JACK GAUGHAN: Kalvin Phillips is absolutely determined to fight for a role under Pep Guardiola. There are big days ahead for the England international who needs to find his way again after going through a ‘low point’ in his career
Pep Guardiola was busy checking his phone as the celebrations began on the road at around 7pm on Saturday night, as glasses of fizz were passed around and group pictures were taken.
Some – not all – of the Manchester City squad gathered at the training ground to watch Nottingham Forest finish it off for them. Guardiola responded to many congratulatory messages but may also have written on his Notes app.
Because Forest gave the City manager some extra work to do, as it is likely that the team for Chelsea changed significantly the moment the whistle went at the City Ground. If anything was riding on it then Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne wouldn’t have had their feet up enjoying the party for more than an hour.
It’s almost unbelievable that City clinched this title with three matches to spare, given Arsenal’s late surge, and Guardiola could have used it last week to rest some legs, while at the same time offer some insight into those on the sidelines who have been reduced to spectator roles.
Kalvin Phillips is one, a first Premier League start 322 days after signing for £42million from Leeds United. It was Phillips’ luck that he even missed his own unveiling due to illness, then suffered a recurrence of a shoulder injury that took months out of his debut season before a World Cup from which he rushed back.
There are positive signs for Phillips as he anchors City’s vastly revamped midfield, which includes lively teenager Rico Lewis as No 8 alongside Phil Foden.
Some nice clipped passes, a solid one-touch interception in the build-up to Julian Alvarez’s first-half winner. He shrugged off a wild Kai Havertz tackle, almost had an assist for a fine Foden goal and hit the post with a header from a Riyad Mahrez free-kick. He intelligently controls the tempo of the City.
Imperfections have existed in his game, which is to be expected given the lack of meaningful minutes at such an important position, and the challenge for Phillips now is to prove he can cut it on this squad. No one in the whole country comes close to Rodri but Phillips is absolutely determined to fight for a role under Guardiola. City are not encouraging offers for the 27-year-old and he wants to stay.
‘I’m happy because we won the league last night and I know I have a chance to play,’ said Phillips. ‘It’s incredibly tough, it’s probably one of the lowest confidence points in my career but I’m very happy that I have people around me to keep pushing me.’
So these are big days ahead for an England international who needs to find his way again. And Cole Palmer as well. Palmer also got his first league start in a season many thought he would really kick on and make life difficult for Mahrez.
The product of the academy has been tested hard at times but there is electricity in it, which shows exactly why people around this place have such high hopes for his future.
In the short term, both Palmer and City have decisions to make. Whether he goes in search of a top-flight loan and plays every week, hopefully returning with more experience and confidence, or stays and continues to learn under the best manager in the land.
One thing for Palmer, who helped Alvarez, is that Phil Foden – also brilliant that day – is set for a more central role next term. Watching Foden develop there will cause excitement and these few days offer a small glimpse into next season.
News/Image Sources: Daily Mail