In March 2019, Manchester City’s Phil Foden revealed he had three inspirations.
The first? Xavi. The second was Andres Iniesta, and the final one was Jack Wilshere.
The opening two names in question have gone on to achieve great things in their career but Wilshere’s playing days have been full of unfilled promise, underachievement and misfortune.
Foden revealed: “My style of play comes from myself. It’s good that people say I’m not a typical English footballer. I don’t copy anyone but I like to learn.”
The midfielder continued: “I liked Jack Wilshere as well. Every day I was out in the garden, morning until night.”
But why does he admire the former Arsenal prodigy so much? Well, it’s obvious. The parallels between their games are remarkably similar and as Foden previously remarked, he is not the archetypal English footballer.
When we talk about the England national team over the last few decades, it’s not been particularly full of the most technically blessed players on the planet. Thus, a very specific style of play has been utilised – one that doesn’t revolve around the technical tiki-taka nature that Spain inherited.
When the Spanish national side brought that into their game, a certain Wilshere was beginning to burst onto the scene. He made his Arsenal debut at the age of 16 and rapidly began to dominate matches.
It’s hard to look past his display against Barcelona in the Champions League. Aged just 19, he bossed proceedings as the Gunners beat their opponents at the Emirates.
Wilshere would regularly take the ball in his stride and beat players for fun with his close touch control. He became someone who was seen as the saviour of English football, a man praised by Xavi for his qualities.
He commented in 2015: “If he had a career that had been injury-free we would already be talking about him as one of the top central midfield players in Europe.”
As the Spaniard cites, injuries have wreaked havoc with the midfielder’s career and after leaving the Gunners, he found football tough to come by at West Ham. He is now a free agent and remains one of the finest examples of ‘what could have been’.
Though, it was that 2-1 win against Barca where we can draw the most comparisons to Foden.
The Man City midfielder turned 20 this year but at a similar age to Wilshere, hasn’t had nearly as much exposure. That could be a good thing, especially when you consider the hype the former Arsenal starlet received.
Both players have brought a technical flavour we rarely see from an English player to the Premier League and the way they both slalom through challenges is uncanny.
The duo have an eye for a pass, are fearless in physical situations and have remarkable confidence. Combine that with the fact their both left-footed and the similarities really stand to attention.
Foden is a wizard with the ball at his feet. He can get out of tight situations with a quick change of pace that resembles Wilshere’s iconic drop of the shoulder.
Both are creative hubs but the Man City youngster has one quality Wilshere lacked – the ability to find the back of the net.
Granted, the latter plays slightly further forward, but the way Foden drops deep to receive possession before beating a player is eerily similar to the man he claims to be inspired by.
However, let’s compare the richer stats.
As for completed passes per game, the £54m-rated Man City midfielder has a success rate of 88%. Wilshere? Well, it’s pretty close. He has a career average of 84.5%.
Both offer a safe escape route in terms of their passing, but so far Wilshere has proven himself to be more creative. He’s managed 1.3 key passes per game over his career, whereas Foden’s tally is just 0.7.
It’s important to note, however, that Wilshere started a lot more games than Pep Guardiola’s bubbly prodigy.
Foden has played 82 matches for the Citizens but has appeared off the bench on 44 of those outings. His game time hasn’t been anywhere near the level of Wilshere’s at the same age so it’s exciting to see what kind of ceiling the Englishman reaches.
We’ll leave the final words to Guardiola. When commenting on Wilshere in 2011, he stated: “We (Barcelona) have many players like him in the second team.”
However, when asked whether Barca’s reserves had players like Foden last year, his response was emphatic: “No. This guy is special.”
So there we have it – a telling claim about a player who providing he stays fit can be everything Wilshere was supposed to be for both club and country.
He is the real deal.
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