Phil Foden admits Manchester City have a big hole to fill after influential midfielder Rodri picked up a three-game ban in Saturday’s win over Nottingham Forest.
The Spain international was sent off early in the second half of City’s 2-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium for raising his hands towards the neck of Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White.
The treble winners now face being without Rodri for their midweek Carabao Cup trip to Newcastle, next Saturday’s game at Wolves and – most crucially – the encounter at Arsenal on October 8.
Foden said: “He is one of our most important players and he seems to play all the minutes. He is going to be a big miss, but we have players to step up now and we are going to need them.”
Rodri’s dismissal dramatically changed the mood of a game City had been cruising to victory in following goals from Foden and Erling Haaland in the first 14 minutes.
A tame affair became fractious and City lost some of their composure before switching to a defensive mindset.
Attacking players Jeremy Doku and Julian Alvarez were sacrificed for Kalvin Phillips and Nathan Ake as manager Pep Guardiola took a pragmatic approach to secure three points.
“I thought we showed a different side to the team,” Foden said.
“It was not ideal with Rodri getting a red card so early in the second half, but I thought we showed heart and desire – a different side to the team that we sometimes need to show.
“I am really happy with the performance. We dug deep.”
Despite making their latest victory unnecessarily complicated, the champions’ 100 per cent start to the season remains intact.
In an ominous warning for the rest of the competition, Foden believes there is plenty more to come.
The 23-year-old said: “I would say it is a perfect start, but there are still a couple of gears for us to go. We are happy with the start, but we still know we can get better.”
Forest manager Steve Cooper was pleased with his side’s response in the second half and felt they should have got more from playing against 10-man City.
He said: “When you play a game and you get presented an opportunity, you really want to recognise that you have to take that.
“I’m not angry with the players. I’m not disappointed in any way, shape or form, and I’ve told them that.
“But I’ve just challenged them, like, ‘Come on boys, really back yourselves, because I do’.
“Hopefully we’ll reflect on the game and be motivated that we can play in these really tough games and do some good things.”