'Genius' Phil Foden shines on latest Man City showing

Phil Foden Manchester City Oxford League Cup 25092018
Julian Finney
The 18-year-old England youth international was likened to Andres Iniesta by Oxford boss Karl Robinson after a superb display in the Carabao Cup

Pep Guardiola may want to avoid putting too much pressure on Phil Foden's shoulders but his Oxford counterpart was not so shy.

Foden was involved in all three of City's goals at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night and U's boss Karl Robinson was so impressed he hailed aspects of the 18-year-old game as "genius", and said he would "almost put him in the same bracket as Andres Iniesta."

It is not the first time Foden has been likened to the Barca great; a couple of years ago one quick-witted fan dubbed him the "Stockport Iniesta".

His talent has been obvious to those around City for years - he joined them when he was six - and over the past 12 months he has showcased his abilities to an increasingly wider audience.

Guardiola, speaking after Robinson, did not want to bring Iniesta into the equation but insisted Foden can be a part of City's biggest moments for the next decade.

These are big words but Foden is backing it up on the pitch. At the end of last year he was the best player in the tournament as England's Under-17s won the World Cup, and the latest demonstration came on Tuesday night.

For City's first goal of the night he played a delightful ball out to the left and over the top of the home defence. For the second, as his side repelled a late flurry of set-pieces, he broke away and played an inch-perfect pass through for Riyad Mahrez to kill the game off. For the third he latched on to Raheem Sterling's pass and fired low into the far corner.

He took off towards the away fans in celebration, pulling off a passion-filled knee slide to cap a memorable moment. As Guardiola put it, he celebrated like it was the World Cup final. Presumably the senior one, as he's already scored twice in the U17 version.

Phil Foden Manchester City League Cup 25092018

This was his first goal for the club, and it had come after he had been moved out to the left wing to accommodate another youngster, Adrian Bernabe, who took up the inside left midfield role. City may well have been 2-0 up by that point but Foden is certainly trusted enough by Guardiola to contribute from an unusual position - he has played left-wing-back in the Champions League, after all.

That head-scratching appearance came in his first senior start for his boyhood club, and while he may not have understood his task at the time he certainly did not complain - unlike some of his youth team colleagues who have been less than impressed with what Guardiola has asked of them at times in recent months.

His talent is one thing but he has impressed just as many people around City with his attitude, not least since he has been promoted to the senior set-up by Guardiola.

Many clubs have asked City if they can take Foden on loan in the past two years but the answer has always been a firm 'no'. Guardiola does not want to loan the youngster out and neither does anybody else at the club.

Yet there have been times when the City boss has been criticised for not playing Foden as much as he could have; after City wrapped up the league title with five games to spare it was expected that he would play most games, but he only received two substitute appearances totaling 26 minutes.

And 10 days ago Foden was not brought on when City were 3-0 up against Fulham. Guardiola, in his defence, later pointed out that he did not want to take any chances with a makeshift XI on the pitch, but did promise that the 18-year-old would get plenty of game-time this season.

Since then he has been true to his word. At Cardiff on Saturday Foden came on at 3-0 and looked right at home. He played a fine ball to the back-post that would have made for a superb assist had a scrambling defender not thrown himself of Bernardo Silva's shot.

Phil Foden Rob Dickie Manchester City Oxford League Cup 25092018

And Foden would have notched his first goal had he not got a little giddy and shot too close to Neil Etheridge.

It was not the first time that Foden has had plenty of time to think about how his first goal might come - twice in the Champions League he has air-kicked two volleys as the ball dropped out of the sky, and even on Tuesday he put a shot into the side netting with enough of the goal to aim at.

But he made no mistake late on when Sterling, no doubt wanting to help his even younger team-mate out, played him in.

Whatever happens in the coming months that could prove to be one of the moments of the season, given Foden's popularity among the City support. "He's one of our own," they sang.

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It will not always be like this for Foden, and it would be no surprise if he were back on the bench this weekend when Brighton come to town. He has certainly done enough to further his first-team chances but even if he has to wait a couple of weeks for his next taste of the action there can be little doubt that he is in the best place possible.

Not only is he learning from established internationals every day in training but over the past two years he has been picking up Guardiola's tactical demands as much as any of his team-mates, and that is starting to show.

Guardiola may have been careful to avoid any comparisons to Iniesta but the thought of Foden's natural ability combined with the Catalan's coaching is truly mouthwatering. He looks right at home in this City side.