‘Despite his start, I’m sure Phillips will come good for us by May’

Two mistakes led to goals and he’s been sent off but Kalvin will prove he’s a quality midfielder

General view at the West Ham United v Manchester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th September, 2023.

Upon completing the loan signing of Kalvin Phillips, David Moyes challenged the former Leeds midfielder to have an impact akin to that of Jesse Lingard’s successful spell at the club during the pandemic season in 2021. Four games in and just one point on the board since the Manchester City loanee signed for the club, it hasn’t been the dream start the England International had wanted.

Understandably, the 28-year-old has struggled early on in his West Ham career, given the lack of game sharpness, having hardly kicked a ball in anger for Pep Guardiola’s side. However, two direct mistakes leading to goals and a red card means his start in claret and blue has raised questions about David Moyes and the recruitment team.

Phillips was the sole winter recruit to a side that desperately needed more squad depth, and in truth, the only position that didn’t need strengthening was in the centre of midfield. Like many other West Ham fans, I was excited at Phillips’s signing. He is more creative than Thomas Soucek and has always impressed on the international stage for England, and with the Euros on the horizon, he was bound to have a point to prove. 

However, the West Ham faithful were happy with his arrival as long as he wasn’t the only man through the door. The Irons were screaming out for another striker and left winger, but rather than strengthening, they weakened further by losing Said Benrahma and Pablo Fornals on Deadline Day.

The excuse was that the Hammers were in action, which made recruiting on Deadline Day harder; that may have been understood by the Hammers fans had their opponents that night Bournemouth not managed to get a signing through the door that night. You could tell the Irons were a little frustrated with the fact that Kalvin was their only arrival, given their dodgy last-minute attempts to cancel the moves for Fornals and Benrahma.

As it is, though, we are left with the squad we have for the rest of the season now, and Phillips is firmly part of Moyes’ plans. After all, he has wanted him for two years. In fairness to the loanee, he has said all the right things in the press, and you can tell he is a likeable lad who will give everything for the badge when up to full fitness.

Twelve goals in his first four games at the club will be a baptism of fire for a man who has been part of a side that isn’t used to losing many games. He is also joining a team that plays an entirely different style of play than Manchester City, so it would be difficult for him to make the impact Moyes had asked of him.

Three minutes into the Hammers’ debut, he received a hospital ball from Kurt Zouma, hesitated under pressure from the pressing midfielder, and prodded the ball back towards his own goal. Unfortunately for him it found Dominic Solanke who coolly finished into the empty net. The ultimate nightmare start in front of his new fans – who themselves were already frustrated by their side’s questionable form and lack of incoming signings. 

Little did he know that was to be the best it would be for the next few weeks. The Hammers played better without him in the side at Old Trafford as they were left to rue missed chances before his introduction. 

Again, another poor ball to him, this time from Ben Johnson, led to another mistake from Phillips as he was dispossessed again, leading to a goal for Manchester United to help put the game to bed. 3-0 and another day to forget for Kalvin. He improved against Arsenal, after again coming off the bench in a game that was already long gone, but another heavy defeat, and he must have been left wondering what he had signed himself up for.

He then had his best game in Claret and Blue, as it seemed he was finally brushing off those cobwebs. But again, the Hammers struggled, and his frustration boiled over as he shoved an opposition player to the ground to receive a yellow card. Moments later, the referee deemed his attempt to win the ball dangerous and sent him off for a second bookable offence. The Hammers would go on to lose 2-0 at struggling Nottingham Forest, and just as he was getting his sharpness back the former Leeds academy graduate is forced to miss a game through suspension.

One snippet I picked up from his interview upon signing for the club was that had City not come in for him, he would probably have ended up at West Ham when he left Leeds. You have to wonder where his career would be now had that happened. The move to City was always a questionable one for me; you felt it was a move to boost the Cityzens’ home-grown quota rather than a move that was ever going to give him a chance in the first team.

The move to us allows him to get his career back on track under David Moyes, who will continue to give him chances to prove his doubters wrong. He is a player that can benefit West Ham for the rest of the season, and now he is getting his match sharpness back, he will prove to be a shrewd signing for the club. 

He has excellent passing range, is a great athlete, is hardworking, and has an eye for goal. He is definitely a better bet than Tomas Soucek for a side that is looking to play more progressive football, and a midfield three of Edson Alvarez, James Ward Prowse and Phillips will act as an excellent shield for our creative front three of Kudus, Bowen and Paqueta.

Now that the ring rust has a bit of WD40 on it, I am sure by the end of the season, the West Ham faithful will be hoping he joins the club permanently in the summer.

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