Jose Mourinho has explained why Kalvin Phillips could find himself the unfortunate victim of Gareth Southgate’s need to get more creativity out of his England side as the tournament progresses.
Leeds favourite Phillips was England’s standout star in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Croatia. As such, a new English media darling was born. The attention on Phillips ever since has never been higher. He’s also been the subject of some quite ridiculous transfer speculation as a result.
However, Phillips – alongside the rest of his England teammates – were not at their best as Scotland earned a deserved 0-0 draw on Friday night.
The condemnation of England’s display centred largely around Harry Kane’s inability to hit top form. But there’s also a growing belief that England need to get more creativity into their side. To that end, a double pivot of Declan Rice and Phillips wasn’t too effective against Steve Clarke’s side.
For many, the obvious answer is Jack Grealish. The Villa man is something of a difference maker – and Mourinho reckons Phillips could be the man to make way.
“What was so good against Croatia – the double pivot, if you want to call it that – was Rice and Phillips,” Mourinho told talkSPORT.
“Tonight, I would say that if England needed to win this match I think Phillips would be out in minute 60, 65 and then England would go with a little bit more creativity.
“But again, I think it was the pragmatism of the result, let’s say the fear of losing it, that kept them on the pitch, that kept the clean sheet.”
Mourinho, though, insists the point should not be viewed as too disappointing a result for England.
He added: “In the end, if they don’t read the press and they focus on ‘We have four points, we have qualified. We are going to beat Czech Republic’. That way, it probably wasn’t as bad as our feelings are.”
Southgate explains Kane substitution
Speaking to ITV Sport in his post-match interview, Southgate faced a probing on why he took Kane off.
“I just felt that we needed a few more runs in behind. We felt Marcus would give us that energy and we’ve got to try and get the win at that point,” he said.
“But we have to make these decisions based on what we see.”
Asked to name what Kane was missing from his game after scooping the Premier League’s top scorer and top assister awards last season, Southgate insisted that there is more to it than the striker’s own form.
“Well, we can look at ourselves, it starts with me,” he added.
“We know we didn’t do enough to win tonight, not enough attempts on goal. So that’s something we’re going to look at over the next couple of days.”