Kalvin Phillips has been earning rave reviews this season and we explain why the homegrown Leeds United star really should now be considered the outstanding player in the EFL and a Premier League favourite in the making.
In the second piece of our new series, TEAMtalk writers make their feelings clear on an issue in the game that is bugging them.
Last week, Spurs fan Rob McCarthy explained why Daniel Levy should bite the bullet and sack Portuguese firebrand Jose Mourinho…
Now, Leeds supporter Richard Somers explains why Phillips is, quite simply, the best player in the English game currently outside the Premier League.
Cast your mind back to pre Marcelo Bielsa days when the likes of Paul Heckinbottom was in charge. Most Leeds fans at the time would have said Ronaldo Vieira was the hottest prospect at Elland Road at that time.
And mention the name Kalvin Phillips and you would have got a mixed reaction from the Leeds faithful. So when Vieira was sold onto Sampdoria for a £7million fee, there was a lot of question marks asked from fans saying did we get rid of the wrong man?
I for one though was having none of it! I’ve always been a massive fan of Kalvin even before Bielsa took charge. For me it was about finding his right position which would allow the attributes which he excels in to come into fruition.
Two years on he’s now being tipped to be a future England international star and the Leeds fans sing loud and proud every week that he’s their “Yorkshire Pirlo”. High praise indeed for a lad whose Leeds career was in the balance not so long ago.
So here are the five reasons why Kalvin Phillips is the best midfielder outside of the Premier League.
1) THE BIELSA EFFECT
You could question, like anything in life, it’s all about the right timing. Being developed by one of the best tacticians in world football has definitely been a major factor for Kalvin’s rise to stardom. There’s very few sitting midfielders in today’s game who can play this role as eloquently and suave as he does.
It’s not just the pinged 50-yard passes, nor the (usually) perfectly-timed tackles; it’s his reading of the game, and the way he dominates opposition players. It’s little wonder calls to elevate him into the England squad have grown louder as the season has developed and also seen Bielsa wax lyrical about the midfielder’s qualities.
It’s almost strange now to think of Phillips in his previous guise of attacking midfielder; a role afforded to him under the club’s previous overseas managerial gamble in Thomas Christiansen.
2) MASTERING THE ROLE OF HIS POSITION
When the ball is getting knocked about from the defence and the keeper, that holding role is so important to making sure everything ticks. It’s about movement to get into the right spaces, distribution on the ball and having a cool head so you’re able to envisage the next play.
Phillips has this in his locker. His football brain helps him anticipate the play ahead of those around him.
He also has a natural habit of being the in the right place at the right time. He just sweeps everything up so expertly; a skill which is so hard to teach. Even the doubters and sceptics he had a few years ago would find it hard to argue just how good he is – but even then the facts back it up.
He’s also become something of a master-crosser from corner kicks; his wicked delivery might not have yielded the rewards in terms of goals but it’s not through a lack of imagination and effort from Phillips’ part.
Kalvin Phillips has created 33 chances from corner set-pieces this season, more than any other Championship player. He has also created 8 chances from free-kicks. Both his assists this season have been delivered from the left channel. #LUFC pic.twitter.com/2AApR9ZTph
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) March 26, 2020
3) TRANSFER VALUE ON THE RISE AND INTEREST FROM A NUMBER OF SIDES
In the past few months or so it’s been heavily rumoured Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho is one of several top flight managers monitoring the midfielder. This will come as no surprise to any fan who’s kept a close eye on Phillips’ performances, with the likes of Burnley, Wolves, Sheffield United and even Man Utd credited with an interest in the star.
The past 16 years since Leeds relegation from the Premier League have seen many of their top home grown stars slip away. In previous times you could understand and agree with Leeds fans pessimism when it came to keeping their big names.
Times have changed now though with the club on the cusp of a return to the Premier League. It was also very reassuring to hear Phillips as saying that he wanted to spend his whole career at the club and to see them doing well in the Premier League.
At 24, his peak is still to come and you can only envisage Phillips getting better and becoming more in demand than ever before.
A couple of facts for you:
👉 Kalvin Phillips is the best player in the Championship 🐐
👉 Kalvin Phillips should be in the England squad 🏴
— Second Tier Podcast (@TheSecondTier) February 24, 2020
4) A DOWN-TO-EARTH LAD WHO HAS LEEDS’ BEST INTERESTS AT HEART
It was very fitting to see Kalvin score the winning goal back in October in Leeds United’s centenary game against Birmingham City. Such a special occasion with the perfect script.
Always you will find he’s the last one off the pitch clapping the fans or signing autographs in the stands. You feel a real warmth and connection amongst the fans and player. His love for the club is clearly evident and offers something of a throwback to stars of yesteryear. You’d perhaps argue that kind of one-club loyalty hasn’t been seen in the game and by a footballer since Steven Gerrard.
Phillips is also a great marketing tool in the making, with a charismatic character whom could become a real symbol of Bielsa’s Leeds in the Premier League era .
But don’t just take our word for it…
A leader on the pitch and a role model off it…
— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) March 29, 2020
5) PHILLIPS IS A TRUE LEADER WHO HAS TAKEN LEEDS TO THE BRINK OF PROMOTION
The first name on the team sheet week after week. Whenever he’s out through injury or serving a suspension you can see how weaker a side Leeds look. Not only can he play his own natural role so well but when needed he’s more than an adequate replacement to slip into a back three – proving that not only is he tactically aware, but he’s also able to adapt to different positions.
After missing out on promotion last year when in the driving seat for so long it could have been so easy to see Leeds suffer a hangover season like so many do after suffering heartache. That’s when you need true leaders to stand up and motivate those around them.
They’ll be no one in that side more desperate than Phillips to make sure they right their wrongs of last season and get the club over the line this time round. What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger and you do feel this time round this Leeds side is made of sterner stuff.
Known as Mr Leeds by many. It really would be the fairytale ending to see Leeds fans and Kalvin get their wish of promotion after years of heartbreak and disappointment. The Premier League would be a better place there’s no doubt in my mind with Leeds United back in it.
Hopefully we won’t have much longer to find out…
By Richard Somers
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