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Opinion: Why England Midfielder Kalvin Phillips Will Fit Perfectly Into Manchester City's Squad

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It has been reported over the last week that Kalvin Phillips will join Manchester City from Leeds, after the two clubs came to an agreement on a  fee for the England international. The England man was expected to stay in Yorkshire after Leeds avoided the drop, however the pull of Manchester City has proved to be too much for him to resist. 

Phillips has spent his whole career in West Yorkshire, with the club he has supported his whole life. Phillips made his debut for the club in 2015, but really exploded as a player upon Marcelo Bielsa's appointment in 2018. 

Kalvin Phillips says goodbye to the Leeds Fans

His time spent playing under the Argentinian manager is the first reason, among many, as to why Phillips will prove to be a great signing. City manager Pep Guardiola credits Bielsa as his mentor and the Argentine coach is very similar to his apprentice in several ways: 

The Bielsa Factor

Firstly, Bielsa employs an incredibly rigorous training regime and demands players to be in the best physical condition they possibly can be in terms of their weight and conditioning- all things he will find present at City (minus the infamous Bielsa 'murderball'). Secondly, the possession orientated style of play Bielsa drilled into the Leeds team will only be of help within his new surroundings, with nobody loving a possession based game more than Guardiola. 

Phillips' experience of playing in a team who played with such an aggressive press will stand him in good stead, too. While Pep's style of press isn't as gung-ho as his mentors man-for-man approach, City do still like to employ a fairly aggressive counter press, something which the 26-year-old will be more than comfortable with.  

Essentially, Phillips will find it easier to adapt to his new surroundings thanks to his experience in a team that were rigorously drilled into playing a certain type of football, especially one that shares similarities with Pep's City. 

Pep's system

The second factor that will make Phillips a great signing is Pep Guardiola's system. The Spaniard has a preference of playing one holding midfielder within his midfield three, a system which Phillips is not only used to, but thrived under. 

While at Leeds Phillips was incredibly competent playing as the sole holding midfielder and would often dictate the tempo of a game. The England man can pick the ball up deep and spray inch perfect cross-field passes to the wings to start dangerous counters, but can just as easily slow play down and retain possession of the ball in his own third, allowing his teammates to regain their shape. 

The 26-year-old also has the experience to perform competently in a double pivot, should Guardiola opt to use two holding midfielders next season. While playing here does stifle the Yorkshireman's abilities somewhat, he has shown he can perform to a good standard in this system- he was deployed there alongside Declan Rice in England's run to the Euros final, performing well enough to keep his place in the team for almost the entirety of the tournament. 

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The 26-year-old is clearly not coming in to displace Rodri, and will likely be used as rotation. However, at this stage of Phillips' career this may actually be a positive for both club and player. 

The England man has started to pick up more knocks and missed a great deal of the last Premier League season through injury- playing as a rotation option may be what Phillips needs if he is to play at the elite level, with it seeming unlikely he could start in the majority of matches in a 38 game season. 

While he will be below Rodri in the pecking order, Pep's insistence on rotating his squad means he will still receive ample game-time, whilst also staying fit for a full season.  

The Fee

As a rule of thumb, you've probably got a good deal for a very talented player if: A) fans of the selling club are distraught the player is leaving them, and B) their fans are even more distraught about the fee, or lack of, that they are receiving for said player. 

Both of these rules have been satisfied with City's move for Phillips. Its hard to disagree with the general consensus amongst Leeds fans that City have actually paid a low fee for the midfielder, which is testament to the clubs negotiating skills. 

Signing a starter in a very talented England squad for under £50million is, in todays market, good business. You only have to look at how much the cityzens paid for Jack Grealish last season to see that the 'English tax' often plays a role in transfers. 

Phillips' signing is also similar to Grealish's in the sense that both players also held a great deal of sentimental value to their respective clubs. Both players are hometown boys, who's fanbases adored them, which clearly played a role in Grealish's transfer fee. However, City have seemed to avoid this bumping the price up for Phillips, which shows an improvement in their negotiating from last season. 

All in all, if City can keep Phillips fit (which is likely given Pep's rotation), he's a steal for the reported price. Paying just £42million for a fully fledged England international who was one of the best defensive midfielders in the league in the 2020/21 season, and would've been last season if not for injuries, is a fantastic deal in an incredibly inflated market for English players. 

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