Phil Foden showed he is ready to step into Kevin De Bruyne’s shoes as Manchester City ran out 1-0 winners over Newcastle United in the Premier League this evening.
The defending champions suffered a blow on matchday one when the creative Belgian playmaker hobbled off after 22 minutes at Burnley subsequently giving Pep Guardiola a headache.
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De Bruyne, unfortunately, no stranger to lengthy spells on the sidelines, was absent from City’s pre-season before making a 27-minute cameo in the Community Shield.
One man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune and with his influence waning at the backend of last season, this was an opportunity for the ‘Stockport Iniesta’ lay claim to a spot in Guardiola’s team.
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It’s not just any role but the one vacated by De Bruyne, who is now expected to be out for around four months after successfully undergoing surgery on a troublesome hamstring injury. Earlier in the week, Foden played the full 90 minutes against Sevilla and created three chances, the same number as Josko Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic while two fewer than Rodri.
Nothing to write home about but it was enough to earn him a start tonight and to say he repaid his manager’s faith would be an understatement. In the opening half, Foden created five chances, one a delicious pass to Julian Alvarez who finished wonderfully to put the hosts in front.
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In this fluid City system, Kyle Walker’s position, high on the right, allowed Alvarez and Phil Foden to play centrally, in a number 10 role. Foden’s influence was such that Tonali became the second Newcastle player in the book after bringing him down. Even more encouraging was how carefree the England international was playing.
The 23-year-old picked up some lovely spaces drifting inside from the right-hand side while utilising his trademark half-turn. There were no signs of letting up following half-time. A moment before the hour mark irresistibly summed up Foden’s performance. Firstly, he made space out of nothing with a spin in midfield, before sliding Haaland in, the Norwegian monster was about to shoot until Fabian Schar extended a leg forcing him to shin wide.
Wonderful defending, but Foden’s turn was something else, not only did it confirm him being a class apart this evening, it also backed up Rodri’s words. “I think he is the best player we have in between the lines, turning and facing the goal,” he told reporters this week. “And when he plays there, I like him very much but also when he plays [as a] winger.”
No player in Europe's top seven leagues has created more chances than Phil Foden (9) so far this season.
SEVEN against Newcastle United. ✨ pic.twitter.com/i24foD4ea0
— Squawka (@Squawka) August 19, 2023
“The whole game ignites when Foden gets the ball. You can sense a different energy,” former Rangers striker and manager Ally McCoist added on TNT Sports. Eddie Howe’s men were unable to contain City’s creator-in-chief who produced no fewer than seven chances from open play against Newcastle; his most in a single Premier League game, in what’s his 131st appearance in the competition.
Named player of the match, and it wasn’t close, Foden — who Guardiola once stated as the “most talented player” he’s coached — is one of three Man City players to have created seven or more chances in a single Premier League game under the Spanish tactician. David Silva was the first in October 2016 against Everton. Kevin De Bruyne carried on the baton, responsible for the next 10 occasions, but the most recent two belong to Foden against Bournemouth in February earlier this year before tonight.
Rio Ferdinand couldn’t have said it any better on TNT Sports: “Pep Guardiola needed a spark tonight and Phil Foden gave it to him.”