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What Went Wrong for Kalvin Phillips at Manchester City?

An examination.

Manchester City FC v Sevilla FC - UEFA Super Cup 2023 Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Kalvin Phillips moved to Manchester City with high hopes. After starring for Leeds United and helping his boyhood club gain promotion to the Premier League, the England international partnered Declan Rice in the national team to huge acclaim. Things were expected to get even better from there. And so the opportunity to move to the Etihad Stadium seemed like the logical next step in a promising career.

From the get-go he was not expected to feature immediately for City as his preferred position was already occupied by Rodri. The Spanish midfielder has been one of the best players in the world in the last couple of seasons. In that regard, Phillips must have been a bit unlucky. The timing totally worked against him with no space to fill as Ilkay Gundogan partnered Kevin De Bruyne in central midfield.

However, it does seem the manager has not been satisfied with this output in training as he has barely featured in the team. Mateo Kovacic walked straight into the team from Chelsea as a replacement for Gundogan and has been playing from the beginning of the season.

The former Chelsea man has been a constant feature in midfield since pre-season while Phillips remains on the sidelines. After signing three players to replace Gundogan, Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez, the club is still in the market in search of another midfielder.

Signed for £42m just over a year ago, he has made little or no progress in the team. It does appear efforts on the player's side to fit in have not been to the manager's satisfaction. Reports in the media suggest City are open to letting the player leave if a suitable offer comes in.

Although Liverpool and Bayern Munich were thought to be interested in his services earlier in the transfer window, that has not yielded any concrete offers. Phillips has indicated a desire to stay on and work to earn his place in the team. But the possibility of that happening is becoming more difficult by the day.

Except there is an injury crisis in the team affecting both Rodri and Kovacic, there's hardly any space for the Englishman to feature. Guardiola drafted John Stones into the midfield last season, increasing the competition for positions there. The very fact that a centre-back was moved into the midfield while Phillips remained on the bench says a lot.

When questioned about the player's lack of playing time last season, the manager dropped a bombshell stating that he was overweight. Phillips disagreed with Guardiola's assessment, but then he's the manager and has the final say.

The handwriting on the wall is that the manager has not been satisfied with Philips' progress and does not consider him an important part of the squad. Unless there's a drastic change in fortunes for the player, that can only lead to one outcome.

The Catalan boss is known for wanting his players to be lean, hungry, sharp and ready to go. That is hardly the description for Phillips at the moment. In the end, just as most signings turn out into great buys that improve the team and move the club forward, some signings just don't work out.

Even for the best manager in world football, that's the reality.

Hence, Phillips could end up being categorised among the likes of Nolito, Claudio Bravo and Angelino at City. Unless there's a turnaround in the situation soon.