England has been a powerhouse of talent over the last couple of seasons with players having huge potential lurking around every corner. The Premier League has been home to most of these players and provided them with the platform to showcase their talent.
One such player has been the Yorkshire born holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips. Phillips has spent his entire career at Leeds United and was one of the best players in the EFL Championship and played a huge role in Leeds’ promotion campaign back to the top flight after 16 years.
Since their arrival in the Premier League, he has established himself as one of the best holding midfielders in the country and helped Leeds finish on 9th position last season in the league. In the process, the 25-year-old got a national team call-up as well for the Euro 2020 squad and was extremely impressive on their way to the final alongside fellow midfield partner Declan Rice.
Leeds have struggled a bit this season, registering their first win in the league just last weekend against Watford currently sitting in 16th position. Phillips has done his job with perfection yet again in the six matches he has featured in and his future at the club depends on Leeds’ performance with interests from all around.
We look at his stats report down below.
Phillips plays as the single pivot in Marcelo Bielsa’s 4-1-4-1 system which asks a lot of mobility and stability in his game as he is the only defensive cover left behind for the back four while other players constantly push forward. As you can see in the above viz, he has covered almost the whole of the pitch, from his own box to the opposition box. But the majority of his time has been spent in the defensive midfield providing support to the defence and trying to cut off opposition attacks while pushing forward near the centre in the opposition half – the red and orange zones show it. His mobility and strength helps to win the ball higher up the pitch for Leeds while he also progresses the ball forward for the team to create attacks. Phillips is the engine in the wagon a tot of Leeds midfield.
With a wide range of passing, Phillips is an extremely efficient passer of the ball. He has completed a total of 345 passes in the league with an accuracy of 85% while averaging 57 passes per 90 and 71 touches on the ball. Phillips has been one of the best distributors among the ranks while playing most of his passes in the midfield. His progressive passes have been more than lateral passes, which shows the attacking mentality of the holding mid.
Another attribute of his game is his ability to play accurate long over the top passes. He plays dangerous diagonal balls to find the wide midfielders and the full-backs pushing forward quite regularly, it is one of the biggest features of Leeds’ attack and the English midfielder being one of their finest playmakers. The 25-year-old has put dangerous crosses into the box as well with xT as high as 0.3700 at times.
As we said before, he plays the most long balls in the league ranking 97th percentile among other players while ranking 81st percentile in attempted forward passes per 90. However, he is not much of a threat in the box and his less than league median metric of progressive runs speaks for the same.
The biggest responsibility the player has when he comes out is to act as a screen in front of the defence. Since coming back from an injury, he has not been able to reach the level he was operating on last season and Leeds have already leaked 16 goals this season. But he is still a huge defensive bonus for Leeds winning the majority of his duels in his own half near midfield. He has won higher up the pitch too with a duel success rate of 45%. Phillips is not the strongest in the air but he makes up for it with his physicality on the ground.
The midfielder sure loves doing the dirty work but he is not a reckless tackler. He has won 57% of his tackles while most of his interceptions have been inside the box and in the midfield. Phillips has committed 10 fouls but never in positions which can hurt Leeds from set-pieces. An intelligent footballer, he knows the time and place where to commit a foul and how to get away with it, going into the referee’s book just once. His marking players off the ball is certainly one of the plus points of his game, makes him aware and alert of the dangers around him.
While Leeds has struggled this season, Phillips has certainly excelled in defensive actions during the match trying to minimize the threats as much as he can. He ranks 88th percentile in the league for successful defensive duels while ranking 89th percentile in ball recoveries per 90. Also efficiently winning balls in the other half he ranks 87th percentile in the league.
Kalvin Phillips is a strong defender off the ball while being a calm and reliable presence on the ball with great distribution skills and eye for playing threatening long balls. He is without a doubt one of the assets of the Leeds United team. Named the “Yorkshire Pirlo” , he certainly has the potential of being one of the best holding midfielders in the world and at just 25, he has got a stellar career in front of him.
While he has not been able to reach his last season’s level yet, there are no indications that he won’t in the remaining of the season.