EPL

Foden building Euros case after England ignominy - An Opta-powered look at the Man City star

By Sports Desk September 25, 2020

Phil Foden has put off-field issues behind him to make a superb start to what could come to be seen as a definitive season for the Manchester City youngster.

The attacking midfielder was used with increased frequency by during the 2019-20 campaign by manager Pep Guardiola, who handed him his debut as a 17-year-old in 2017.

Foden was named man of the match as City won a third consecutive EFL Cup with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Wembley on March 1 and, after lockdown, he took on a more prominent place in the first team.

Injury and illness problems have complicated the early days of this season at the Etihad Stadium, with Guardiola claiming he only expects to have 13 fit senior players for the visit of Leicester City on Saturday.

The former Barcelona boss can therefore be thankful he has Foden in prime form.

The 20-year-old crowned a sweeping team move during Monday's 3-1 win over Wolves before scoring decisively in Thursday's 2-1 win at home to Bournemouth, where Foden also laid on the opener for City's latest bright young thing, Liam Delap.

MORE THAN A CUP SPECIALIST

The perfectly weighted pass for centre-forward Delap meant Foden had assisted in each of his past three starts in the EFL Cup, with no player creating more chances from open play in the competition since the start of last season than the England international's 14.

Against Bournemouth alone, Foden carved out five openings for his team-mates.

His adeptness in both the main aspects of attacking football is underlined by the fact that among all Premier League players since the beginning of 2019-20, only Kevin De Bruyne (eight matches) and Mohamed Salah (six matches) have scored and assisted in the same game more often than Foden, who has done so on four occasions.

Overall, Foden has been involved in 24 goals in his 34 starts for City in all competitions. Those 13 goals and 11 assists are not simply a matter of him "padding" against inferior opponents - just look at a crucial winner against Tottenham during the 2018-19 title run-in and his strikes as City claimed convincing wins over Arsenal and Liverpool earlier this year.

ENGLAND'S CREATIVE HOPE

Of course, given Foden made headlines at the start of the month for breaching coronavirus self-isolation protocols in the aftermath of his England debut in Iceland, it is worth pondering whether Gareth Southgate will decide a player he sent home in disgrace alongside Manchester United's Mason Greenwood is worth the hassle.

After his alleged antics in Reykjavik, the City favourite might have to make a compelling case when considering the other creative midfielders jockeying for position ahead of next year's European Championship.

In terms of goals and assists since the start of 2019-20, Foden is comfortably ahead of his contemporaries. Across 40 appearances, his 10 goals and 10 assists give him one more goal involvement combined than Jack Grealish.

The Aston Villa captain, who made his long awaited bow against Denmark in Foden's absence this month, has one more goal and two fewer assists over the same period, but has played 3,730 minutes to reach those figures, compared to the City man's 1,921.

The high-quality of team-mates Foden benefit from here are obviously a factor, but he is also considerably more efficient than Mason Mount and James Maddison, who starred with Chelsea and Leicester City in the upper echelons of the Premier League last term.

Mount has played 56 games - compared to Foden's 40 - and 4,008 minutes across all competitions and accrued eight goals and six assists.

Maddison has three goals and nine assists in 41 appearances (3,206 minutes).

UNDER-21 KING

Looking beyond his position, since his City debut in 2017, Foden has outperformed all English players under 21 in terms of goals and assists.

Including his contributions when featuring as a substitute, he has scored 17 times and set up 13 more. Counting matches up until he turned 21 last October, Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is next on this list with 22 goals involvements - bolstered by a phenomenal 19 assists.

Foden's partner in escapades Greenwood is next with 18 goals and four assists, while Callum Hudson-Odoi has laid on 11 and scored eight despite his injury woes for Chelsea.

Greenwood (2,767) and Hudson-Odoi (2,817) have played fewer minutes than Foden (3,258) over the period in question, as has Arsenal's Bukayo Saka (four goals and 13 assists in 3,085 minutes). Burnley's Dwight McNeil is the sixth on this list of Englishmen with bright futures, having scored five goals and set up 12 more in 5,592 minutes spanning 69 appearances.

The past week suggests Foden is back on track after a very public fall from grace, with the wider numbers suggesting the sky is the limit for club and country, as far as the 'Stockport Iniesta' is concerned. He might even get a better nickname soon.

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