Man City poster boy has sent clear message to Arsenal they can't ignore after Premier League title

Phil Foden celebrates scoring for Manchester City vs West Ham United
Phil Foden celebrates scoring for Manchester City vs West Ham United -Credit:Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images


It doesn't matter whether you want to talk about Phil Foden when he gets a yard on the edge of the box or Manchester City across four Premier League seasons but the answer is the same. From the smallest details to the biggest pictures, Pep Guardiola's side are celebrating an unrivalled achievement in English football as the first team to win four consecutive titles because they take nothing for granted in their quest for greatness.

The manager was determined to drill into his players that however good they are they could be on the wrong end of an upset today, especially given it nearly went so wrong at Spurs in the week. Even when Foden scored twice inside the opening 20 minutes to dispel any nerves against West Ham on the final day, Guardiola pulled captain Kyle Walker aside while the rest of the team celebrated to pass over messages that he felt the team needed to hear.

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That is the mentality that has lifted City to unprecedented heights in the game and will see them remembered as one of the all-time great sides. The complacency never came and after 35 minutes West Ham had already faced more shots on target (nine) than they have in the 20 years that Opta have been recording that data; two minutes later, second choice goalkeeper Stefan Ortega saved well from Mohammed Kudus to protect the lead and moments later the stadium was again on the feet as news came through of an Everton goal at Arsenal.

All those hoping to either have a nerveless afternoon or write about boring inevitabilities were thwarted by Kudus though, who scored a terrific overhead kick to get West Ham back into the game just before half-time. From nowhere, the jitters had appeared.

It made for a tense 15 minutes in the second half, with the home crowd quietened by the prospect of another West Ham goal and Guardiola almost approaching the West Ham box in his attempts to get a message through to his players. Then, on the hour mark, Rodri - hero of Istanbul and the best player in the league for the second year running - threaded his shot through a crowd of players to restore the two-goal advantage and spark the Poznans.

That is the thing about this team, why so many people see them as robots who are predestined to win every tournament they enter. They may not be immune to those anxious feelings that swept over the stadium at half-time - they certainly suffered at the North London Stadium - but nearly every single time they are capable of overcoming them to give Typical City a new meaning.

City fans had unfurled a banner about fighting to the end before the match and the club are still keen to cling to their recent past when they were not as good. Twenty-five years on from the play-off comeback against Gillingham that paved the way for everything else that has followed, Paul Dickov was invited to present the Premier League trophy to players.

As much as those links through the club and fanbase continue to be fostered though, the teams are universes apart. Even the City teams in their history that were actually good enough to win titles and European Cups would struggle to match the level that Guardiola's side have taken everyone to.

It was fitting then that the poster boy for this historic City side was a local lad forged in the academy who wasn't even born when the team went down to the third division. Not turning 24 until later this month, Foden carries none of the baggage that older Blues do while possessing the football ability of a Ballon d'Or winner.

With just a minute on the clock, Foden asked for the ball on the edge of the box and when Bernardo Silva rolled it square to him his first touch opened his body up and took it past the defender and his second rifled it inside the side netting to send City on their way.

His second goal - a 19th league goal of the campaign - involved four players born in this millennium; Josko Gvardiol showed bafflingly good control for a defender to get himself out of trouble and take the ball up the pitch, League Two's finest Erling Haaland played his part in the build-up and then Jeremy Doku pushed the ball into the box for Foden to turn home.

Rodri remains the heartbeat of the team but City have their future with Foden leading the team. And, after an FA Cup final and a summer that will involve the European Championship for most of the squad, that is where City will be looking.

However tied the club remains to the past, the team will be looking to turn an historic four Premier League titles into an historic five. The squad share the Guardiola mentality of constantly aiming to improve, and nearly all of them - including the manager - will be back at the Etihad in August to try and break new ground.

It will not be easy or inevitable, despite what some bores think or write. Arsenal have been even better this season and there is enough money being sloshed about by several other teams that the Premier League should get even harder to win next year.

But something will have to go seriously wrong for City not to be up there challenging again next season for more trophies, and if they are Foden will be front and centre, the boy from Stockport making City a household name around the world.