Kalvin Phillips has been a star for Leeds

Delay to Euro 2020 beneficial to Kalvin Phillips and the England team

While nobody is happy about the situation at present with COVID-19 and the effect it is having on football, the delaying of the Euros to 2021 could well be beneficial to the England national team.

There is the fitness of a couple of key players in Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford. Kane has been persistently hampered by a hamstring issue, while Rashford has been put out of action with a back injury.

The delaying of Euro 2020 should hopefully give two of England’s star men more time to recover from their respective injuries, and not be rushed back to prepare for the tournament.

Another player the year long delay is likely to benefit is Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

Should the Whites be promoted, then Phillips would get a season to prove himself in the Premier League - something England manager Gareth Southgate has stressed the importance of previously in regards to Jack Grealish.

And while getting a chance to strut his stuff in the Premier League will obviously be beneficial to Phillips’ chances of making the squad, it could also help England fill a problem position.

Since shifting to a 4-3-3, Southgate has struggled to adequately fill the holding midfield spot.

Jordan Henderson in action for England

Jordan Henderson would have been an obvious choice, but it has become clear that the Liverpool captain is far more effective as a box-to-box midfielder.

Declan Rice has featured and while he is a sound defensive operator, his skills on the ball and ability to dictate play have been found lacking when appearing for England.

The other option has been Harry Winks. The Tottenham midfielder is a far better option on the ball, holding onto it well in tight spots and easing play along with his passing. But he lacks the imposing defensive presence that Southgate is likely to be looking for.

And this is where Phillips may be beneficial to England.

The ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ is both an aggressive defensive midfielder and a playmaker from deep. He has been a key part of Marcelo Bielsa’s side, flourishing in the holding midfield role.

With 2.8 tackles per game, Phillips pretty much matches Rice - with the West Ham midfielder averaging 3 per game.

But the main advantage Phillips has over Rice is his ability on the ball. The Yorkshireman makes 39.5 accurate short passes per game compared to Rice’s 35.8, although this is to be expected considering the relative dominance of Leeds in Sky Bet Championship matches compared to West Ham in the Premier League.

Where Phillips really stands out is his long passing, hitting an average of 5.3 accurate long balls per game compared to 2.1 for Rice.

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This variety of passing is hugely important in helping Leeds break opponents down. It could also be a useful tool for England with the presence of Harry Kane up front, as well as the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Rashford making runs into the channels.

Phillips’ long passing also surpasses that of Winks, who averages 1.5 per match. However, Winks’s strengths more lie in his short passing and rotation of the ball.

The Spurs academy product plays an average of 47.1 accurate short passes per game, and his overall passing accuracy stands at 89.8% - the 5th highest in Premier League equal with Fernandinho.

Winks is stronger in terms of rotating the ball with short passing, although Phillips does arguably offer more penetrative passing with 1.9 key passes per game compared to 0.6 from Winks.

Another area where Phillips has the edge is positionally. He has consistently operated as the holding midfielder for Bielsa for the past two years. Both Winks and Rice have sometimes featured in this role for their clubs, but they often tend to feature in more of a double pivot.

To add to this, Phillips is also adept at dropping between his centre backs should he ever be required to.

Phillips has previously revealed that Bielsa had initially been training him in a centre back role before moving him into defensive midfield. And the positional sense gained from that experience has seen Phillips capably cover for his centre backs - particularly Ben White this season - should they venture forwards.

Kalvin Phillips battles Sergi Canos for the ball

This would be a highly useful attribute for England, especially considering the tendency of the likes of Harry Maguire to venture into the opposition half with the ball.

So while he may still be operating in the Sky Bet Championship, it is clear that Phillips has the skills required for England in the holding midfield position.

He is strong defensively, highly adept positionally and offers a range of passing.

Southgate has already been spotted watching Leeds this season, meaning Phillips is very clearly on his radar.

While this summer may have been too soon for the England boss to select him, should Phillips get a season of Premier League football under his belt then he will surely be in with a very strong chance in 2021.

His presence in the squad could be key to helping England fill the holding midfield position.

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