Friday, August 12, 2022

Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City is a win-win situation for all parties involved, including Leeds United

Manchester City are getting the ball rolling on their summer business by agreeing to a deal to sign Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United. The deal is worth approximately $51.5 million and just under $4 million available in add-ons, according to The Athletic. Central midfielder Darko Gyabi will also join Leeds for just north of $6 million in a separate deal.

Phillips has been integral to Leeds United and has spent his entire senior career with the club, making 235 appearances with 14 goals and 14 assists. Phillips debuted in the 2014-15 season in the Championship and has been a mainstay since during Leeds’ rise back to Premier League success. This has led to him getting called into the England senior team where he has now made 23 senior appearances.

With Fernandinho leaving Manchester City after his contract expired and Ilkay Gundogan rumored to be leaving as he approaches the final year of his deal, Phillips is one of the top targets to fill the void. Leeds United have already been preparing for the possible exit of Phillips in signing Marc Roca from Bayern Munich, but Jesse Marsch will likely want more midfielders added before the season given Phillips’ importance to the side. Leeds have already added three new recruits this summer with Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen joining Roca as the board continues to back Marsch in the market, especially with money of this level coming in the door.

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Leeds picked up 24 of 38 points with a -6 goal differential in his 20 Premier League appearances. In the 18 games that Phillips didn’t play, Leeds picked up only 14 points with a whopping -31 goal differential and 2.89 goals per game. Some of these numbers are skewed due to Leeds’ attacking style and Phillips usually protecting the defense on his own. It does, however, show how important his presence is to that team and how tricky it will be to adequately replace him if Leeds want to avoid another relegation battle. 

With the way City’s squad is currently set up, Phillips seems destined for the fill in for Rodri as his primary backup. He can’t be expected to play almost 4,000 minutes in all competitions again, especially with World Cup obligations for Spain. Phillips can offer a similar passing and poses as a defensive threat while also joining a City trend where almost every attacking player is adept from dead ball situations. 

If there’s any major concern in this deal it’s falls on Phillips’ injury record. He was unavailable for 16 matches last season due to a lingering hamstring issue. He also missed seven matches in the 2020-21 season due to a calf and shoulder injuries. It’s another thing that comes with the territory of Leeds United playing such a fast-paced style is that their players were susceptible to muscular injuries. City won’t know what lingers from that until they get Phillips on the pitch.

The hope is that playing at a slower — but still demanding — pace and logging fewer minutes can alleviate Phillips’ injury risk and help make this move a win-win for both Phillips and Leeds United. Getting $51.5 million will either cover deals that Leeds have already made or help them go in on new transfers, which could in theory turn down the pressure to sell Raphinha a few notches. Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are all interested in the Brazilian, but Leeds have already rejected a bid from Arsenal that didn’t reach their valuations.

Since his dream club Barcelona can’t seem to afford to reach Leeds’ price tag either, there’s a chance that Leeds could use the additional funds to strengthen enough to compete for a European spot, which would likely change Raphinha’s mind about wanting to leave. For City, adding Phillips gives them much needed depth in a midfield that has lost a lot. It also ensures they have options to lock down a game which Fernandinho lacked a bit last season.

Pep Guardiola has the luxury to trot out Rodri and Phillips in a double pivot formation, which would prove to be a challenge for any opposing team in the world and elevate City’s great defense to otherworldly levels. All Phillips needs to do is stay healthy and continue doing what he has already done in the Premier League which lowers City’s risk in making a deal significantly.

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