Calvin Phillips’ rare skill set means his shoulder injury is a big problem for England

before every world CupWe are stunned by the unfortunate news that an important player has been injured. In 2018, Dani Alves was the Brazilian national team player. Four years before that, it was unlucky Marco Reus, who suffered a hard-fought this weekend against Schalke 04, with fears he could also miss the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In 2010, Michael Ballack sustained an ankle injury in FA cup final against Portsmouth.

Paul Pogba’s late surgery this summer leaves him with much doubt about the World Cup, and another line player who could be in doubt at the World Cup is England‘s Calvin Phillips.

England’s tradition of injury scare before the tournament is old. In 2002, it was the metatarsal of David Beckham. In 2006, it was Wayne Rooney before Harry KingThe ankle caused concern in 2018.

The worry now is about Phillips, who may need surgery on his shoulder to get back to full fitness again after a start stop Manchester Career path career path. He has had problems with his shoulder since he sustained an injury in the process Leeds UnitedThe final match of the 2020-21 season. There were fears he might miss Euro 2020, but he recovered and played a key role when Gareth Southgate’s side reached the final at Wembley that summer.

England have no shortage of midfielders, but Phillips’ absence would be a huge blow to Southgate and England’s World Cup chances as he offers a blend of abilities that few others have.

Of the options that Southgate has, Phillips is the best in terms of a dual role. He is highly technical in handling the ball in terms of his passing ability and range, but he also has strong defensive skills as well, which makes his presence invaluable.

To illustrate this, we can use John Mueller’s Player Role Analysis, which redefines positions based on the type and location of a player’s actual touches. (You can read a full explanation of these here).

Under these terms, Phillips is classified as a Builder, a player who serves as the team’s main trading hub in possession and as a defensive stopper at the midfield base.

We can also show what he does on the pitch by looking at him smartscott Ratings, which give players a series of ratings from zero and 99. These ratings relate either to the number of times a player performs a particular stylistic action (for example, the size of shots per touch), or how effective they are at it (relative to, for example, to (i.e. how well they advance with the ball) compared to others in their positions. His progressive pass numbers show how keen Phillips is to play those precise long passes that move his team up the field.

So what does this actually mean?

These passes help England when it comes to quick substitutions in play, playing balls behind the opposition defense and on the move, and this was evident during Euro 2020. On more than one occasion, Phillips’ precise long passes have put England in a chance to score goals.

For example, against Scotland After falling to the right side, Phillips spots Phil FodenHe runs behind the Scottish defense and passes a superb pass to his Manchester City team-mate now…

…Foden manages to control the ball, but he shoots wide. The goal could have been disallowed anyway because Foden was in an offside position, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of Phillips’ ability to play those passes.

Another example is against Germany In the round of 16. After a clear corner, Phillips spots Kieran TrippierHe runs and plays the ball over the Germans to put Trippier into a great cross position…

…that the defender managed to find Harry MaguireWho misses the target at close range.

These passes are key for England when you consider your wide attacking options, whether it’s switching play to put the wide attackers in one-on-one positions or balls behind the defense for wide runners.

Another player whose spatial awareness makes the most of these passes is Mason Mount. The Chelsea The midfielder’s awareness of where space is and when to attack makes him the ideal recipient of these passes.

In this example, against Denmark In the semi-finals, he put Phillips Mount in front of goal with a single pass that takes out eight Danish players…

… before he dribbles the mountain inside to get the ball to his left foot, and his shot hits it.

These precise long passes are not only important for creating an opportunity, but can also act as a pressure relief tool if England face a very pressing opponent.

The other side of Phillips’ importance is his defensive skill set. Phillips is an elite blocker of opponent’s moves through interference, fouling, blocking and leveling – he scored 91 out of 99 in smarterscout data when it comes to blocking opponent’s moves. In addition, his rating of 81 out of 99 for ball retrieval and interception shows Phillips’ ability to clear balls in midfield.

