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Gareth Southgate blames absence of 31-appearance Manchester City midfielder for England struggles



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England manager Gareth Southgate has sensationally identified the absence of Kalvin Phillips as a reason for the team’s midfield woes.

The Three Lions were held to a 1-1 draw against Denmark in their European Championship Group C clash in Frankfurt on Thursday evening, as Harry Kane’s opening goal was cancelled out by Morten Hjulmand.

Manchester City trio Kyle Walker, John Stones and Phil Foden all started the matchday two fixture, with fresh criticism aimed at Gareth Southgate and his England side following another underwhelming performance at full-time.

England, who unconvincingly beat Serbia 1-0 in their opening European Championship fixture on Sunday night, also suffered a defeat to Iceland at Wembley Stadium ahead of the tournament.

Southgate took the surprising decision to exclude Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford from the England squad, and dramatically axed Jack Grealish and six other players just days before the Three Lions travelled to Germany.

Kalvin Phillips, who has made just six starts for Manchester City since arriving from Leeds United for £42 million in July 2022, was also left out of the England set-up after another difficult campaign.

The 28-year-old made two starts and 10 appearances for Pep Guardiola’s side during the recent campaign, with Phillips moving to the London Stadium in January to spend the remainder of the season with West Ham.

Phillips made 10 appearances for the Hammers across the Premier League and UEFA Europa League, but was forced to return to the Etihad Stadium prior to the conclusion of his loan spell due to a hamstring injury.

The midfielder has been an unused substitute on 45 occasions for Manchester City, but has won two Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League since arriving at the Etihad Stadium from Elland Road.

Phillips has made 31 appearances for England, and the absence of the 28-year-old at this summer’s tournament is one of the reasons for their midfield struggles, according to Southgate.

“We know we don’t have a natural replacement for Kalvin Philips. We’re trying different things and at the moment we’re not flowing as we’d like,” said the England manager.

England conclude their Group C campaign next Tuesday against Slovenia at the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne, with Southgate’s side needing a result to secure qualification to the last-16.