Kalvin Phillips finally gets another Man City start but must do more

LEWIS STEELE: Kalvin Phillips’ Man City career so far has resembled a car stuck in traffic… his rustiness was clear in his first start since June and Rodri was missed, but this was a step in the right direction

  • Kalvin Phillips got a rare Man City start against Southampton on Wednesday
  • City surprisingly crashed out of the League Cup after losing 2-0 to the Saints
  • Phillips played in his first competitive match since June after a series of injuries
  • The Englishman impressed in spells but must do more to become a regular star 

If you were picking a day to summarise Kalvin Phillips’ first season at Manchester City, it would be his official unveiling event in the summer. The former Leeds midfielder was missing through illness.

Erling Haaland took centre stage that day and has since scored 27 goals, and young star Julian Alvarez has impressed both for City and Argentina.

Four of City’s five in-house Player of the Month awards this season have gone to summer recruits, but Phillips has spent most of the season at home. 

Kalvin Phillips gained valuable minutes in a Manchester City shirt despite being on the losing side

Phillips (left) was publicly slammed by Pep Guardiola (right) after returning from the World Cup

While City’s new boys have enjoyed fresh beginnings, the 27-year-old has spent much of the campaign frustrated by a dislocated shoulder and other niggly injuries.

He was not helped by Pep Guardiola publicly slamming him, unprompted, for returning from World Cup duty with England overweight. Fellow defensive midfielder Rodri has also been imperious. 

Phillips’ City career has resembled a car stuck in traffic, ambling forward in first gear only to be grinded to a swift halt. He had managed just 89 minutes across six substitute appearances before last night.

This trip to Southampton allowed him a chance to prove his worth with a first start as Guardiola rested many key men ahead of Saturday’s derby at Old Trafford.

Phillips perhaps could have done more to stop Moussa Djenepo (middle) scoring Saints’ second

Phillips (centre) was starting his first competitive game since England’s loss to Hungary in June

It would be harsh to pick specific faults in his display but the presence of Rodri, the big Spaniard who is so crucial in winning possession and rarely misplaces a pass, was missed. 

Phillips could have done better as Moussa Djenepo charged through City’s midfield to score Southampton’s second goal, and he lost possession for their opener.

He had not started a competitive game since England’s 4-0 thrashing by Hungary in June and his rustiness was clear as Saints’ young team pressed and passed with energy rarely seen in these parts this season.

The out-of-form midfielder (right) was eventually hooked off in place of Rodri (left)

City boss Guardiola held his head in his hands as his side crashed out of the Carabao Cup

‘He has to fight with Rodri for the benefit of all of us,’ said Guardiola before this match, in which Phillips played 63 minutes before Rodri replaced him. 

‘He’s an intelligent player with an incredible work ethic. In duels he understands when the ball is coming. He is strong in the air.’

Phillips is said to be an influential figure in the dressing room and impressed team-mates with his induction ballad of George Ezra’s Budapest, with Phillips being voted to have the best vocals of City’s summer signings. 

This was a step in the right direction but he is yet to find his tune on the pitch.

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