Not many knew that Phil Foden was making his 50th appearance for Manchester City when he took to the field against Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday night. That’s partly because the young man has featured mostly as a late substitute for Pep Guardiola since the Catalan manager took charge of the team.
Although the City boss has made it clear that the Stockport-born player is in his plans, the young gun has been a bit-part player in the team so far. The times he has been given a starting berth have been few and far between.
A bundle of talent who brings it on anytime he is given the opportunity, Foden has long shown he is the real deal. But the problem has been that the City team is loaded with other equally stupendous talent, particularly in midfield.
Short on experience, the Englishman has severally been told to wait for his time. As a result, some have suggested that the manager should allow him go out on loan to acquire the necessary experience while playing regularly elsewhere.
But Guardiola will have none of that, preferring to keep the youngster as part of the first team. With David Silva set to leave the club at the end of the season, it’s expected that Foden will be his natural replacement in the team. Recent performances by the Spaniard have been well below his usually high standard proving he was right to call time on his stay at the Etihad Stadium. The question now remains, is Foden ready to step right in as a regular starter for City?
The 19-year-old let his feet do the talking with a commanding performance against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. Gabriel Jesus may have stolen the show with a much-needed hat-trick that will boost the striker’s confidence moving forward, but Foden pulled the strings in midfield all night. The England U21 international then capped off the night with a goal. That was nothing short of what his performance deserved.
After the home side took an early lead in the game, it seemed City was headed for another bad day in the office. Too many bad days in the Premier League this term have left the team low on confidence and lacking the usual creativity to break down stubborn defences. Manchester United benefited from a lack of creativity from the Sky Blues who shifted the ball from side to side as the Red Devils defended stoutly.
The same scenario seemed to be playing out until Foden picked up the ball midway in the Zagreb half, driving through the opponent’s midfield and skipping past two scything tackles that were meant to stop him. He continued his run deep into the defence thereby creating spaces for his teammates. With the home defence out of position, Riyad Mahrez received the ball and was able to pick out Jesus with an intelligent cross. The Brazilian headed home the equaliser.
Foden also combined with Jesus early in the second half, playing intelligent one-twos to carve the defence open before the forward applied a neat finish to put City 2-1 ahead. That certainly eased the pressure on both the manager and the players, who went ahead to wrap up the game. With the creative input becoming more and more important to City’s game as most teams now defend deep against Guardiola’s men, the young Englishman provides a breath of fresh air. Therefore, it’s time he becomes a regular starter in the team while simultaneously reducing David Silva's role in the team.