Kalvin Phillips a luxury signing who gives Manchester City’s midfield watertight cover


It has become an article of faith that it takes at least a season for new signings to settle in at the modern City, and not only those in the multi-talented and heavily rotated attack. Rodri himself struggled during a difficult first season and Phillips will face the same period of adjustment. He also has the added challenge of adjusting to Guardiola’s highly structured positional play after three-and-a-half seasons spent perfecting Marcelo Bielsa’s unique brand of man-to-man marking. Much is made of the two coaches’ mutual respect and shared principles but there is a huge contrast in how they defend.

Rodri proved vital to City’s play last season

And yet, there is plenty of reason to believe that Phillips can make a success of this chance given how his stock has risen since Leeds’ return to the Premier League under Bielsa and his emergence as a regular at international level with England. If he struggles to adapt at any stage or suddenly feels homesick, he can find comfort in the fact he is joining a Yorkshire-born contingent in the City dressing room that includes Kyle Walker, John Stones and a fellow Loiner in Erling Haaland.

His versatility should not be underestimated either. If opportunities are not always forthcoming in the Rodri role, he has shown an ability to operate higher up the pitch. That was his role at Leeds pre-Bielsa – Phillips was surprised to be told he was a ‘four’ by the Argentine in their first team meeting after a career as a box-to-box player – and he has reprised the role under Gareth Southgate at times, memorably setting up Raheem Sterling’s opening goal against Croatia when given licence to roam at last summer’s European Championship.

City have a well-rounded player and their spending will not end here. The champions are expected to ramp up their well-publicised interest in Brighton’s Marc Cucurella to address the long-standing lack of a recognised, reliable left-back. Equally, Gabriel Jesus’ exit and the likely departure of Sterling will leave a forward line that looked a little bloated at the start of the summer suddenly in need of reinforcement. An unprecedented quadruple has felt possible at the start of every one of Guardiola’s six seasons in east Manchester, only to be undone by a lack of depth. That was the case in that aforementioned FA Cup semi-final.

There is still work to be done around the edges this summer, then, to ensure the well of talent does not run dry when deep into the spring once again. But whereas most of those other holes can be filled one way or another, City have now insured themselves against the threat of losing arguably their most important, most indispensable player. Even if Phillips is not immediately a regular starter, arrival only makes it even harder to locate the pressure point in Guardiola’s squad, and only makes a fifth Premier League title in six seasons seem even more likely.

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