Phil Foden’s Versatility Will Help Manchester City’s Title Challenge

The Premier League title race is heating up with a three-horse contest starring Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City. The trio are neck-and-neck as only a few points separate them at the top of the table. This weekend will see Pep Guardiola’s men take on the Gunners, which could be a decisive game in the season’s final stretch as it could heavily swing the title odds in favour of either team.

Betiton sports and other online books slightly favor City to win the tie despite having lost to Arsenal twice this season – the Community Shield final defeat in penalties and a narrow 1-0 loss in the league at the Emirates – but expect a win at the Etihad with home advantage.

It will be a game of fine margins as both teams are equally poised, requiring moments of magic from one of the many world-class players featuring on Sunday to break the deadlock. Phil Foden could likely be that player for City who proves to be the difference-maker.

Over Foden’s short and successful career in Manchester, Guardiola has deployed him in various roles that demand different skills of the City starlet. It also has, in a way, hindered Foden from establishing himself in a specific position in the City team. However, it has arguably done more good than bad for the youngster as he has played a major part in multiple title-winning teams, albeit from different positions.

The Englishman’s versatility has come in handy for Guardiola during a season where he has had to cope with injuries to Jack Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne, Jérémy Doku, and Matheus Nunes – leaving the City squad thin for attacking options.

Foden, who has been injury-free this season, has filled in for his teammates in varying positions and impressively delivered on numerous occasions. This article will focus on some of Foden’s best performances for City in the several positions that he has played.

Bournemouth (away) – Attacking Midfield

Foden excels in central areas because of his innate ability to identify pockets of space in the opposition’s defensive structure. However, Guardiola has not always preferred Foden in this position.

The Spanish manager has not explicitly stated why Foden does not start consistently as an attacking midfielder for City. However, the game against Crystal Palace this season in December indicated a potential reason – decision-making.

In the final moments of the match, where City was comfortably leading 2-1, Foden attempted to carry the ball through the middle when he should have looked for a safe pass – leading to a turnover. Foden tried to make up by tracking back and winning possession, however, it led to a penalty from which the visitors scored – making it 2-2.

That evolved into a crucial learning curve for the 23-year-old as he has tremendously improved since that error. The 1-0 victory against Bournemouth in February, where Foden scored the winner, marked the turning point. Guardiola was so delighted that he highlighted in the post-match press conference about Foden transforming from a “little boy” to a “ world-class player”.

Brentford (away) – Left-Wing

Foden’s role this season seemed to have been adjusted from a goalscorer to a goal provider, having scored four and assisted seven league goals at the turn of February this year – contrasting to the eight scored and four assisted goals over the same period last campaign.

However, since his hattrick against Brentford, Foden has scored six goals in seven matches.

Against Thomas Frank’s side, Foden started as a left winger. However, when City was in possession, Foden would drift inside – often operating in close proximity to Erling Haaland – with Joško Gvardiol providing the width on the left flank.

Foden’s positioning caused Brentford troubles as City created overloads on their defensive line, especially in central areas, where Foden scored all his hattrick goals.

Guardiola experimented with Doku as a central attacking midfielder against Newcastle United in the FA Cup, where the Belgian looked comfortable in tight spaces. With Foden capable of playing as a touchline winger and in the pockets, Guardiola could consider deploying him as an attacking midfielder on the left and Doku as a winger on the same side. In-game positional rotations between the pair could be a deadly combination that outmanoeuvres opponents.

Manchester United (home) – Right-Wing

World-class players step up in crucial games with mesmerizing moments that can alter the course of a match or even a season. Foden’s belter from outside the penalty box to level the tie against Manchester United was one such moment.

Foden’s first-rate performance was topped with the winning goal, having switched sides to the left side – once more demonstrating his versatility. With a quick pass and go, Foden snuck between the United centre-backs after collecting a pass from Julián Álvarez and tucked the ball into the bottom right corner past André Onana.

This was not the first Manchester derby where Foden showed out, having scored a hattrick in the same fixture last year, but the significance of the match on their title chase made the comeback victory taste sweeter.

Guardiola realizes Foden’s value more than anyone and says: “Right now, he is the best. To be world-class you have to win games. He’s winning games. Always he scored goals, but now he’s winning games. When you do this, you reach another level as a player.”

Foden’s versatility allows Guardiola the freedom to make tactical adjustments during a match to find solutions against tricky opponents. As City moves into an intense season-defining period, the perks of having such an essential resource capable of producing game-winning is paramount.

Related articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share article

Latest articles