Phil Foden allies grit with his growth as he shows how far he's come in helping Man City to brink of the Premier League title

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A rare thing before the break, when Fulham were still alive to chances for turnovers in midfield: Phil Foden gave the ball away.

It bore some resemblance to when he did that in a game against Crystal Palace in the weeks running up to Christmas. Possession that he ought to have kept hold of ended up just a little stray and invited the opposition to counter-attack.

That day, when Palace chased an equaliser in the final moments, Foden attempted to correct the mistake all by himself, scampering back and eventually giving away a penalty. Palace scored, City dropped more points and fell further behind in the title race.

There was a similar situation at Craven Cottage, although the circumstances have changed dramatically. Not behind anymore, City. Leading out in front, with Arsenal doing all the chasing now. And there has been a serious level of personal development to Foden since that moment, too.

Fulham were only a goal down. A threatening position down the right. Foden wore the same look of dread as against Palace. He scampered in much the same way. Yet here, six months on from Pep Guardiola's admonishment and some critics suggesting that he, perhaps, didn't have the game intelligence to play centrally on a consistent basis, Foden made sure Fulham were going no further forward.

Phil Foden gave the ball away against Fulham but showed how far he has come this season alone

Phil Foden gave the ball away against Fulham but showed how far he has come this season alone

Phil Foden gave the ball away against Fulham but showed how far he has come this season alone

The midfielder was on target again as his side moved to within two games of the league title

The midfielder was on target again as his side moved to within two games of the league title

He took the man, and the ball, as he hooked a tackle into the Riverside Stand. It served as a reminder that while his attitude to specific situations may not have changed, the execution of his thoughts definitely has.

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That was the standout for Foden down on the Thames because his goal, a precise swing of the right foot to take City two goals clear, is something to be expected these days. Twenty-five for the season in all competitions, all of them non-penalties, in 49 matches is an eye-catching return for somebody who will be shouldering a heavy amount of creative burden at the European Championship.

But it is expected. We know how good he is in those areas. That is a natural progression, a significant jump up from the 15 or so he generally nets. More responsibility, more minutes and being closer to the pressure points have seen him produce better numbers. He usually keeps possession beautifully — 90 per cent completed here — and is dangerous around the box. We know all that.

The real crux around Foden and where he plays has always been that decision-making, when to slow the game down, and his defensive work. Guardiola has Foden and Bernardo Silva looking like wingers but actually squeezing in tight; the manager knows they can take on those tactical demands.

Foden has proven that — especially since Palace.

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