Patrick Mills takes a look at Phil Foden, a youngster who is quickly rising through the ranks at Manchester City.
While Manchester City’s spending has grabbed most of the headlines in the North-West of England this summer, the citizen’s fanbase will arguably be more excited about a player who didn’t cost them anything. By now, they’re well used to seeing big money signings come through the Etihad doors.
Products from the academy, however, aren’t such a familiar sight. In the past, Micah Richards was one of just a handful of graduates to be given a chance with the Sky Blues.
The likes of Daniel Sturridge and Kieran Trippier have gone on to forge out successful careers elsewhere. Were it not for the club’s takeover in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour, Sturridge, Trippier and other talented youths likely wouldn’t have had to leave to gain first team opportunities. So the downside of the influx of cash and the arrivals of superstars from around the globe, is that City fans would have to curb their desire for homegrown representation.
Part of City’s longer-term plan, however, was to build a development centre to rival that of Barcelona’s and eventually begin to produce their own players.
Almost 10 years on from Mansour’s takeover, not one English player from City’s academy made a Premier League or Champions League appearance last season. In spite of this, Manchester City fans are probably more optimistic than ever about their hopes of seeing ‘one of their own’ play a starring role at the Etihad in the near future. The reason for this new found optimism? Phil Foden.
Who is Phil Foden?
Born in Stockport, Phil Foden has been at Manchester City since the age of 9. Now 17, the young midfielder has been promoted to the first team after excelling for the U18’s last term. He is yet to make his competitive professional debut but stole the show during a 2-0 friendly loss to rivals Manchester United last month. Pep Guardiola just about managed to put his reaction into word form;
“I don’t have words- It’s a long time since I saw something like that. His performance was on another level. He’s special.”
Foden came close to making his City bow last December when he was part of the 18 to face Celtic in the Champions League, becoming the club’s third youngest player to be included in a matchday squad.
Talent Radar Accolades
Foden has also been gaining admirers on international duty. Back in May, he was one of England’s most important players as the U17’s reached the final of the European Championships, ultimately finishing runners up to Spain on penalties. Foden scored twice during the tournament, including a long-range effort against the Spaniards. Over the past 18 months, he has scored 10 times in 16 appearances for the Young Lions.
At club level last season, Foden scored 15 goals in 31 games for the U18’s and was pivotal as they finished runners up in the youth cup. He scored in the final as City were beaten comprehensively by Chelsea. At the end of the campaign, City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak confirmed that along with Brahim Diaz and Jadon Sancho, Foden would join the first team for the 17/18 season.
What is his Style of Play?
Despite being just 5ft 5”, Foden generally operates as a central midfielder. He can also play as an out and out number 10 or cut in from the right onto his stronger left foot. He is dynamic and likes to provide the link between defense and attack by receiving short and carrying the play forward before playing a through ball or feeding the wide areas. He has already been likened to David Silva but arguably has more of an eye for goal than his new teammate. He does, however, have a similar dribbling style with good close control and keeps his head up to allow him to pick out a pass. His slight frame means he has a low centre of gravity, making it easy for him to slalom through opposition lines.
What are his Strengths?
As mentioned already, Foden is excellent at carrying the ball past opponents after drawing them in. His creativity and vision also stand out while despite his slight frame, he protects the ball well and is so rarely dispossessed. As seen with his goal against Spain this summer, Foden has the capacity to shoot from range. His technical profile makes him not only an ideal long-term heir to David Silva, but also means he fits the profile of player that Guardiola wants to work with at City. Kelechi Iheanacho, for example, displayed plenty of goal-scoring potential over the past two seasons but was replaced by Gabriel Jesus in January before being sold this summer.
Guardiola clearly has narrow parameters when it comes to the abilities of his players but given Foden’s skillset, he is more likely to show trust in the youngster. The videos below pinpoint Foden’s main attacking assets. The first highlights his reception skills, press resistance and dribbling. The second shows his ability to arrive in the box and score, as well as his talent for long range shooting.
What are his Weaknesses?
For a player of his age, Foden is fairly well-rounded from a technical point of view. His size may prompt pessimism from some as to whether or not he can cut it at Premier League level. However, his quick feet and, as Guardiola recently pointed out, his tenacity, more than make up for it.
“He’s a fighter. He looks skinny but he is strong.”
A player’s attitude so often proves the deciding factor in whether or not they’ll make the transition from prodigious talent to consistent performer. Guardiola recently referred to him as a humble guy, and while his teammate Jadon Sancho angles for a move by refusing to train, Foden appears to be focused on working hard and taking his opportunities.
Though Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Yaya Toure and Bernardo Silva all currently stand in front of him in the queue for minutes, if Foden can remain patient and continue to listen to the advice of his manager, he may well be the first academy player of the Sheikh Mansour era to break the seal into Manchester City’s so far impermeable first team.
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