Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have offered differing opinions when discussing England’s midfield for Euro 2020 this summer on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football – with Neville choosing to start Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips, while Carragher prefers to use Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson alongside Declan Rice and Mason Mount.
Phillips, 25, has been excellent for Leeds this season and firmly cemented his place in England’s Euro 2020 side during the last international break – starting all three matches against San Marino, Albania and Poland. Now, with seven England caps to his name, he looks a certainty to be in the 23-man squad at least, and might even start against Croatia on June 13.
That is of the opinion on Neville, who believes Phillips will combine with Chelsea’s Mount and Hammers ace Rice – who hs been ruled out for the next four weeks with a knee problem. However, Carragher cannot agree with Neville – and is of the opinion that the more experienced Henderson starts alongside Rice in the coming months. It depends, of course, on injuries.
Carragher said, when asked why he went with Henderson over Phillips: “He’s a leader. You think of the tournaments he has been involved in. Harry Kane is the captain, Henderson is on the same level – they were both vying for that position. His stature has grown, he has that presence in midfield.
“There is no way that you can play one holding midfielder, and then Mount and Foden – that is a nonsense. I don’t believe that. I definitely think you need those two players, whether it is Phillips or Henderson – and Rice. Everyone wants Grealish, Foden and Mount but you can only get two of those three players in the team.”
Neville, meanwhile, explained why he believes Phillips should start: “For me, Phillips is more used to playing the passes through the lines at Leeds. Henderson is good on the ball, Rice is good on the ball. But I think Phillips is the best out of the three on the ball – in terms of accepting it off the back four and getting on the ball.
“It has become really important to connect the back to the front, something England have struggled with over the years. Phillips, with his work with Bielsa, is used to getting on the ball all the time, half-turn, popping it through the lines for Mount, Foden, Sterling or Rashford. I would go for Phillips alongside Rice.”
Why should Phillips start?
Alongside Neville’s opinion of Phillips being better on the ball than Rice and Henderson, the work rate of the Leeds midfielder should also come into it. Phillips has benefitted from working incredibly hard under Bielsa over the last three years – losing weight and becoming a machine in murderball. His fitness is far superior to that of many England players.
In terms of stamina, he is probably not much different to Rice and Henderson. But the fact he played every one of England’s last three games, starting all of them, shows that his fitness and ability to maintain a top standard throughout is key. Can Henderson do that, given he is yet to return from injury? Will Rice be able to after his injury? Time will tell.