Concern over the lack of game-time being given to Phil Foden began in earnest last season with Matt Le Tissier, one of several pundits and scribes insisting that England’s Under 17’s World Cup hero would greatly benefit from more minutes in a Manchester City shirt.
That consternation considerably eased towards the end of the 2018/19 campaign when the teenager was surprisingly given a starting role against Tottenham in a must-win game. With Foden scoring the only goal that afternoon it suddenly felt like his emergence was underway.
Then there were the effusive quotes attributed to Pep Guardiola. In the summer the Catalan said his midfield prodigy was the “most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager”. A few months later he stated that Foden was “the only player that can’t be sold under any circumstances — the only one. Not even for 500m euros”.
Unfortunately if all this would have us believe that the 19-year-old was set to take his place among the crown jewels of City’s all-conquering first team,
The stats tell us very different. Last term Foden played 327 minutes in the Premier League whereas this time out to date he has appeared for only 73 minutes. If the current rate continues he will experience only half the minutes of last year. In develop terms: going backwards.
In the same week that Guardiola was declaring his brightest young star was not for sale at any price he was also publicly apologising for keeping him tethered to the bench. “He deserves to play,” he concluded.
Given how highly the player is rated and when imagining what he might do in an England jersey in the not-too-distant future this has prompted annoyance far beyond the Etihad, but thankfully the situation appears to be on the precipice of changing for the better.
It has long been mooted that Foden is the natural successor to David Silva and with the Spanish magician in his final year the feeling is that the usurping will occur gradually as the season progresses.
This intuition is strengthened further by the fact that Silva – now 33 – has not been at his most impactful since August. Indeed just two matches in newspapers were reporting that Guardiola was unhappy with his star’s application, saying: “David, you didn’t give us enough running. Where were the legs?”
Any such charges of inertia can certainly not be placed upon Foden who, in his several cameos as substitute has been like a spark plug in human form, routinely livening up City’s central area and widely impressing with his ambition and endeavour.
Furthermore, the long-term lay-off of Aymeric Laporte has inadvertently opened up a fresh opportunity for the youngster with Fernandinho reverted to centre-back and, in a domino effect, Ilkay Gundogan dropping into the holding position to either substitute for or support Rodri as the new signing acclimatises to the English game. The competition therefore for places in a side that usually houses two number 8s has got significantly slimmer.
Should Manchester City do well in every competition there are somewhere in the region of 35 to 40 fixtures still to be contested.
That offers plenty of scope for Phil Foden to shine.
And for a long-running concern to finally evaporate.