Pep Guardiola has held him back from a role that requires more defensive responsibility, preferring to allow him more free rein out on the wings where he can hurt defences without looking over his shoulder. Now, Foden has knuckled down and is being trusted more at number 10 for City.
It&aposs been a long time coming for fans who have wanted to see Foden in the &aposDavid Silva&apos role for years. It feels like his long-term progression, but the timing has to be right. Naturally after some impressive performances behind Erling Haaland at the end of last season and the start of this one, the calls have been growing for Foden to be deployed at number 10 for England.
But while a midfield trio of Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and Foden feels like it should work perfectly, Southgate is not convinced. His latest explanation seemed to place the onus back on Foden, apparently questioning his desire to play at number 10. That is something that Southgate has got completely wrong.
Ahead of England&aposs friendly with Scotland on Tuesday, Southgate said: “He doesnt play there for his club, so presumably there is a reason for that. It depends on the level of the game, really.
“In the middle of the park, everyone wants to talk about when you are with the ball but there is a lot of detail without the ball and games where you have to be spot on with pressing angles. If you dont, you dont get the flow of the game.
“Youd have to speak to Pep, who is the best coach in the world, who plays him wide. Hes always got the freedom to drift if we play him wide and thats important.
He plays wide right and he drifted, with Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez as No.9 and No.10. He drifted in off the touchline with [Kyle] Walker going round him in possession. He definitely picked the ball up in those areas a lot but his start position was wide on the right.
Southgate went on to praise Foden&aposs impact for England out wide, stressing that his competition was Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford on the wings, rather than Bellingham or even Jordan Henderson in the centre.
One thing Southgate got right was his comments on the City system in which Foden has played so well in against Newcastle and Fulham in particular. His start position was on the right wing, before coming inside alongside Alvarez in a &aposdual number 10&apos formation. Walker bombed up and down the right, and Foden&aposs effectiveness was helped by Alvarez&aposs industry and Walker&aposs covering.
England may not replicate that exact system, but they could pick the positives in Foden&aposs performance, and even look for Harry Kane to offer more support than Erling Haaland does. To discount Foden as a 10 because of that seems self-inflicting. If Guardiola has found a way to get the best of Foden in central positions while protecting the rest of the midfield, surely Southgate can.
And to suggest the &aposreason&apos Foden doesn&apost play at number 10 is his desire to play there is misplaced. Foden has spoken regularly about his long-term aim to play there, and only this month said: “That&aposs my favourite [position], that&aposs where I feel comfortable. I felt alive in that game [vs Newcastle], I felt myself more and I could get on the ball and do things.
“That&aposs always been me as a player and hopefully I can keep playing there and show people what I can do. It [the position] is one I can handle. There&aposs a lot of responsibility, it&aposs not just about going forward. You have to know what you&aposre doing defensively and know who is around you.
“But, it&aposs one that I can definitely do and I&aposm looking forward, if I can play there more often, what I can do in there.”
So Foden is not only convincing Guardiola but apparently Southgate, too, that he can play behind the striker. If Southgate thinks Foden can&apost play number 10 on the big stage, was he not watching the Champions League final when he replaced Kevin De Bruyne and dominated the midfield?
It&aposs also worth remembering that Foden&aposs games at number 10 have not been as frequent because of players like De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva, naturals in that position. England have no such rival, which results in Henderson or Kalvin Phillips playing in midfield instead. There is nobody who can do what Foden does in that squad, so if the system needs altering to accommodate him, then it should be done.
Then there is the idea that Southgate will never play a player in a different position to where he plays for his club. Kieran Trippier has 10 caps at left-back, but has only played there once in 486 career appearances – a Carabao Cup third round tie at Barnsley for Tottenham in 2017. Trent Alexander-Arnold played in a handful of games in midfield for Liverpool at the end of last season and Southgate had no problem playing him in a qualifier in the centre.
So why is the treatment different for Foden?