Statistics will not tell you everything but they do place Phil Foden’s footwork all over Manchester City’s success this season.
Going into their Champions League semi-final with Paris Saint-Germain, only six outfield players have more minutes than the 2,948 the 20-year-old has in all competitions this season while he is second for goals (14) and second for assists (13).
As well as enjoying his most prolific campaign to date Foden is one of the prolific players in the squad, boasting more goal involvements than anybody else. Even more impressive for his development are the importance attached to his goals.
Pep Guardiola has used the Stockport wonder in a forward role this season – and didn’t sign a replacement for Leroy Sane because of his trust in him – because he believes the player has a knack for knowing where the goal is and scoring. That also extends to making sure they are big goals.
In the previous two seasons combined, Foden has scored 15 in all competitions: of those, nine (60 per cent) came when City were winning by at least two goals, four (27 per cent) when City were one goal up, two when the score was level (13 per cent) of which one of those turned out to be a winner – that seismic 1-0 win over Tottenham towards the end of the 2018/19 title race – and none when City were behind.
It summed up his role in the squad, a player who could be brought on to provide fresh legs and amplify a scoreline to build on the work of those that had already won the game.
This season has seen a major shift as Foden has increasingly become a player to turn to for his teammates and for Guardiola.
Of his 14 goals, six (43 per cent) have taken City into a winning position and five of those have won the game – including both legs of their Champions League quarter-final against Dortmund. Three more strikes (21 per cent) have come when City were losing, including the FA Cup game at Cheltenham that was the closest any team came to beating the Blues in their lengthy winning run between December and March.
Timing of Phil Foden goals for City in 2018/19 season
Timing of Phil Foden goals for City in 2019/20 season
Timing of Phil Foden goals for City in 2020/21 season
A further three (21 per cent) have turned a one-goal lead into a two-goal lead while just two (14 per cent) have come with the team already two goals up.
The stats don’t reflect everything he does in games but do emphasise why he is expected to be one of the first names on the teamsheet for one of the biggest games in the club’s history when they take on PSG. When he is making such a difference so often, it becomes impossible for the manager to leave him out.
Where he was part of the supporting cast, Foden has now become the protagonist – a player capable of winning matches for his team and getting them out of holes on a regular basis and in a way that few of his teammates can match.