Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips is reportedly set to start for England for the first time, against Denmark this evening in the UEFA Nations League.
This is the end of a two-year journey for Phillips, a journey that began the day Marcelo Bielsa took over at Leeds.
The 2017/18 Championship season saw Phillips collect his best ever goal tally of seven.
From then on his attacking output would drop but he would start his transformation into one of the UK’s elite players.
Since Bielsa’s arrival in the summer of 2018, Phillips has developed into a world-class defensive midfielder. A more well-rounded and intelligent player who has developed so quickly, he will play international football before he plays in the Premier League.
It is clear to anyone who has watched Leeds in the last two years that Bielsa has improved the whole team immeasurably, but it is the development of Phillips specifically that the Argentine coach should be credited with.
In the two seasons since Bielsa came in, Leeds’ PPG with Kalvin Phillips in the team has gone from 1.34 PPG, to 1.90 PPG in 2018/19, then to 1.95 PPG last season [Transfermarkt]. He is integral to Leeds United’s success.
Phillips’ key individual stats have all improved as well. His pass completion percentage has gone from 73% to 82%, his percentage of successful tackles has risen from 61% to 65%, and his amount of fouls made per season has dropped from 74 to 57 [Infogol].
Phillip’s is already a Premier League quality player, and he deserves to be in the England side. Centre midfield is a bit of a problem position for England at the moment.
Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Declan Rice… you can certainly make the case that Phillips should walk into a team ahead of England’s current crop of midfielders, despite having no top-flight experience.
It’s about time he got his chance. Marco Bielsa has turned Kalvin Phillips from a championship mediocre midfielder into a world-class international and he’s made Gareth Southgate go back on his pledge to not start anyone without Premier League experience.
That’s got plenty of Aston Villa fans salty, who think Jack Grealish is being overlooked.
Perhaps when they see Phillips play tonight they’ll change their minds.