Phil Foden can get over his World Cup hangover and get back to fitness with Manchester City, Pep Guardiola insists.
The attacking midfielder has started just three Premier League games since the restart at the end of December, also appearing as a substitute four times, and has failed to score or provide an assist in those games.
He had only taken one shot and created just one chance in that series of games before coming alive at Nottingham Forest last weekend, with one shot and two chances created for others reflecting a vastly improved display.
Foden is City’s second-highest scorer in the Premier League this season, with seven goals, just two fewer than he managed last year.
The England international has started 14 of his 21 appearances, compared to 24 of 28 in the 2021-22 title campaign.
However, his dribbling success rate has dropped to 43.9 per cent from 60.66 per cent in 2021-22, and Foden has managed just one deliberate assist in the league compared to five last season. Similarly, he has created just three chances defined by Opta as great chances, down from 11 his previous season.
Guardiola says Foden simply needs to “be himself”, and with the season far from over, he can still improve his numbers considerably.
“I saw other players who were better than him after the World Cup. He struggled a lot with his ankle after the World Cup,” the City manager said.
“He had an incredible moment playing with pain, but he approached me and said: ‘Pep, I can’t take it anymore, so I have to rest.’ We gave him a week, two weeks off not to play.”
“Afterward, Riyad (Mahrez) was in his prime of the season and Jack (Grealish) stepped up.”
But Guardiola stressed: “Phil is our diamond. It’s not about a lack of confidence or whatever.”
Foden has not only been a solid starter, but also a threat as a substitute in the past.
“Phil always since he was 17, 18 or 19 years old, he played five minutes and it was the best five minutes of the team, and this season it was not like that, I think it cost him his ankle in that position.” Guardiola said.
“Some players after a World Cup struggle a bit. Others don’t, but there are players who struggle a bit. I think Phil too, apart from the physical situation, but here comes the best of the season.
“So I always tell him, the best part is here, you’re so young, next season is new.
“If you go down a bit this season compared to the previous one, it’s an absolutely normal process.
“It’s how you handle it, that’s the thing. He’ll be back. Against Nottingham he was brilliant, honestly, he was perfect. So (we want him) to continue.”