Man City could give Phil Foden a new role after Erling Haaland transfer – Tyrone Marshall
For a couple of years Manchester City have thrived without a striker, rotating various options as false nines but continuing to slice through teams at will, even if the finishing touch wasn’t always applied as regularly as it should have been.
But there’s no doubt the 2022/23 season will bring a tactical tweak from Pep Guardiola. From a false nine, they will now transition to someone who is very much a true No. 9 in Erling Haaland.
The challenge when looking at a City teamsheet recently has often been to decipher exactly who will lead the line. If Haaland starts next season then there will no question as to who will be playing through the middle.
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It will be fascinating to see how the presence of a natural striker changes the way City play and how the team functions around someone who, while he can and does drop deep to link play, is also essentially a ruthless predator around the penalty box.
But one knock-on effect will be to see how those players who have often filled in as a false nine now transition to a more regular role of their own. Last season it was Phil Foden who often played that role, starting 19 games as a centre forward and scoring 10 times.
With Haaland also being joined at the Etihad by Julian Alvarez there’s likely to be very few occasions when Foden will be pressed into action in a role he has taken to with remarkable ease. The question might be where does he play instead.
His second most-used position last season was 15 appearances on the left of that front three and the make-up of City’s attack next term might yet depend on departures. Gabriel Jesus is likely to leave and it’s not inconceivable that Raheem Sterling could go as well.
That might mean more games for Foden out wide, but he did feature in that attacking midfield role on a handful of occasions last season, perhaps most impressively in the 4-0 win at Leeds at the start of May.
It was after that crucial win at Elland Road that Guardiola discussed Foden’s evolution and suggested he could yet graduate into one of those midfield roles.
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“For Phil, responsibility is not a problem. Since day one going to bigger stages, bigger scenarios and important games, it’s not a problem. He loves to play,” the City boss said.
“He can play in all five positions up front: winger on both sides, striker through the middle and in the pockets like an attacking midfielder.
“I think in time he will be more capable to play in positions in the middle, he still has all the actions, the high speed, so maybe now the wide positions suit him better.
“In the academy when I started to see him at 16/17-years-old when I arrived here, he played in a position like Kevin (De Bruyne) and wow, he played really good but all the actions are so, so quick.
“You remember David Silva, sometimes he slowed the rhythm to increase the rhythm, (but Phil’s) rhythm is always high.
“It’s good as he is so aggressive and we need it but sometimes he needs a little bit, but that is a question of time. He can do it no problem, it’s just a question of time.”
With Foden no longer required to lead the line, perhaps the 22-year-old will become a more regular presence in midfield next season. His versatility and adaptability is clearly a strength, but one role will be taken away from him by City’s new arrival.
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