A friend thought it amusing the other day to message me with the following. ‘They should have signed Calvin Harris. At least the music would improve a bit.’
A tongue-in-cheek response to the news that Manchester City appear to have secured the services of Kalvin Phillips from Leeds Utd, for a reported £42m. Add-ons could inflate the fee a little higher, in time.
26-yr-old Phillips has just endured an injury-plagued season with Leeds Utd, and barely appeared in half of Leeds’ Premier League outings last term. Prior to that he was massively influential in the national side making it all the way to the final of the delayed Euro 2020. A spoiling, tough-tackling midfielder, and with more creative talents than might first meet the eye.
So – he’s crossing the Pennines to join champions Manchester City, who have just lost another famously combative midfield kingpin in the departing Fernandinho, but retain of course the much-admired Rodri. Where does Kalvin fit into this Etihad scenario?
We know that the bigger clubs with multiple targets and aspirations need big squads. Not just numerically of course but crucially, in terms of quality. City therefore just improved the depth of THEIR squad considerably.
There may yet of course be some Etihad departures to temper this notion, but with Messrs. Haaland and Alvarez in the bag already, it’s not difficult to feel the optimism emanating from Ashton Old Road and environs.
One cautionary note, from my perspective at least. Understandably perhaps, Phillips for me didn’t recapture anywhere near his best form for his club post-injury, nor in his England appearances, towards the season’s end. Hopefully with time and outings under his belt that situation will change.
When City lose the ball – transition, and all that – they are invariably in opposition territory. If faced with a counter-attacking break, the likes of which Spurs have executed so brilliantly against them over recent seasons, they tend to merely retreat. Jockey. Play for time, an eventual Ederson save, or a miracle. Sancho’s goal at City last term for Man United is an excellent example.
The presence of Phillips, when selected, will bring some deterrent, some steel, in the earlier moments of those transitions. Help prevent the problem at source. City have ball-players galore – but talented minders still very much have their part to play, which could be Phillips’ niche.
Against particularly the bigger dogs in domestic and European competition, he can provide a more pragmatic alternative. Someone to help cut off supply lines to the Salahs, Benzemas, Mbappes and Vini Jrs of this world.
England’s revenge win against Croatia at Wembley during that European Championship run saw Phillips create quite beautifully the solitary goal of the match for Raheem Sterling, so under Guardiola’s tutelage there’s every chance that this side of his game could flourish.
That’s got to be the blueprint – for player, team-mates, manager, and supporters alike. We know of his strengths – but to really make a mark I think more needs to be found. He’s in a great spot to achieve this.
City then are getting, for me, and at a very reasonable fee given the marketplace, a determined individual with a considerable ‘engine,’ ripe for further footballing development. Joining such a squad, and under such a manager, represents a golden opportunity for the player, period. A national side bonus, too, if he becomes a more rounded threat.
If the presence of this rather less glitzy but far more steely individual helps Pep Guardiola bring a certain large and much-coveted trophy to east Manchester, it will be hailed as a masterstroke. If not, at the price, the squad has received a boost and the use five-from-nine subs rule coming shortly will see City in an even more advantageous light.
Welcome to Manchester, Kalvin.
Premier League odds, ’22/23
UEFA Champions League betting ’22/23