Image: Wikimedia Commons / Cléria De Souza
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Cléria De Souza

Phil Foden: how good is he?

For the first time since 2003, Manchester City won a game of football at Anfield.

Following a few blunders from Alisson, City were essentially gifted a 4-1 win to put them ten points clear of their opponents, and defending champions of England, Liverpool. They now sit five points clear of the next closest challenger, Manchester United.

However, Alisson’s mistakes were not wholly responsible for City’s victory. Gundogan was excellent once again (if you ignore him launching a penalty into row Z), whilst Sterling didn’t give Alexander-Arnold a second to breathe.

But there was one man who was at the heart of almost everything that went well for City, and that man is Phil Foden.

He has filled the gulf left by David Silva, and the absence of injured Sergio Aguero, and Kevin De Bruyne

The 20-year old, Stockport born City fan has slowly but surely become one of City’s best players. He has filled the gulf left by David Silva, and the absence of injured Sergio Aguero, and Kevin De Bruyne.

The youngster is into double digits in goals across all competitions this season, and is in stiff competition with Gundogan for the title of City’s top scorer, having only scored 15 first team goals across three seasons prior to this.

Half of his goals have come in the Premier League, scoring six in 19 outings so far this term, 11 of which have been starts. His expected goals (xG) has fallen from 4.3 last season to 3.2 this time around, perhaps making it even more impressive that he has already equalled his goal tally from 2019/20.

Foden has also had his best season in terms of assists. With six assists across all competitions, Foden is expected to produce a goal or an assist once every two games, making him near irreplaceable in Man City’s forward line.

Perhaps the greatest compliment to Foden and his efforts is that De Bruyne’s absence since his injury has been barely noticeable. Together with Ilkay Gundogan, the local lad has more than filled the void left behind, and it’s scary to think that a team missing players of De Bruyne’s and Aguero’s calibre can still perform to such a high level.

Foden has taken up a more advanced role this season, tending to play on the left or right wing, as opposed to his usual berth in midfield.

This season, when compared to players in a similar position to him – Bayern Munich’s Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, Liverpool’s Sadio Mané, Arsenal’s Nicolas Pépé, and fellow City player Riyad Mahrez, Foden ranks second for goals. He is only trailing Mané by just two goals in the Premier League, and is joint second for assists, admittedly some distance off Coman’s 9 assists in the league this year.

On a per shot basis, Foden ranks top amongst these players, narrowly above teammate Mahrez with 0.17 goals per shot taken, and 0.42 goals per shot on target.

Something more that Foden offers that many of these players don’t, though, is his work rate defensively.

Foden harbours an almost childlike desire to get the ball and stay on it, a trait that is usually beaten out of players at an early age. Foden, however, has made this a strength.

As was seen in the dying embers of the Liverpool game, and throughout many of his performances even when the game is won, Foden gives his all to win the ball back for his team, and his relentless pressing is one of the aspects that makes him so good and so key to Pep Guardiola’s side.

Foden has shown this season, perhaps more than any other, how crucial he is to the way Manchester City play, and they can now be considered a worse team without him in the side.

When picking his team for the Euros, Gareth Southgate will surely be unable to overlook Foden’s outstanding form at club level this season, and in my opinion, the Stockport-born midfielder should be England’s starting number 10, with his closest competition possibly being Jack Grealish and James Maddison.

Foden is a talent, and given a few years, as Shaun Goater said, he has all the tools to be in contention for the top individual accolades in the world.

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