Get set for the Phil Foden era at Manchester City

Get set for the Phil Foden era: Manchester City will sorely miss the brilliant David Silva once he leaves at the end of the season, but Pep Guardiola knows that this extra-special 20-year-old will become a legend in his own right

  • David Silva will leave Manchester City at the end of the season after a decade
  • Once the 34-year-old exits there will be a big void to fill in City’s midfield 
  • Phil Foden is showing that he must be considered the long-term replacement
  • Foden’s performance against Burnley was yet another example of his talent
  • Pep Guardiola himself believes the 20-year-old could become a City legend 

It was never a question of if but when the question would be put to Phil Foden about succeeding a player of David Silva’s quality at Manchester City.

No doubt he would have been briefed by those around him but when he was asked about Silva’s contract expiring at the end of the season, and the obvious void he will leave behind, it prompted a knowing smile and a classy response.

‘He should extend his contract, to be honest,’ Foden said. ‘How he plays today, he’s unbelievable to play with. So I don’t want to think about it too much.

Phil Foden responded with plenty of class when asked about David Silva leaving the club

Foden was in front of the Sky Sports cameras after a highly impressive display against Burnley

‘I’m just enjoying playing with him. He’s a great guy and a legend of the club, so it’s a pleasure to play with him.’

The reason Foden was in front of the cameras answering questions in the first place wasn’t to speak about Silva but because of how he had sparkled in City’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley on Monday.

The 20-year-old scored in the win against Arsenal last week and added two more to his tally – a precise effort into the bottom corner from outside the box for City’s first and a poacher’s effort at the back post for their fifth.

Foden sparkled and scored twice in City’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley at the Etihad Stadium

Foden beat Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope down to his left corner with a shot from distance

As impressive as those two efforts were – the ability to score from range but also have the composure to find the target from a difficult angle – it was Foden’s contribution in the build-up to City’s fourth that told you more about how he fits into Pep Guardiola’s long-term plans.

Foden can finish but then that is expected if you’re part of Guardiola’s attacking masterplan. His creativity and craft to not only pick a pass and carve open a defence but to also set in motion a move that finishes two, three or four passes after the ball has left him is what Silva has been demonstrating for years.

Some may conclude a no-look pass is just for show but try telling that to Burnley’s Charlie Taylor who was left completely bamboozled as he was sent one way and then the other as the ball rolled past him into the feet of Bernardo Silva, who set up David Silva to score.

Foden fits into Pep Guardiola’s attacking plan and could be Silva’s long-term replacement

Foden spoke with great respect when asked about the void Silva would leave behind at City


Minutes played: 79 (replaced by Leroy Sane)

Goals: 2

Attempts on goal: 2

Pass completion: 80.6 per cent

Key passes: 1


The vision and confidence to do what Foden did shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Most have been aware of his supreme ability since he captained England to win the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, yet he had been in that awkward position others have found themselves in before: on the cusp of the first team but not a regular starter.

City’s plan before this season was temporarily suspended was to continue giving Foden chances not necessarily to impress but to prove he can operate efficiently under the first-team demands of Guardiola.

The season being as congested as it now is presents Foden with more opportunities to show why City don’t need to pay a hefty sum to replace Silva when he leaves – they can turn to a player who over the next few weeks will continue to improve his understanding of what is expected while showcasing his obvious talent.

‘When David said it was his last year I told the board we have Phil, so we don’t have to invest.’ Guardiola said on Monday night.

‘It is difficult to find a replacement like David, what he has done with this club.

‘Players like Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David as well have helped us to be who we are as a team and a club.

‘It is difficult to find a replacement but [in Foden], we have a young Manchester City fan who every time he plays gives us something unique and special.

‘In the next decade, or 15 years, he will be an outstanding player for us. I don’t have doubts.’

Guardiola believes Foden is capable of becoming a legend at the club over the next decade 

Another requirement of Guardiola’s of players over the years has been their capacity to learn and adapt to new positions or roles.

Whether that be Javier Mascherano moving back from midfield to central defence or Philipp Lahm leaving a position where he was world-class at right-back to play in central midfield, Guardiola has sought radical ways to improve those at his disposal.

Foden started the game against Burnley on the left of a front three in a 4-3-3 formation but when he passed to Bernardo Silva for City’s fourth he was occupying a central position.

Given the fluidity with which Guardiola’s side play it is normal for players to drift out of position and take up space elsewhere but to be able to do that requires a clear understanding of those around you and what it is you have to do for the whole system to work.

With Raheem Sterling a regular starter on the left side of City’s attack, it is unlikely Foden will be used regularly there, but his level of performance while in that position will have told Guardiola he is a suitable back-up when Sterling isn’t available.

Foden has shown in the last two games that he can efficiently execute what is asked of him 

And that, of course, couldn’t be more crucial with Leroy Sane now free to find a new club and Guardiola stating that he won’t enter the transfer market to replace him. Not to mention the restrictions that have happened as a result of coronavirus with City being quite open about not wanting to spend heavily or unnecessarily. 

There is also the added benefit of not disrupting the harmony of City’s attack or the politics of the dressing room.

Foden is still at an age where he is malleable. Couple that with the contentment that seems to fill his head and an aversion to a lavish lifestyle and you have a personality near enough perfect to fitting into a long-term plan. It also helps to know when you’re on the right track and you can be pretty certain Foden knows that, too.

‘I think that was my best game in a City shirt to be honest,’ he said on Monday night.

‘I’m still learning every day and I’ve got a long way to go but just happy when I put in performances like that.’

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