a pure expertise, a present, and after that, he has an unbelievable sense of aim. You might have the sensation he’s going to attain. It isn’t straightforward to seek out it.”

Villa, now with no league win on the Etihad for 17 years, have been understrength, however they have been nonetheless dismantled by a Metropolis staff with out Haaland, De Bruyne, Ederson, John Stones, or Kyle Walker. Guardiola is prone to want all of them if he hopes to win every little thing and repeat the treble, however it was an evening when Foden and Rodri have been sufficient to maintain up the strain on Liverpool and Arsenal on the high of the desk.

“It is not going to be straightforward,” mentioned Guardiola. “I see Liverpool and Arsenal taking part in and it’ll not be straightforward however you by no means know.”