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Phil Foden named FWA Footballer of the Year: Man City’s standout player took a step forward, writes Adam Bate

Phil Foden is the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. He received the award following a stellar season in which he has scored 24 goals for City in all competitions. Adam Bate explains his decision to vote for the Manchester City player...

Phil Foden is Adam Bate's choice as the FWA Footballer of the Year
Image: Phil Foden has been named as the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year

Can a player who has already won the Champions League and is in possession of five Premier League winners’ medals really have a breakthrough year? If that player is Phil Foden and they are producing what he has produced this season, then yes.

With 24 goals for Manchester City in all competitions, including one in winning the Club World Cup in December, Foden has taken the next step. So consistent has he been that he has made City's three-man player-of-the-month shortlist eight times out of nine.

He ranks among the top six players in the Premier League for both goals scored from open play and chances created from open play. And he has done it all with trademark enthusiasm, winning the ball high up the pitch and showing imagination when he gets it.

Phil Foden's impressive season for Man City in stats

Only one other player has scored multiple hat-tricks in the Premier League this season. That is former team-mate Cole Palmer, who had his backers for the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award that Foden has now claimed as his.

But while Palmer deserves huge plaudits for shining among the stodge following his move to Chelsea, Foden has been operating at a higher level, scoring five times in the Champions League. He has been the outstanding player in perhaps the outstanding team.

When nominating the FWA Footballer of the Year award, naturally, it is a personal choice. Looking back over the Premier League season, this journalist has seen Foden score more goals for Manchester City than Erling Haaland. It was a factor in this selection.

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Phil Foden's best Premier League goals and assists so far this season

Not just because it has been a privilege to be in attendance for so many of his magical moments - the hat-trick against Aston Villa and his two against Manchester United stand out - but because it is indicative of how Foden took responsibility in Haaland's absence.

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Much has rightly been made of him assuming Kevin De Bruyne's mantle as the chief creator in Pep Guardiola's team. When moved into a more central role, it allows him to showcase the full range of gifts that occasionally feels constrained when operating out wide.

But Foden has also provided the goals when Haaland has been missing. Despite spending most of the season on the same pitch as the striker, seven of his 16 goals have come when the Norwegian has not been there. When Foden was needed, he scored instead.

He continues to be whatever Guardiola needs him to be. "He always has an incredible work ethic. It does not matter the position, he does not complain." From the left wing to the right, from the false-nine role to one of those 'twin eights' that he favours, he is there.

Phil Foden's minutes by position in the Premier League for Man City this season
Image: Foden's minutes by position in the Premier League for Man City this season

Foden has always had to be flexible at City but the big difference this season is that Guardiola has seldom included the bench among those options. The England international has already played more Premier League minutes this season than ever before.

His coach still preaches the need for calm, recently referring to Foden's tendency to play in "sixth gear", but the player is surely right when he says himself that he is now finding the balance between circulating possession and trying to make things happen.

He had always entertained with his dribbling. Now, at 24 years of age, he has shown that he can dictate. He had always decorated games. Now, with his increased output in front of goal, he has shown that he can decide them. Guardiola has recognised this change.

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After Foden's decisive contribution to winning the Manchester derby in March, the City coach was asked whether he could become one of the best in the world. "He is right now, this season, he has been the best so far," replied Guardiola. "He is winning games."

Foden's goals have directly added 10 points to City's total this season, the same number as Haaland. Unlike the great striker, many of his have been spectacular too. Five of them have been from outside the penalty box - that is two more than any other player.

Phil Foden's goal map for the 2023/24 Premier League season
Image: Foden's goals in the Premier League season include five from outside the box

He still seems to be improving. This season featured the first goal from a free-kick of his career and he has spoken openly about the work that he has been doing to arrive late into the penalty box, putting himself in position to score more often than before.

Foden's journey is far from over. His journey may not even have reached its peak. But the standards that he has set this season, standing out even among world-class colleagues, makes him a worthy winner of this award. Consistent excellence.

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