Phil Foden is enjoying playing as the focal point in Manchester City’s star-studded attack and earned special praise from boss Pep Guardiola after inspiring his side to victory at Brighton and Hove Albion.
The City academy product started through the middle once again in Saturday’s meeting at the Amex Stadium and scored just his second ever double in the Premier League in a 4-1 win.
Foden had eight shots, four of those on target, but he could not find a way past Robert Sanchez in the second half for a hat-trick.
The England international did set up substitute Riyad Mahrez late on for City’s fourth, however, and he is thriving off the freedom of being used right across City’s frontline this season.
“I’m enjoying it. I can drop deep and get the ball and pick the passes off. It’s a new role for me and I can say I’m really enjoying it,” he told Sky Sports.
“It changes game to game. Sometimes I stay higher than normal, but this game they went man-to-man so I dropped a bit deeper and I thought we used the extra man well.
“On another day I could have scored three, but the main thing is the result and I’m just happy we got it today.”
Foden has featured nine times for City this season, starting six of those games and playing a direct part in eight goals – only Mahrez (nine) has scored and assisted more for the club this term.
Guardiola agrees with Foden that he should have further added to his goals tally against Brighton, but the Catalan coach is pleased with the strides being taken by the 21-year-old.
“There are players that play in one position and there are players who play football. When you play football it means you can play any position, you understand the game,” Guardiola said at his post-match news conference.
“In the final third he can play up front, has the quality to move and be aggressive one on one and arrive in the box. He can play as a false nine, a winger, wide right or wide left.
“He is a guy who is a midfield player with a big sense of the goal. He scored two and could have had more, but he is still young and still has a margin to improve.”
Foden’s double came after Ilkay Gundogan had opened the scoring as City raced three goals ahead inside 31 minutes.
Alexis Mac Allister pulled one back from the penalty spot nine minutes from time after Ederson took out Enock Mwepu, but Mahrez thumped home a fourth for the visitors late on.
The reigning champions are back to within two points of leaders Chelsea, who thumped Norwich City 7-0 earlier on Saturday.
Fourth-place Brighton had lost just one of their opening eight league games and Guardiola was full of praise for Graham Potter and his side.
“It was a really good result for us because I knew which team we face today,” Guardiola told Sky Sports.
“It was a good lesson as for 30 minutes they were better than us. This game must be played with the ball. We suffered and we’ll be better for that in the future.
“This is a huge victory for us. To win here is a big compliment for the team.
“They are aggressive and when they have the ball they know what they have to do. They have all the mechanisms of a big team.
“They have courage. I admire them for that. They play like a top four or five team.”
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