Man City can copy Phil Foden blueprint to develop next first team player
Phil Foden turned 20 last week having won eight senior trophies already in his Manchester City career. Only now, though, is he ready to step up and be a first team regular.
Foden’s talent and promise has never been in doubt, but City have always been careful to ease the youngster in to first team football and not burn him out before he reaches his full potential.
Perhaps that is why he averages a trophy every 7.75 games, or every 315 minutes. And why, with 62 senior appearances to his name, he also has enough experience to be ready to step up next season when David Silva leaves.
Pep Guardiola has slowly incorporated Foden into the first team environment, knowing that next season he would be needed to take on more responsibility.
Now, with Foden ready for that next step, Guardiola has another future first-teamer ready to follow the same path.
In Eric Garcia, City have a centre-back capable of taking one of the places in Guardiola’s squad that Fernandinho (35) and Nicolas Otamendi (32) will leave after next season or the campaign after.
Garcia has already impressed in the Carabao Cup over the last two seasons, and made his Premier League and Champions League debuts this season.
The 19-year-old is behind Foden in terms of appearances made at this stage of his development, but that is to be expected for a centre-back, with fewer substitute opportunities available to defenders than attackers.
By his second season in the first team picture, Foden had made 36 City appearances. Garcia, with 10 games left of his second campaign to play, has 14 appearances. Crucially, though, Garcia has started 11 of those games, with Foden starting just 14 of his 36 appearances.
In terms of playing time, Garcia is just 245 minutes behind Foden at this stage of his career, accounting for the fact Garcia has not had the opportunity to play since March. And he may get more Premier League experience between now and the end of the season with City’s priorities coming in the two remaining cup competitions.
The potential introduction of five substitutions in a game would also give Garcia more opportunities to get minutes for City and establish his case for a bigger role next season.
Then, in 2020/21, Garcia can take the same path that Foden has during 2019/20. He can play more in the Premier League off the bench and be considered a starter in the early rounds of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, or even some Champions League group games.
That will allow him to become ready for a step-up the following season, assuming one or both of Fernandinho and Otamendi leave City before 2021/22.
By holding Foden back and taking time to integrate him into the first team, City have shown the values of slowly developing a young talent into a viable first-team option. Now they can do the same with Garcia.