Phil Foden’s performances have blossomed ever since he broke into Manchester City’s first team four seasons ago. The academy graduate starred once again on Saturday, as City eased to victory in the derby against Manchester United in the Premier League. Foden proved to be a constant thorn in United’s defense, linking up with Joao Cancelo time and time again down the left-hand side as Aaron Wan-Bissaka wasn’t given a moment’s peace. The 21-year-old was unlucky not to get a goal of his own in the 2-0 win, having seen a shot hit the post during the second half, and he could have easily claimed an assist as City dominated from kick-off.
Guardiola has played Foden centrally, on the right and left wing, and in two midfield roles, and he has also starred for England in a more deep-lying role. The City boss says he has no idea whether Foden will ever settle into a regular role or spend his career switching from position to position. For now, Guardiola is not wasting any time worrying about where best to deploy him because Foden is putting up some impressive performances in whatever positions his manager asks him to play in. The most important part of Foden’s game is that he understands the game and also understands what is required of him against a specific team. The 21-year-old star was a creator by dropping deep in the false nine role in the match against Club Bruges, but he showed another side to his game to get the final touch to two goals in City’s win against Brighton.
The above visual shows us the attacking and creativity stats for Phil Foden in the 2021-22 season. The stats indicate that Foden has been highly successful in the attacking actions that he has attempted, and almost all the metrics are much higher than the median league value. Foden has attempted an average of 2.239 shots per 90 minutes and lies in the 84th percentile for the same. The young midfielder has approximately five touches in the opposition’s penalty area per 90 minutes and is better than 97% of the players in the league. Foden has attempted 10 attacking actions per 90 minutes and has completed almost 50% of these attacking actions.
Foden has mostly featured on the left side in front three but has also been playing as a false nine in some of the games. Even if Foden starts the game on the left flank, the City front three keep shuffling their positions, making it tougher for the opposition’s defense against them. The City front three have had several permutations and combinations this season as Pep keeps switching his front three.
Although Phil Foden is more of a creator and likes to keep possession of the ball near the wider areas, playing in the false nine position gives him more freedom to attack the opposition’s goal. Foden has had a high number of shots on goal from the left flank, but he also had a few attempts on goal from the centre of the pitch. Foden has an xG of 0.33 per 90 minutes, which indicates that he can get into great positions to take a goal attempt.
As seen in the above visual, Foden has attempted passes throughout the field, which indicates that he has played in several positions and has more of a free role given to him by the manager. Foden has attempted more passes into the penalty area from the left flank, and these passes have had a higher xT than the passes played from the right flank. As Foden is a left-footed player, it is easier for him to dribble past players on the left flank and put in a cross with his preferred foot.
Foden can play as a striker, false nine, left-winger, as well as a right-winger, and has been highly effective in doing so. The versatility of Foden gives Pep Guardiola more depth to his squad as Foden can adjust to any position in the front line. In the game against Liverpool in October, Foden played as a left-winger as they had already analyzed that James Milner will be the weak link for the Liverpool team, and City were successful in doing so. There have been matches where Foden has featured in a false nine role for his team and has also succeeded in that role. Foden is a midfield player with a lot of sense of goal.