The midfield has always come up as a problem for the England national team. Sometimes, there are too many options in that part of the pitch but at other times, they don’t have the perfect options to play the right sort of roles. The issue of the defensive midfield position might be addressed by Declan Rice’s rise, but Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips could soon be the perfect fit for Gareth Southgate’s system.
It is well-known that Southgate’s system relies on building out from the back and dominating possession. Players like Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker are crucial to getting that system to work. While Rice has improved over time, he has taken criticism for not being excellent in possession. Harry Winks has been an ever-present but he isn’t exactly a ball-winner in defensive midfield. Both present their own dilemmas to the defensive midfield position.
England have used a variety of shapes- the 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or the 3-4-1-2, but the system has remained the same. They like to build from the back. One thing that Phillips has now become a specialist in is playing in a possession-based system under Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa.
Leeds have now earned promotion back to the top-flight after 16 long years and Unikrn are offering some great odds on the Whites’ upcoming Premier League campaign. Phillips played a key role in the 2019/20 Championship season and was crucial to helping Bielsa’s 3-1-3-3 system work out at Elland Road.
The Englishman comes across as a complete package, as he has often played as an auxiliary centre-back in the system as well. He has often played further forward or in the base of the midfield. These complete abilities make him an exceptional talent.
In the 2019/20 season, the man from Yorkshire did a lot of things right in a statistical manner. In 37 appearances, he directly contributed to four goals. He won 2.6 tackles per game and made 1.4 interceptions per game as well. Not just that, he was adept in his passing, playing 1.8 key passes per game for the Whites. His passing percentage stood of 81.8 percent and he also played about five long balls per game (via Whoscored).
His contribution to chances percentage stood at an immense 12 percent, which shows how capable he is creating chances from deeper positions. He made 7.77 recoveries per 90 minutes, which is a reflection of how he’s a reliable ball-winner and the fact that he created 1.88 chances per 90 minutes proves how he’s a complete package (via Soccerment).
A lot of credit does go to Bielsa and his exceptional coaching of the player. Even Rice has done well to improve this season at West Ham and has caught the attention of Chelsea already, Phillips comes across as a much more well-moulded player than the West Ham man. Phillips has shown that he is well capable of playing in a very complex, possession-based system and the knowledge of that can really set the tone for England when they build from the back in midfield.
Phillips is adept at attack construction from deeper midfield and England need a player of his quality to provide a cover for the defenders and a foundation for a very promising forward line.