A lot of names are thrown around when someone is asked about the Premier League’s ‘Signing of the Season’. Amidst that, many low-key signings hardly come up in the argument. While names like Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Rodri are likely to be given space in the argument this season, Philip Billing could escape attention – again.
It isn’t a surprise considering how discreetly the Danish international goes about his business. That has been the case ever since he first came onto the scene at Huddersfield in their Under-18s side. It was the same last season, when his attempts to keep the Terriers in the Premier League went in vain.
Bournemouth’s policy of recruiting lesser-known players has reaped them enough rewards in recent times. They either sign players who could not make the cut at big clubs or they go discreet and make smart signings.
Billing was one of these smart signings. The Cherries saw a chance of adding extra physicality and equal technical ability in midfield by shelling out just £15m. Signing him from a relegated side did play a role, but it was a typical Bournemouth signing.
They added another box-to-box midfielder for a low fee. For a side that plays a 4-4-2 on a consistent basis, two B2B players in that area always work very well. Alongside one of Lewis Cook or Jefferson Lerma, Billing has done a very solid job. Be it sitting deeper or playing slightly forward, he has been excelling in his role.
He has played in all 12 Premier League game this season, assisting only once. But that number doesn’t really justify what he is about. He has been the club’s second-best tackler this season, winning 2.3 tackles per game so far. He has also been the second-best interceptor, making 2.5 interceptions on average this season.
Playing in the midfield role, he has also completed the second-highest number of dribbles per game for Eddie Howe’s men – 1.2. That is a very good number for a midfielder. However, he is limited when it comes to creating. But Billing has been known to make up for it with his work-rate and completeness.
Despite being a midfielder, he has been completing the third-most number of passes – 45.6. He has been using long-balls often too, constantly using them for switching play from side to side and playing 2.1 of them per game. His physique has been allowing Billing to win 3.1 aerial duels per game- another impressive aspect.
Howe has already spoken highly of Billing and the impact he has had. He told the Daily Echo (via TribalFootball):
“He’s made a very good start, Phil. We’re very pleased with him. He’s come in and had a real impact on the group and on the team. He’s trained well and played well. I know we’re very early stages, but it’s been a promising opening for him.
“I think he did come here short of fitness, probably understandably as his pre-season was very mixed and difficult for him but he’s got up to speed very quickly. He’s done a lot of hard work in a short period of time.”
The numbers exceed what one can expect from a player who came for £15m. But that is normal for Billing. That is exactly the sort of player he is. Bournemouth had a need for someone like him and they made the right move in getting just the player they wanted.
He did a similar job for the Terries last season, doing just about everything that is needed from an all-action midfielder. As much as the credit has to go to Billing for how he has been playing, the Cherries deserve as much credit for the deal that they have pulled off.
When bigger clubs go for superstar options by spending buckets of money, Howe’s men went undercover. Roping in the most important Huddersfield player has done them loads of good. As the season wears on, more of this good is bound to be seen.