Phil Foden’s hat-trick encapsulates why a healthy Manchester City remain a force to be reckoned with

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LONDON — Could Thomas Frank have done more? His Brentford The side had a game plan that gave them chances, they executed it as well as anyone could reasonably expect and were still brushed aside by a Phil Foden inspired man Manchester Citywhich has that horrible air of inauthenticity which is likely to announce the coming of spring.

For half time, Brentford looked set to make it three wins from three against the English, European and world champions as Niall Maupay he implemented a single goal path for simplicity and devastating elegance. Once again, Erling Haaland he couldn’t beat Brentford. even Kevin De Bruyne and Julian Alvarez could not find the net. City, two points from Liverpool at the top with a game in hand, you always have another to beat you, even if you label Foden as not enough for a player of his talents.

Given the small amount of vulnerability in City’s ranks, Brentford wanted to investigate. When possession was regained, at least one of Maupay or Ivan Toney would rush into the flank, intending to attack the empty space by visiting the full-backs, who -Actually playing as a backup this season. If the second ball could be won – Toney usually gives as good as he got against Ruben Dias – then the wings would be forward, supported by at least one of Matthias Jensen and Christian Norgaard.

Frank had plans within plans. There was no need to go down their sides all the time. A Mark Flecken A goal kick had dragged everyone in the blue sky into Toney’s orbit. No one noticed that all he was doing was setting up a screen to send Maupay behind unawares, rolling the ball past Ederson to put West London in, and half- north London and Liverpool red to crisis. If this movement had been tried only once, there might have been a case for coincidence; Brentford tried it often enough to suggest the influence of coaching over event.

After all, so much of what Brentford offered on Monday night looked like a strong testament to Frank’s managerial qualities. Neal Maupay, punchline in a Everton shirt, beating Premier League defenses again. A player who averaged around 0.4 npxG + xA (unexpected penalty goals and expected assists) over the last two seasons is now at 0.68 when he returns to red and white. A few weeks into his Brentford career, Sergio Reguilon looked like the left-back Tottenham had been searching for for four years.

Even then, if Brentford were to hold on to their lead, they would need Mark Flekken – a goalkeeper who has had a poor season by most analytical measures – to play out of his skin He did. Obviously, City had decided he was vulnerable from area, but De Bruyne and Julian Alvarez were blocked by a man. When an errant back pass slipped Haaland through, Flekken stayed big and denied.

Brentford were almost faultless for 45 minutes and change. This was as close to flawless as could be expected, even from a team that beat the champions home and away last season. Then Ethan Pinnockthe cleaning head went up rather than away and Foden jumped.

It wasn’t that long ago that Foden seemed a little too close to the fringes of the City team. Undoubtedly, he was a valuable cog in last season’s winning team, but a place in the starting XI was far from assured. Now, he looks more valuable, with almost more Premier League minutes under his belt in February than in the whole of 2022-23.

Even with Pep Guardiola’s side close to full praise, it’s hard to see him not being the man to complement Haaland and De Bruyne. On this night, he even managed to send them off, somewhat well when the latter delivered a typically devastating cross to find Foden unmarked in the 53rd minute.

Brentford’s rally felt admirable, but futile even as Christian Norgaard drew blocks from Ruben Dias. The feeling had brought City and their hat-trick hero forward, which made Haaland claim a Roderick past before running on to slot home. Monday was Foden’s hat trick. It could be Haaland, Alvarez or De Bruyne on Saturday. Take your pick. And good luck to those trying to stop the City’s plan.

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