Phil Foden offers something new to teammates to show Man City progress

Manchester Evening News Sports 3 weeks ago

Foden stands out by not standing out

From an early age, Phil Foden has stood out.

There have been rave reviews since he first made his talent count on the pitch, and Pep Guardiola's breathless joy at seeing the teenager's performance in a 2017 friendly against United sent hopes and expectations soaring.

Foden had played less than 20 minutes of Premier League football when, six months later, he gave the ball to Sergio Aguero late on against Leicester and screamed for it back. The club's record goalscorer screamed it into the net instead, but the verve of Foden was noted.

However, the strength of the City squad means the narrative for the player is still of a youngster hoping to become a regular rather than a fully-fledged first-teamer - unlike some of the players he has come through the England youth ranks with. Most of the starts he has had have been in weakened league cup selection, amplifying his importance but not showing his place within a first XI.

If the goal against Tottenham last season hinted at his increasing role in the team, Tuesday night against Atalanta offered the most evidence yet that he is now fully integrated as a first team player.

You didn't need to look beyond the 10th minute, when a free-kick in prime Kevin De Bruyne territory was ceded by the Belgian to the Stockport lad - but if you did, it was striking how the Blues ticked along as if David or Bernardo Silva were occupying the role.

There was a clipped first-time ball to Raheem Sterling that almost saw Aguero given a tap-in, then a perfect tee-up for the Argentine following a show of skill of strength not dissimilar to the viral clip from England Under-21s recently. A simple pass to Sterling in the second half gave him an assist, and a lovely through ball late on should have given him another.

Foden has never looked more like he belongs in one of the best teams English football has seen - even if he won't be involved for the next Champions League game!

Two in a row for Mendy

It was significant for City that Benjamin Mendy started for the second game in a row as the last time he managed that was nearly six months ago.

Guardiola's programme notes spoke of the importance of keeping the players fit that had returned over the course of the international break and Mendy may become even more crucial depending on the extent of the injury suffered by Aleksandr Zinchenko; on a side note, Angelino did not make the matchday squad here despite the Ukrainian's absence.

There are not many concerns over Mendy physically, the key will be getting his match sharpness up as soon as possible. A clumsy lunge that earned him a yellow card in just the fourth minute of this game was a sign of rustiness and there will always be space in behind him for opposition teams to exploit but he grew in confidence over the course of the game.

(Image: Getty Images)

Other game helps City out

Shakhtar and Dinamo drawing makes things simpler for the Blues.

Win their next Champions League game at Atalanta and they will qualify after four games whatever else happens; should Shakhtar and Dinamo draw again next time out, the Blues will be confirmed as group winners after just four rounds.

That should allow even more rotation for Guardiola - priceless in the winter fixture schedule.

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