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Pep Guardiola had to be reminded that Rodri’s ban for violent conduct constituted three matches, and that suspension now brings Kalvin Phillips into sharp focus.
Manchester City, who preserved a 100 per cent record against Nottingham Forest, will be missing the Spaniard at Arsenal in a fortnight. Less than ideal going into their biggest game of the season so far, especially given Mateo Kovacic only started training on Sunday after injury.
‘My back is getting better so I might manage a few minutes,’ Guardiola joked ahead of Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie at Newcastle, when he is vowing to give the big hitters a night off. Whether they win or lose on Tyneside matters not to Pep this season but it holds importance for Phillips.
‘I am not going to have just one season at City and because I am not playing say, “Oh well I have been here for a year and enjoyed it but it’s not for me”. I wanted to try to break my way into the team — even though it’s very difficult. I want to try and make a name for myself at Manchester City. That’s the reason I came.’
Kalvin Phillips has chance to ignite his Manchester City career following Rodri’s red card
Rodri was sent off for violent conduct during Man City’s game against Nottingham Forest
The Spaniard lost his temper and got into a physical altercation with Morgan Gibbs-White
There is no time like the present. Phillips helped steady City after Rodri’s red card for raising two hands to Morgan Gibbs-White’s throat. Guardiola suggested he would not be in favour of appealing Rodri’s suspension, and Phillips has to take his chance.
‘I have always seen players like Jack (Grealish) and Nathan (Ake) as my inspiration, that the second season is always better at City,’ he added. ‘Obviously it’s not gone that way as of yet but I just come in, work hard and stay upbeat, which is very difficult but there are a lot of great players in this team who can help me get better every day. I try to keep my head.
‘The lads in the changing room can sense when you are down. They can sense when you are happy or unhappy. There have been times last season — and this season — where I have been very unhappy but it’s all been an experience for me, growing as a person and a player.’
Part of the reason for Kovacic’s signing was his versatility and the Croat is adept at lying deeper. As it stands, Phillips is unlikely to start at Arsenal. Yet a strong performance at St James’ Park, and then Wolves on Saturday, could force a way into the conversation. Defensively Phillips was strong in his 40 minutes against Forest.
‘I know for some time Kalvin’s struggled for something we need,’ the City manager said. ‘I’m so pleased for him because he’s an incredible guy. He’s not fazed about his minutes.
‘Forest was a game we needed him for and he had to be there for the second ball, to keep the ball, to have the personality to hit long balls into the corners. When we have these experiences as the team, it’s amazing.’
Man City (3-1-5-1): Ederson 7; Akanji 7, Dias 7.5, Gvardiol 8; Rodri 5; Walker 7, Foden 8.5 (Grealish 87), Alvarez 7 (Ake 57, 6.5), Nunes 8, Doku 7 (Phillips 52, 6.5); Haaland 7. Scorers: Foden 7, Haaland 14.
Booked: Akanji, Ederson, Grealish, Guardiola.
Sent off: Rodri.
Manager: Pep Guardiola 7
Nottm Forest (5-3-1-1): Turner 6; Aina 6 (Wood 75, 6), Aurier 5 (Elanga 56, 7), Boly 6, Niakhate 6, Tavares 5 (Montiel 39, 6); Mangala 7, Sangare 6 (Hudson-Odoi 56, 7), Dominguez 6.5; Gibbs-White 7; Awoniyi 6.5 (Origi 75), 6.
Booked: Tavares, Sangare, Gibbs-White, Awoniyi, Mangala, Origi, Montiel.
Manager: Steve Cooper 7
Referee: Anthony Taylor 5.