Foden worthy of Man City starting spot as Sane edges towards exit
View pictures in App save up to 80% data.
"He will be an important player for the next decade in this club." Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was full of praise for Phil Foden after his man of the match performance in their resounding 5-0 win over Burnley on Monday night. Eight goals scored and two wins under their belt since Premier League football returned last week, Foden accounts of three of those now, with his brace adding to his midweek strike off the bench against Arsenal.
A WhoScored rating of 9.28 against Burnley marked Foden's best Premier League performance for City, and post-match he said: "I think that was my best game in a City shirt." At 20 years of age, there is plenty to come from Foden, who can maximise the ongoing situation in both football and at City as a whole.
City are facing a European ban, which could impact their dealings in the transfer market, while the return of Premier League football means the games are coming thick and fast for all 20 top tier teams, which will benefit a player in Foden's position seeking regular game time to improve his development.
Supporters are desperate to see more of the youngster and understandably so, but Guardiola is managing his game time accordingly so as not to burn Foden out at such a young age. It's also important to keep a player of his potential grounded in order to allow him to focus on improving, yet now is as good a time as any to unleash the England hopeful. It comes at a perfect time for both player and club with David Silva's contract expiring this summer and Leroy Sane expected to depart for Bayern Munich.
Foden is viewed as the natural successor for Silva, yet a man of the match display against Burnley came from the left flank, while the City star in the making earned the star man award from the right wing in their 2-1 Carabao Cup win over Aston Villa in March. Those are his only two man of the match awards for City this term. While some at the club may have fretted at Sane's looming departure and the need to bring in a replacement for the German, City and Guardiola can rest easy knowing Foden is more than capable of filling the void from the flanks.
City have fared well enough without Sane available for the majority of the campaign - they have scored 76 Premier League goals this season, more than any other side after all - with the 24-year-old's appearance on Monday night against Burnley, incidentally as a replacement for Foden, his first since August. Yet it eases his likely departure and lessens the need to spend big to replace Sane when he does eventually move back to Germany.
View pictures in App save up to 80% data.
Of course, Foden has a similar skillset to Silva, yet comparing the two in their attacking stats over the last couple of seasons suggests the former could provide natural cover for Sane, too. Indeed, Foden (2.9) this season is completing a little more dribbles per 90 than Sane (2.7) was managing in the Premier League in 2018/19.
What's more, Foden's return of 2.2 key passes per 90 is marginally higher than Sane (1.9) in 2018/19 while in the Champions League; the former has had a similar impact to the latter. Sane has created nine clear-cut goalscoring chances in 21 Champions League appearances for City, while Foden has seven to his name from 11 outings in Europe's elite club competitions. Foden's return of 2.9 key passes and 3.9 successful dribbles per 90 in the Champions League is slightly lower than Sane's respective returns in the competition last season (3 and 4.3) yet with such a negligible difference in attacking output across the Premier League and Champions League, Guardiola can feel increasingly confident that Foden is ready to step up to become a key figure in his City squad.
Sane has a year left to run on his current deal at the Etihad Stadium, so it's increasingly likely they'll sell this summer for the right price, but they can rest safe in the knowledge that City can use the money raised from Sane's likely sale to invest in a more problematic position, notably a new centre-back or two.
And with Guardiola often looking at key players to play a number of roles, and versatility an increasingly important trait in the modern game, Foden's ability to play out wide or through the middle means he can be viewed as a successor for both Silva and Sane. Bernardo Silva operates in a similar role in that he can play out wide and in a midfield three, so it's not an uncommon theme in this City side, nor in Guardiola squads as a whole.
Either way, the performance in the win over Burnley on Monday night is the start of what should be a lenghty run of matches for Foden in a City shirt. Guardiola may elect to drop him to the bench for the midweek trip to Chelsea, yet the young attacker gave his Spanish a timely reminder of his quality against the Clarets and, with the games coming thick and fast - City will play at least seven matches in July, for example - then now is the time for Foden to finally prove his worth in Guardiola's side.