Phil Foden appeared primed to be the heir to David Silva’s central midfield throne at Manchester City when the Spaniard left the club last year, but the 21-year-old is excelling in an altogether different role for his side this season.
Again deployed in a wide forward position at Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, Foden fired his second-ever top-flight double to help his side secure a 4-1 success, making him City’s top scorer in the Premier League this season with three goals.
Stretching further back, no City player has scored more than Foden’s 20 goals since the start of last season across all competitions.
Foden is still more than capable of excelling as a central midfield playmaker, as he proved when impressing for England against Andorra in the position earlier this month, but it seems for City he can have a greater impact out wide.
“I’m enjoying it (the new position),” Foden told the BBC after his double against Brighton. “I can drop deep and get the ball and pick the passes off. It’s a new role for me and I can say I’m really enjoying it.
“It changes game-to-game. Sometimes I stay higher than normal, but this game they went man-to-man so I dropped a bit deeper and I thought we used the extra man well.”
City coach Pep Guardiola was criticised for his sparing use of Foden in the early years of the youngster’s career, and once again remained reluctant to heap too much praise on the midfielder-forward.
“He can play left winger, which is a good position, and right winger, which is a good position for him,” Guardiola said.
“Phil is a player who can play in different positions but especially up front because he has the quality and the precision. He had many chances to score in recent games but he is young and will keep improving.”
However Guardiola is managing Foden, it is paying off handsomely. Foden proved a handful as City were unfortunate not to earn all three points in their 2-2 draw at Liverpool earlier this month and he was one of the standout performers as his side were dominant in winning at Chelsea in late September.
His ability to create chances remains intact from out wide too. Foden has two assists in his last two games in all competitions – form that ensures he continues to be a pivotal figure for club and country.