Pep Guardiola outlines Phil Foden path to replacing David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne at Man City
Pep Guardiola believes Phil Foden will eventually evolve into another David Silva, the man who makes Manchester City tick in the final third of the pitch. The 21-year-old England star gave further evidence of his growing maturity by taking on the Kevin De Bruyne role in the vital 4-0 win at Leeds, and provided two assists and a crucial part in another goal.
But with De Bruyne rested ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg at Real Madrid, Foden is expected to revert to a wide role at the Bernabeu. The England international showed another string to his formidable bow by creating two goals from set-pieces to end Leeds’ stiff resistance — a superb free kick onto Rodri’s head for the opener and a far-post corner that Ruben Dias nodded back for Nathan Ake to make it 2-0.
Foden then conjured a slick pass to free Gabriel Jesus for goal number three to end any doubts about the result, another glimpse of a future where he orchestrates play from a central role. De Bruyne is the main man in that role at present, while Bernardo Silva is usually trusted to play it when the Belgian is not in the team.
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But with De Bruyne approaching his 31st birthday, Foden is earmarked as the fulcrum of City’s future attack; he has long been seen as the natural successor to David Silva. And Guardiola outlined one big addition to his game that Foden needs to make in order to emulate Silva’s brilliant 10-year contribution to the City cause.
“I think he can play in all five positions up front – wingers on both sides, striker and attacking midfielder in the pockets. He can play all of them,” said Guardiola. “With time he will be more capable of playing in the positions in the middle.
“He still does all actions at high speed and sometimes you have to have some pausa. Now he has the energy of youth and maybe winger suits him better a little bit right now.”
The “pausa” is a Spanish term for the ability of slowing down or stopping the game to draw an opponent before instantly speeding it up again, a skill of which Silva was the master. And Guardiola thinks Foden will start to use it more as he matures, having marked him down as a natural attacking central midfielder from the moment he saw him as a kid in the academy.
“I’m pretty sure (he will end up central) because when I started to see him in the academy at 15 or 16 he played the position of Kevin and he played really good,” said the manager. “All the actions are so, so quick.
“I always talk about David Silva, sometimes he slowed the rhythm to increase the rhythm and Phil’s rhythm is always high. It’s good because it’s aggressive and we need it, but sometimes he needs a little more in that position – that is only a question of time, not that he cannot do it because he can do it without a problem.”
Guardiola handed Foden the burden of being the main playmaker in the game, but the City said he has no concerns about putting the onus on the youngster,adding: “Phil has responsibility since day one, he has performed on the biggest stages and important scenarios in important games.
“He loves to play and you see what he does in bad moments. Phil is not a problem.”
With De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez both held in reserve, Foden was charged with being the main set-piece deliverer, and he fulfilled that with spectacular results, but Guardiola says De Bruyne will assume the role again when he returns at the Bernabeu.
“When Kevin is there, Kevin is the taker,” he said. “But it’s good for Phil. He is so young, hopefully he can be here for the rest of his life and is a guy with an out-swinger or ins-winger with a left foot. Riyad is good too. What is important is the taker. Put the ball in the positions where it can be dangerous.”
City have become a real menace from set-pieces this season, and the manager puts that down to the work coach Carlos Vicens has done, with his support team of analysts: “We are incredibly delighted with the job Carlos Vicens has done.
“He has made it so simple and clear. The secret of set pieces is about the taker. With a good taker, you have a chance. You can make movements to the near post or far post but it doesn’t matter because the taker is the most important thing.
“Today Phil, especially in the first goal was fantastic at putting the ball in the right position and with the runners — Nathan, Rodri, Ayme (Laporte), Ruben – we have weapons.”