Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Phil Foden needs to tealize he is Phil Foden

Phil Foden has been doing a better job of taking risks, but to take his game to the next level, when playing central, he needs to be more selfish. He needs to realize he is Phil Foden.

Figure 1.1 - Bernardo Silva passes the ball to Phil Foden.
Figure 1.2 - Phil Foden prepares his hips to turn.
Figure 1.3 - Phil Foden lets the ball run across his body while shielding the ball.
Figure 1.4 - Phil Foden takes his first touch towards the space infield.

Phil Foden is the best in the world at this turn, receiving with his back to the space he wants to attack, between the lines. It’s not just the fact he’s quick, all acceleration, it’s the smooth technique to go from standing upright to turning. No one does it better.

This is why he’s more useful inside, between the lines. When you’re on the touchline, you can’t make this turn; you would dribble out of bounds if you tried.

Phil is agile but he’s not fast. He won’t beat Dan Burn in a 40-yard race side to side, but in the smaller distances, you can’t catch him. Quick zero to sixty but not fast in a straight line.

Figure 1.5 - Newcastle collapse on Phil Foden.
Figure 1.6 - Further collapse and Phil Foden is still carrying.
Figure 1.7 - Phil Foden passes to Jérémy Doku.

Last season, he wasn’t progressing the ball forward. He always looked for the pass back. Now he is focusing on carrying forward, but I want him to be more selfish and shoot instead of passing in this situation.

Part of this is confidence, unselfishness, or inexperience. Another part is that Foden has a plan in his head to spread the ball to Gvardiol that Doku doesn’t see it or ignores it.

Figure 1.8 - Jérémy Doku ignores the free man, Josko Gvardiol, and shoots into traffic. The shot gets blocked.
Figure 1.9 - Phil Foden points at Josko Gvardiol, telling Jérémy Doku that he should have passed the ball to Gvardiol.

You can see Foden telling Doku who the intended target was. Gvardiol gets the ball, he dribbles forward, cross across the ground to Foden, easy tap-in goal.

But Doku has that selfish trait. He takes the shot and Foden does not. Sure, Foden is surrounded by the time he plays the pass, but he had a moment to get off a quick shot into either corner, on the ground.

Figure 2.1 - Phil Foden goal against Everton on December 27, 2023.

Foden has the quality to rocket a shot into the bottom corner from outside the box. We know that most recently from the goal away to Everton in December. It was one of the cleanest strikes of the ball that I’ve seen in a long time.

If you miss, you miss. It’s worth it to take the risk when you are that clinical. It’s all volume. Sometimes you need to take one to warm up to get the next on target, but you can’t score if you don’t attempt it.

Figure 3.1 - Kevin De Bruyne is in uncontested.
Figure 3.2 - Kevin De Bruyne shoots and scores through the legs of the defender.

It’s unfair to compare Kevin De Bruyne’s goal to Phil Foden’s chance because as I discussed after the game, De Bruyne had way more space and runners which gave him time to get off the shot.

But the experience De Bruyne showed five minutes after coming off the bench was clear. He knows he can take the risk and ignore the unselfish pass to a runner in the channel because he has the quality. Take the shot.

When Phil Foden figures out he is Phil Foden, he has that same ability, watch out.

Match: Newcastle 2-3 Manchester City, 13 January 2024

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