THE SHARPE END: England missing a midfielder like Kalvin Phillips

THE SHARPE END: England missing a midfielder like Kalvin Phillips

You heard it and I heard it. We all heard it. ‘We know that we don’t have a natural replacement for Kalvin Phillips,’ Gareth Southgate grumbled after the dismal 1-1 draw against Denmark.

What? It sounded ridiculous, but Southgate’s point is this: England are missing a midfielder who can read the game, break up play and pick the killer pass. That much has been obvious.

They aren’t missing the Phillips who has spent the last two years lost in the Manchester City wilderness but the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ who bossed the last Euros in 2021.

What is strange, other than the fact Southgate had months to trial a replacement then just stuck Trent Alexander-Arnold there as soon as the tournament arrived, is if he is missing Phillips, why not turn to the player most suited to that role?

Conor Gallagher has come off the bench twice, but it’s Crystal Palace youngster Adam Wharton whose numbers this season show he is the man if you want to win the ball and split defences. So why not give him a chance?

Gareth Southgate’s comments about missing Kalvin Phillips sounded ridiculous, but it’s true: England are missing a midfielder in the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ mould

Adam Wharton's numbers show he is the man to win the ball an dsplit defences

Adam Wharton’s numbers show he is the man to win the ball an dsplit defences 

 

Watching England feels like watching your favourite childhood film. You know the main character is going to make a mistake at the crucial moment because you’ve seen it dozens of times before, but that doesn’t stop you pleading for them not to do it as your brain tells you this may be the one time they don’t. So when they inevitably do, it still infuriates you.

England go 1-0 up — you want them not to drop off, inviting pressure until they concede a goal, even though you know they will.

That’s what happened against Denmark. It almost happened against Serbia. It’s what happened in the Euro 2020 final against Italy and in the World Cup semi-final six years ago against Croatia.

Not next time, though, right?

England are infuriating to watch every time they take the lead - even though we should know what's about to hit us!

England are infuriating to watch every time they take the lead – even though we should know what’s about to hit us! 

He’s in great form and he knows where the goal is. No striker at Euro 2024 can come close to the prolific finishing of the present tournament top scorer — own goals. Six sorry souls have bundled, nodded and shinned the ball into their own net so far, including Turkey defender Samet Akaydin’s calamitous finish against Portugal on Saturday. 

 

It’s not just own goals that are coming at a remarkable rate. So far, we have seen 14 goals scored from outside the box. That’s already more than Euro 2008 (6) and 2012 (8). Nearly 24% of goals at this tournament have come from distance, the only major tournament on record with a higher rate is Euro 1992 (25%). Maybe it’s down to the Adidas ball that’s made out of sugar cane. Maybe the players are better. Or, maybe, it’s just a bit of luck. 

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