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Pep Guardiola claims Manchester City midfielder Rico Lewis changed game against Chelsea and lauds his ability to make others better

Rico Lewis' half-time introduction helped Man City close the gap to Arsenal with a 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge; Pep Guardiola said of the teenager: "He is a key player for us in the way we are playing right now."

Rico Lewis shone for Man City against Chelsea
Image: Rico Lewis shone for Man City against Chelsea

Pep Guardiola said Rico Lewis “changed the game” after his half-time introduction helped Manchester City claim a 1-0 win over Chelsea and compared the 18-year-old to legendary World Cup winner Philipp Lahm.

Guardiola told the BBC: "Rico helped us to play better [and] has the abilities. [He's a] young boy. It's not that [he plays well], he makes play better.

"Every movement he does, every position he makes is always better, he came on and Kevin played better, Riyad played better. He has this ability and it's not easy to find it, so he's our little Philipp Lahm."

Guardiola moved Lahm into a midfield role at Bayern Munich and the former Germany captain is widely considered one of the all-time greatest full-backs - winning the World Cup in 2014 before retiring from club football in 2017.

City were second best in the first half at Stamford Bridge and fortunate not to fall behind when Carney Chukwuemeka sent a low shot against the inside of the post moments before the interval.

But their performance improved dramatically after Guardiola brought on Lewis and Manuel Akanji for Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker, the changes helping City make the all-important breakthrough.

Two other substitutes, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez, combined for the decisive goal, with Guardiola later joking he was a "genius" for the changes, but the City boss was above all eager to highlight the contribution of Lewis in his press conference.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win against Chelsea

The academy product typically plays as a right-back, but he slotted into central midfield after Bernardo Silva's withdrawal and helped Guardiola's side gain control of the game.

"It was not a good first half, it was sloppy, we didn't create much, our pressing was so poor, we were not well organised," said Guardiola when asked about his substitutions.

"The last games, Rico has shown the ability to make the midfield better.

"There are players that play for themselves really well, but he has the ability to make all the team play better.

"Every moment he knows when to open inside, and what to do. He changed the game."

Lewis had started three consecutive games before the trip to Stamford Bridge and he now looks set to play an important role in City's push for silverware in the second half of the campaign.

"Since we came back [from the World Cup] he's playing and he's a key player for us," added Guardiola. "He is a key player for us in the way we are playing right now.

"In the second half it was a completely different Man City, a different rhythm. He changed the dynamic from minute one."

Rico Lewis replaced Joao Cancelo at half time
Image: Rico Lewis replaced Joao Cancelo at half time

There was praise from the Sky Sports punditry team too.

"Man City's rhythm was better when he came on," said Karen Carney.

"Pep Guardiola is always talking about rhythm and Rico Lewis coming into the centre of pitch, it helped them defensively stopping the counterattacks alongside Rodri and they just started to find their rhythm as they got their better players in better positions.

"He's technically brilliant and for such a young player to have that game intelligence as well, he's very special."

Former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink added: "His understanding of what the job is and what Pep wants from him, he gets it and he does it. That is why Pep loves him.

"He's very disciplined in terms of the organisation of the team. With the ball or without the ball, he always plays simple. He runs into spaces when he needs to go and he keeps the ball.

"That is what Pep wants. He likes players who keep the ball and play one or two, sometimes three touches. He's a Pep type of player."

Man City's Phil Foden tangles with Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta and Hakim Ziyech
Image: Man City's Phil Foden tangles with Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta and Hakim Ziyech

Analysis: How Lewis repaid Pep's faith

Sky Sports' Nick Wright at Stamford Bridge:

It is a testament to Guardiola's trust in Lewis that he not only turned to him to change a game of this magnitude, but that he thrust him into the maelstrom of midfield.

The first half had been frantic, with City struggling to control the centre of the pitch in the face of Denis Zakaria, Carney Chukwuemeka and Mateo Kovacic's power and physicality.

But that all changed with the introduction of Lewis, whose composure could be seen in his passing numbers, the teenager completing all 27 of the passes he attempted, allowing City to put Chelsea under sustained pressure in the build-up to the goal.


He kept his passing simple but that was precisely what City needed and, as Guardiola said after the game, it gave the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri and Kevin de Bruyne the platform they needed to perform better.

He was arguably even more impressive off the ball, however, at times dropping in at right-back as well as helping to screen City's defence alongside Rodri, making two successful tackles and showing impressive tactical intelligence in terms of his positioning.

That his Premier League playing time amounted to only 191 minutes before this game makes his assured performance even more impressive. Lewis is City's future. He might also also be their present.

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