Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Phil Foden needs to keep taking risks

August 21, 2023 — Phil Foden of Manchester City has had a habit of playing it safe, always looking for the simple back-pass, but he is slowly beginning to break out of his shell and take more risks.

Figure 1.1 - Manchester City's tight midfield five in possession.
Figure 1.2 - Manchester City's passing network via McLachBot

Manchester City likes to play in small spaces with a short distance between midfielders, but against Newcastle, that spacing was even smaller. More compact.

That compactness is made for Phil Foden. Quick technical one-twos to draw the opponent in and then switch to a wing, with Kyle Walker pushed forward on the right-wing. Overload the midfield to isolate the wing.

Figure 2.1 - Switch out to Kyle Walker. Walker plays the ball to Phil Foden.

Phil Foden is a runner tasked with attacking space. Once they switch to Kyle Walker, the right half-space is free.

Figure 2.2 - Phil Foden has the space to drive into.

When Foden receives the ball, he has to channel Kevin De Bruyne. Kevin would attack that space with his first touch.

First touch into space, long stride, dangerous cross across goal. That movement has to be automatic.

Figure 2.3 - Foden ignores that space and cuts back.
Figure 2.4 - Foden passes to Rodri instead of the free Mateo Kovacic.

They need more risk, more threat. He has the ability to beat his marker to the line and cross, but he chooses the safe route backward.

Figure 3.1 - Mateo Kovacic plays the ball to Phil Foden, who is calling for the ball.
Figure 3.2 - Foden turns.

Foden is an expert with this specific turn. If you allow him to execute this turn, he will attack the space behind him, without any hesitation.

Figure 3.3 - Foden plays Julian Alvarez in on goal.
Figure 3.4 - Erling Haaland makes the far post run instead of the near post, while Alvarez crosses to the near post.

Attack the space, play the most threatening pass. If Erling Haaland runs near post, this is a goal.

Figure 4.1 - Foden makes the run into space, and Mateo Kovacic makes the pass.
Figure 4.2 - Foden draws Sven Botman out, which opens space for Julian Alvarez to receive the pass.
Figure 4.3 - Alvarez turns and scores, in space.

Attack the half-space, play the threatening pass. Even this pass is backward, but it’s the correct pass to make.

Figure 5.1 - Phil Foden dummies a run to cause Dan Burn to move back.
Figure 5.2 - Foden checks his run and calls for the ball.
Figure 5.3 - Foden now has sufficient separation between him and Dan Burn when he is played the ball.

Then later in the game, Foden uses his agility to toy with his marker. The tall gangly Dan Burn is no match for Foden’s low center of gravity and quick agile turns.

Figure 5.4 - Foden turns into space central.
Figure 5.5 - Foden passes directly to Erling Haaland.

Attack the space and play the most dangerous pass.

Figure 5.6 - Haaland receives the ball between two defenders.

If Phil Foden continues to do this, he will rack up assists. Turn, attack the space, play the most dangerous pass. He looks like he could be the most efficient midfielder in the world; he just has to keep taking as many risks as he can.

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