It’s important not to get too carried away. After all, we are talking about a teenager impressing in a glorified friendly, as one cog in one of the best teams in Europe right now. The capacity for Phil Foden to impress couldn’t have been much higher, as the platform to do so couldn’t have been much more accommodating – Chelsea were as disappointingly abysmal as Manchester City were thrillingly excellent.
And yet, it’s hard not to get carried away with Foden, such a talent the teenager is. He’s effortlessly comfortable and confident on the ball, and he not only uses it to tidily shift on possession in the manner many young English players have been able to down the years, but also to drive at the very heart of the opposition with real purpose and aggression. Indeed, for a central midfielder, there’s a curious burst of pace about the 18-year-old, one that proved surprisingly difficult for Chelsea to deal with in Sunday’s Community Shield.
In fact, it was one of those drives that produced the first goal. One of two successful dribbles Foden completed at Wembley directly resulted in one of his three created chances, and his one assist for the afternoon. As David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger refused to confront the City prodigy, he slid a pass to Sergio Aguero who exploited the space Foden’s run had created by taking his time to drill a shot from the edge of the box past Willy Caballero.
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Foden could’ve finished up with another assist too, had Aguero not been uncharacteristically wasteful in trying to take the ball around Caballero before tucking home, when his curling pass from midfield once again fell perfectly to the Argentine’s feet. Off the ball too, the young maestro made himself known with two tackles, a haul only surpassed by midfield accomplice Fernandinho.
As an England supporter, it was the kind of performance that only adds to the incredible optimism created by the summer’s World Cup campaign. Gareth Southgate’s side is by no means the finished article, but Foden is already looking like one of the final pieces he needs to put into place. He was a crucial component of the England side that won the U17 World Cup last year and the roaming No.8 role that didn’t quite prove the perfect fit for Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard in Russia – despite some promising performances – now looks almost intentionally carved out for City’s most promising academy product in a generation.
If there’s one question mark lingering over Foden though, it’s whether City can accommodate his rate of development at this moment in time. With Bernardo Silva showing he can have an impact almost akin to Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in the free central midfield role against Chelsea, not to mention Ilkay Gundogan and even Fabian Delph loitering lower down the engine room pecking order, minutes for Foden this season will be tough to come by despite his performance on Sunday.
Perhaps then, having proved he’s capable of being a competitive performer against elite opposition, a loan move this season is in order, toughening Foden up for a key role in the City squad for 2019/20. There are obvious counter-arguments to that idea, chiefly that Pep Guardiola is one of the best developers of young talent in the world and City play in such a specific way. But it could hugely increase Foden’s chances of being a starting XI regular by the time next season comes around.
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