Pep Guardiola has admitted that Kalvin Phillips has ‘struggled’ to adapt to life at Manchester City after Marcelo Bielsa brought the best out of him at Leeds United.
Phillips joined City from the Yorkshire club last summer for £45million.
The England midfielder struggled for game time in his maiden campaign at the Etihad and failed to impress when given the chance to play.
He started twice across 12 appearances in all competitions in 2022/23, but still got his hands on the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League trophies.
It was reported over the summer that Phillips could leave City to find regular minutes on the pitch, but the player remained adamant that he wanted to stay put and fight for his place.
Usurping Rodri in the Cityzens’ starting XI is a near-impossible task but the Spaniard’s red card against Nottingham Forest on Saturday could give Phillips the opportunity he has been waiting for.
Rodri is suspended for three games and Phillips is in line to make his first start of the campaign when Guardiola’s men take on Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
Speaking ahead of the clash at St James’ Park, Guardiola admitted that Phillips has found it tough to settle in at the Etihad, praising Bielsa for integrating the 26-year-old in a system “perfect” for his play style.
“Marcelo (Bielsa) gave Kalvin the best of Kalvin in his career,” the Spanish manager said.
“I’d love to have done with Kalvin what Marcelo has done to him.
“We have our own specific way to play and (he) sometimes struggles in a few things, while the previous (Leeds playing style) was perfect (for him).”
Guardiola then revealed that Phillips chose to stay at City despite talks with the club.
“The club spoke with him because he did not have many minutes,” he said. “He said ‘no, I want to stay’.
“We brought Kalvin here for his quality. He is open minded, always wants to learn and wants to help. This is what we want to try to do.”
Guardiola has dealt with lots of injuries already this term and has said the “lack of rest” is a big “problem” for his players, who are preparing to play four away games in a row.
“The problem is the lack of rest – mentally especially,’ Guardiola added. “This is the problem. Two or three weeks off between seasons, it’s nothing.
“The problem is a lack of rest, year on year. The Champions League will be longer in future and it is what it is. I complain a little bit here and then forget it.”