Pep puts faith in his inner City kids


There has been no request from Pep Guardiola for reinforcements and Manchester City do not expect one. The manager will instead be placing his faith in Tosin Adarabioyo, 19, and with less than one half of football to his name this season.

Adarabioyo played 30 minutes in the Champions League against Steaua Bucharest - City were leading 6-0 on aggregate at the time - and came on for a minute in the EFL Cup against Swansea. His only other appearance was last season in the disastrous makeshift starting XI who lost 5-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup, but Guardiola is adamant Adarabioyo could handle another promotion.

He places him in a back-up group of central defenders behind John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, and most are unconventional options. They include Aleksandar Kolarov, Fernandinho, Fernando, perhaps even full backs Bacary Sagna or Gael Clichy in an emergency. Guardiola is adamant that, with Kompany’s injury record, he viewed any match the Manchester City’s captain could play this season as a bonus - and his latest long-term injury in no way affects his plans.

Certainly Guardiola is not scared to put a midfield player at the heart of defence - he did so at Barcelona with Javier Mascherano - and his confidence in Adarabioyo is a further clue to how his City squad will evolve in the coming months.

Of course, this does not mean City will never spend big again. The £27million arrival of Gabriel Jesus from Palmeiras in Brazil is evidence that Guardiola does not believe all the answers lie within the age-group squads.

At Bayern Munich he was criticised for not doing enough to promote young, German players and Guardiola will always base his judgment on the talent available, rather than box-ticking. The suggestion is, however, that he likes what he sees at City.

Along with Chelsea, Saturday’s opponents, City boast the leading academy in the Premier League, but the two clubs seem to have vastly different attitudes to youth progression. Whereas Chelsea appear content to use their age-group teams as a revenue stream, farming young players out on a series of loans before selling them for a profit, there is an increasing feeling at City that Guardiola will be looking to fast-track from the team below.

Pablo Maffeo, a 19-year-old right back from just outside Barcelona, is another on the cusp of breaking through. He started in the second leg against Steaua Bucharest and against Manchester United in the EFL Cup, and is now putting significant pressure on Sagna and club stalwart Pablo Zabaleta. It is only Guardiola’s respect for the seniority of these players, and his wish to maintain a settled squad, that has prevented Maffeo getting his chance in the Premier League this season.

What is plain is that despite seeing three years as the optimum cycle for a coach, Guardiola is prepared to engage with youth. Before the Champions League win over Barcelona on November 1, Guardiola watched as the clubs played an Under 19 match that afternoon.

Barcelona won 2-0, yet those sitting near to City’s coach confirm he was familiar with the game of every home player, their strengths and weaknesses, and was as intense as he can be watching his first team play.

This level of engagement increased greatly late on when a 16-year-old playmaker, Phil Foden, was introduced as a substitute. Guardiola was imploring those around him to watch this one, to look at his balance, his vision - he was clearly very smitten.

Foden, from Stockport, is not yet a member of the elite development squad, but he has caught Guardiola’s eye sufficiently to be invited to train with the first team - along with another promising 16-year-old, left winger Jadon Sancho.

Foden, too, is left-footed but plays in a more central role or on the right, cutting inside. He has been training at City’s academy since the age of five, and in October, playing for England’s Under 17 team, scored twice in a 3-0 win over Romania.

Sancho has a different background, taken from Watford at the age of 14 in a deal that could be worth as much as £500,000 if he realises his potential. So far so good. When Sancho (who featured in Sportsmail’s Secret Scout column yesterday) was called up to City’s Under 18 team for the first time, he had scored two goals within the opening four minutes. He scored on his debut in the UEFA Youth League, too.

A photograph on his Twitter feed from that first session with the senior squad - captioned ‘moment I’ll never forget’ - shows Guardiola with an affectionate arm around Sancho’s shoulder and shaking his hand.

If his faith in City’s academy prospects proves justified, this may be the first of many similar shows of affection.

Daily Mail

Original source: Pep puts faith in his inner City kids