After years of disappointment in the world stage, the Three Lions restored their reputation to some extent during the World Cup 2018 where they made it to the semi-finals defying all odds. Gareth Southgate, a charismatic and flamboyant modern-day manager, opted to pick talents over fame while forming the squad and the recent senior England call-up of Mason Mount must inspire the prodigies from Championship who are working their socks off to earn the attention.
Mount, the 19-year-old Chelsea loanee is enjoying a blistering run with Derby County in the second tier. His rise, meanwhile, must exhilarate Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips who is also eyeing his England debut banking on his performance under Marcelo Bielsa. The 22-year-old homegrown starlet is featuring in the most notable role in El Loco’s set-up where he is occupying the ‘hole’ in between ‘back four’ and the midfield.
Phillips is not being deployed as a mere defensive blocker but a deep-lying playmaker who is comfortable on the ball and can play out from the back. It’s not at all easy to dictate the entire flow of the team at such a young age, and yet the Englishman has mostly been successful in his duty despite a few underwhelming outings.
Southgate usually prefers a 3-1-4-2 setup which resembles Bielsa’s midfield formation (4-1-4-1). Although Jordan Henderson had a decent run in Russia while operating from a deeper role, the Liverpool skipper lacked the creativity required to orchestrate moves from behind. Eric Dier never looked confident enough in a similar slot, and the gaffer might explore options who have the expertise to add balance between defence as well as attack from the hole.
It’s a high-risk manoeuvre to hold the shape all alone, especially when there is a likelihood of being exposed against counter-pressing. Phillips is still pretty young and not yet ready for the big stage. However, the guidance of the iconic Argentine should ready him as an outright deep-lying playmaker in the coming days.
The Whites, one of the prime promotion contenders, have dropped to third in the Championship standings following a series of substandard results. But they are still pretty much on track for promotion and the long-pending Premier League return depends on how Bielsa’s men revive themselves when football resumes in the aftermath of the ongoing international break.
Phillips was subbed off early on a few occasions after a weak start. Therefore, he should work on finding consistency besides developing other skills. The prized asset of the Leeds United academy has a bright future at Elland Road but needs to keep up the good work to enhance the odds of his England dreams.
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