Martin Keown doubts whether Kalvin Phillips can adapt to new England midfield role
Martin Keown has questioned whether Leeds United star Kalvin Phillips possesses the capabilities to start in midfield for England.
Phillips, 25, started all three World Cup qualifiers for the Three Lions in March as Gareth Southgate ran the rule over his squad ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
Speaking on talkSPORT [12:30, 09/04/21] renowned broadcaster Jim White hailed the abilities of Phillips. He said: “He’s a real jewel in the crown for Leeds United, he’s only 25 and I look at Phillips and think ‘this guy has such ability’.
“He can play anywhere and honestly Leeds United having him, they should feel extremely fortunate to have this boy.
“Because not only is he a leader he’s an organiser and plays with such flair and ability on a regular basis, he never has a bad game.”
Former Arsenal defender Keown agreed with White and labelled his progress as “stunning”, though he raised an issue over his England spot.
“My only concern is when England elect to play with one deep rather than two sitters, how does he then operate in that midfield,” he said.
“I can see the last game v Poland where [Mason] Mount was playing either side, they were both playing either side and I think he needs to be the deep-lying player, that’s his role predominantly for Leeds.
“Yes he is adaptable, he’s mobile and quick and has a pass in the locker, but when he goes into a three and plays either side of the deep-lying player I don’t think he is at his best.”
Rise to any challenge
Leeds fans know how great he is but now it seems everyone else is starting to piece the puzzle together and figure it out as well.
Keown’s not sure he can adapt to a different role but we’ve got a bit more faith.
Besides, before Marcelo Bielsa joined he was more of an all-action midfielder, it’s just under El Loco’s stewardship he has been assigned a specific role in front of the defence.
He even took a role in the centre of defence in the earlier days but he certainly possesses the abilities to play higher up.
We don’t really share Keown’s concern – he can dovetail with anchorman Declan Rice who likes to bomb on forward anyway.
Even in a two-man midfield he can show his true quality and we think he’s put himself firmly in contention for an England starting spot with his recent performances for club and country.
In other Leeds United news, Phil Hay delivers verdict on Bamford contract and Whites striker search.