The number of aerial duels in Phillips competitions is roughly average for a defensive midfielder (aerial duels: 53 out of 99) but it is interesting to see that he scores 88 out of 99 when it comes to aerial duels from set pieces, which shows him Of greater potential importance to Southgate’s team outside of possession.

No wonder Pep Guardiola thought he was the perfect replacement for Fernandinho. “After Fernandinho decided to go to BrazilWe were looking for a midfielder and we thought he (Phillips) was perfect for us.”

In fact, he barely started his career with City but Southgate found him ideal for England. If he is to miss the World Cup, what can the coach do?


Looking at Phillips’ peers on the national side, we can see that they may offer some useful skills but nothing that is carbon copy. Jude Bellingham’s immaculate ability on the ball might put him as an option despite not offering the same level of progressive passing as Phillips (15 out of 99), but the question is Bellingham’s defensive suitability in this deeper role (disabling opponent’s moves: 39 out of 99, recovering the ball And her objection: 47 out of 99).

The other thing to report is that Bellingham More than a coordinator, more than a builder. He prefers shorter passes with a higher percentage in the more advanced positions up the field where he can then hurt the opponent – as we can see in those little bumps in the Creator and Box portions of the chart below – compared to the longer Phillips passes.

The next player is James Ward Brucespecializes in set balls and is key in SouthamptonTeam play and has the ability to play those progressive passes and switch play like Phillips (progressive passing: 92 out of 99). However, Ward-Prowse does not offer the same defensive skill set as Phillips, performing fewer defensive actions (disabling opponent’s moves: 33 out of 99) and restricting the ball’s progress less effectively when he is the designated defender (Defensive Effect: 20 out of 99). 99).

Perhaps his transition from creator to distributor shows more potential to take on a deeper passing role, but he’s still more active in the opponent’s half than in the defensive third.

The third option is Jordan HendersonThe player whose intensity off the ball has made him central in Jurgen Klopp’s heart Liverpool. However, Henderson’s profile fits the right side of Liverpool’s midfield more than the deeper role – which Klopp recognized at the end of the 2018-2019 season. “He likes this position (the right side of midfield) so my mistake is that he played for a year and a half as a pregnant player, but we needed him there,” Klopp said.

Henderson enters the penalty area and his combination with Liverpool’s flexible right side triangle makes him a perfect fit for Liverpool, but England require a different role from him, limiting his front training to accommodate – reasonably – a safer approach to possession.

An appearance of what Klopp said is shown below. Henderson moved towards being more active in the opponent’s half, receiving progressive passes and becoming the center of Liverpool’s attacks on the right side. The reason for the coup in 2020-21 is because Henderson had to cover Fabinho When the Brazilian fell into defense due to Liverpool’s injuries that season, Henderson himself relegated the defense to cover as well.

The last option – and perhaps the most complementary player for Phillips – is Declan rice. The West Ham The midfielder is used to playing deeper like Phillips and has an impressive defensive skill set.

Rice’s ability to carry the ball makes him a potent threat on transitions and when trying to dribble forward or out of a stressful situation (carrying and dribbling size: 94 out of 99), but he doesn’t offer the same progressive pass quality as Phillips (progressive passing: 25 out of 99), Looking for more to play those safer passes (correlation playing size: 82 out of 99) that fit them perfectly together.

Without Phillips, the presence of Rice is essential. He understands the defensive priorities of the position and has the skill set to carry out the role. Add to that his current career in the team, his ability to carry the ball and his free-kick threat and the West Ham midfielder is sure to start.

This leaves us with three groups – Rice and Henderson, Rice and Bellingham, or Rice and Word-Prow. Henderson’s option offers a safer and more experienced option, or it could help Bellingham England to dominate possession more and be ahead. Ward-Prowse is the least likely option, especially if Trippier provides a widget threat.

England would surely miss Phillips if surgery prevented him from competing in the World Cup, but while none of the alternatives are a replica, they offer different skill sets that may benefit Southgate’s side in other ways.