Guardiola trusts 'diamond' Foden to bounce back from post-World Cup dip

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Phil Foden can overcome his World Cup hangover and roar back to world-beating form for Manchester City, Pep Guardiola insists.

The attacking midfielder has started just three Premier League games since the resumption in late December, also appearing off the bench four times, and has failed to score or have an assist in those fixtures.

He had taken just one shot and created only one chance in that run of games before perking up at Nottingham Forest last weekend, with a shot and two chances created for others reflecting a much-improved display.

Foden is City's second-highest scorer in this season's Premier League, with seven goals, just two fewer that he managed last term.

The England international has started in 14 of his 21 appearances, compared to 24 of 28 in the 2021-22 title campaign.

However, his dribbling success rate has dipped to 43.9 per cent from 60.66 per cent in 2021-22, and Foden has managed just one deliberate assist on league duty compared to five last season. Similarly, he has created just three opportunities defined by Opta as big chances, against 11 in his previous season.

Guardiola says Foden simply needs to "be himself", and given the season is far from over he can still majorly improve his numbers.

"I saw other players better than him after the World Cup. He struggled with the ankle after the World Cup a lot," said the City manager.

"He made an incredible moment playing with pain but came to me and said, 'Pep, I cannot any more, so I have to rest'. We gave him one week, two weeks off to not play.

"After, Riyad [Mahrez] was in his best moment of the season and Jack [Grealish] took a step forward."

But Guardiola stressed: "Phil is our diamond. It's not about lack of confidence or whatever."

Foden has been not only a strong starter but a menace 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 he struggled for the ankle in that position," Guardiola said.

"Some players after a World Cup struggle a little bit. Others no, but there are players that struggle a little bit. I think Phil as well, apart from the physical situation, but here comes the best part of the season.

"So always I say to him, the best part is here, you are so young, next season is a new one.

"If you drop a little bit this season compared to the previous one, it's an absolutely normal process

"It's how you handle it, this is the question. He will be back. Against Nottingham he was brilliant, honestly, he was perfect. So [we want him] just to continue."