Phil Foden still has plenty of room for improvement, says Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
Foden’s long-range strike against Birmingham City in the third round of the FA Cup was his seventh goal of the season in all competitions – making him City’s joint top scorer alongside Raheem Sterling.
The 20-year-old also made his England senior breakthrough this season, netting twice in the 4-0 Nations League thrashing of Iceland in November.
At club level, Foden has amassed his impressive return – he also has five assists – despite not being an automatic choice in Guardiola’s first XI.
The circumstances of a coronavirus outbreak at the club is a contributing factor to an unbroken run of three successive first-team starts, although a goal at Chelsea in the Premier League and an assist for John Stones in the EFL Cup semi-final at Manchester United have made a strong case for him to remain.
“He is playing like he played always, high standards in all departments,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s match against Brighton and Hove Albion.
“He still has big margins to improve because it would be bad news if he could not improve at the age he is.
“But from day one I have been delighted, especially with his behaviour. The quality will do the rest.
A performance and result for Colin Bell! Wembley here we come!! pic.twitter.com/ZewlMcZpi8
— Phil Foden (@PhilFoden) January 6, 2021
City have three consecutive home games in the space of eight days on their immediate agenda – a chance to bolster their title challenge even before considering Liverpool and Manchester United are set to take points off one another this weekend.
Even though his team appear to be back to their swashbuckling best despite trying circumstances, Guardiola remains wary of the challenges at hand.
“Brighton are a joy to watch, a joy to analyse,” he said, before underlining his admiration for Seagulls boss Graham Potter.
“At the same time, when you see them you are concerned about the quality. I said to the players that we will have to be in the highest standards to complete against them. They have better stats [than their league position] in all the departments except the final third.
“I am a big fan of Graham Potter. We faced him for the first time with Swansea. Everyone [in Potter’s teams] plays in his position and the ball comes to them.
“They have the courage to play. I like a lot how they play and it will be a good test after this amount of games.”
Considering a 13-match unbeaten run on all fronts, Guardiola added: “The momentum can arrive and disappear in one instant.
“We cannot forget the teams we beat recently especially in Premier League and Carabao Cup – two strong teams away and we did well.
“But the momentum can disappear, we have to do it again. Especially for the way we are playing.”
City remain without injured defenders Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake, while Sergio Aguero will continue to self-isolate, with youngsters Cole Palmer, Eric Garcia and Adrien Bernabe, and third-choice goalkeeper Scott Carson in the same situation.
Ederson, Ferran Torres and Tommy Doyle should be available to return following their own COVID-related absences.