'Yaya Toure, Vieira' - Spotlight on Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips facing West Ham's England colleague Declan Rice

KALVIN Phillips made his Leeds United return against West Ham by facing England team-mate Declan Rice who said there was more in his locker in a forward-thinking sphere.

By Lee Sobot
Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 11:37 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 3:38 pm

Rice and Phillips are two of England boss Gareth Southgate s main options in the holding midfield role and the duo lined up against each other in Monday night's Premier League clash at the London Stadium.

Southgate has even played the duo together as part of a 'double pivot' in midfield but Phillips lined up against the Hammers as the sole 'protector' in front of the Whites back four whereas Rice partnered Tomas Soucek in centre midfield.

Rice admitted afterwards that most people see him as a midfielder who protects the back four but vowed to continue showing that there was more in his locker after growing up watching the likes of Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure.

BACK TO IT: Leeds United's England international midfielder Kalvin Phillips, front, holds off West Ham's Jesse Lingard in Monday night's Premier League clash at the London Stadium. Photo by Ian Walton - Pool/Getty Images.

Rice had a clear advantage over Phillips in Monday night's clash in London given that Phillips has missed United's last four games with a calf injury.

Rice, who is three years younger than 25-year-old Phillips, approached the contest having played the full 90 minutes of every single league game this season and boasting form that led to Hammers boss David Moyes declaring that he was worth way more than £100m.

Nevertheless, Phillips still had considerably more of the ball than Rice on his comeback with 69 touches of the ball compared to Rice's 42.

Both players impressed with their passing as Rice offered a 92 per cent passing success rate, two per cent better than Phillips.

GETTING FORWARD: Declan Rice unleashes a shot in Monday's 2-0 victory at home to Leeds United. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images.

The pair were also successful with their only attempted dribbles though Rice was dispossessed and dribbled past once each.

Both players made two interceptions and Phillips was successful with both of his attempted tackles but Rice also weighed in with four clearances in addition to being successful with three of his four attempted tackles.

He also won his only aerial battle and the attacking aspect to Rice's game that he mentioned afterwards was also in evidence as the Hammers midfielder offered three attempts at goal, two of which were blocked and one of which was off target.

Phillips had one attempt at goal which was off target as part of a welcome comeback into the Leeds side.

The 'Yorkshire Pirlo' will now naturally hope to be included in Southgate's next England squad ahead of this summer's Euros and Rice said afterwards that he was setting the bar high.

His words also offered hope that he and Phillips could play in the same team together considering his desire to be more forward thinking in his game, as was in evidence against Leeds.

Asked if there was more to his game then being a holding midfielder, Rice told Sky Sports: "Definitely.

"I think a lot of people see me as just a simple, basic player who just gets it, gives it and protects the back four.

"But I know and my team-mates know and the manager knows what I've got in my locker and I want to keep showing that.

"I want to show that I can be exciting and I can take the ball forward.

"I have great athleticism.

"I've been watching the top players over the years, your Yaya Toures, your Vieiras.

"Obviously there's a long way to go to get to their level but the way they used to carry the ball up the pitch and carry their team forward is something I have been trying to learn and trying to add to my game."

Jordan Henderson, Harry Winks and Eric Dier are other among the options in the holding midfield role but Rice and Phillips are the leading lights at present.

England are due back in action later this month with a triple-header of World Cup qualifiers as a trip to Albania is sandwiched by home clashes against San Marino and Poland.

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Thank you Laura Collins