Patrick Mills provides a detailed scout report about Philip Billing, Huddersfield’s young midfielder.
Against the odds, Huddersfield Town, one of the Championship’s less fashionable names, achieved promotion to the Premier League last season via the Play-Offs. Along with Manager David Wagner, among those to impress were star man Aaron Mooy, as well as forwards Elias Kachunga and Nahki Wells. Although less consistent, young midfielder Philip Billing also showed glimpses of a potentially very bright future. Absent for much of the first half of the campaign, Billing produced some excellent performances after the turn of the year, drawing glances from top Premier League clubs in the process.
Already this summer, the Terriers have spent big. Strikers Laurent Depoitre and Steven Mounie have arrived from FC Porto and Montpellier respectively. Meanwhile, Aaron Mooy’s loan from Manchester City has been made permanent and Thomas Ince has joined from Derby. The base of Wagner’s midfield last term was predominantly occupied by former Aston Villa man Jonathan Hogg. Heading into their first top flight campaign in 45 years, Huddersfield are unlikely to bring in any new additions in the number 6 role. This should leave Billing with just Hogg to displace if he is to become a Premier League regular next season and establish himself as one of the most sought after young players in England.
The Danish youth International is rumoured to be of interest to some of the big Premier League clubs. Should he impress on the biggest stage over the next 12 months, Huddersfield will find it difficult to keep hold of the 21 year old.
Who is Philip Billing?
Born on June 11, 1996, Philip Billing came through the youth system at Danish club Esbjerg FB. During a ten-day trial in 2013, Huddersfield decided they had seen enough and offered him a place in their U18 squad. Within a month, Billing was playing for the club’s U21’s. Towards the end of the 13/14 season, he made his debut appearance for the first team in a 0-2 loss at the John Smith’s Stadium. His first start, however, didn’t arrive until nearly 18 months later, with Huddersfield drawing 2-2 away at Reading. Gradually, Billing became more of a household name amongst Huddersfield fans, developing a reputation for his powerful long-range efforts, a couple of which were successful.
Last season saw Billing’s reputation grow significantly after some impressive displays at the heart of Huddersfield’s midfield as they fought at the top end of the Championship. During an FA Cup replay with Man City at the Etihad Stadium, Billing stood out. His accomplished showing led pundit Alan Shearer to hail the youngster as ‘Brilliant’.
What is his Style of Play?
Standing at 6ft 6”, Billing is now the tallest midfielder in the Premier League and also held that title in the Championship. His height means he’s a massive asset from set pieces and it allows him to overpower his opponents in 1v1’s. However, the technical aspects of his game are equally, if not more, impressive. His close control and dribbling ability are unusually excellent for a player of his size while his passing execution and vision are also worth noting. His broad skillset means he can aid in build- up play and break the opposition’s lines through both passing and dribbling. He provides a driving force when coming from deep on the ball but can also make off the ball runs forward to get on the end of a cross or cut-back. His versatility means he has the potential to become a ‘complete midfielder’ at the top level.
His somewhat unlikely combination of sheer size and technical prowess make him a unique player. As with every young player, however, comparisons are inevitable. While lazy pundits will probably compare him to fellow afro’d midfielder Marouane Fellaini, Billing’s game is more like a hybrid of Nemanja Matic and Steven N’Zonzi.
What are his Strengths?
As mentioned already, Billing possesses a large skills set and combines his physical gifts with technical skills better than most players his age. His long stride and close control allow him to receive the ball in deep areas and drive past opponents to carry the play up field. An example of this can be seen below with Billing dropping his shoulder before driving forward and playing a one-two.
Billing also possesses good reception and passing abilities, a pre-requisite for any number 6 in a team looking to build the play from deep. He offers good press-resistance in that he can avoid an opponent’s pressure using clever body shape or dribbling ability. Given time on the ball, Billing’s vision and passing qualities mean he is adept at breaking the opposition’s lines with a pass or switching the play to the open side of the pitch. Below you can see him play a first-time pass to the ball far fullback.
One feature of David Wagner’s tactical approach last season involved pressing and counter-pressing. Billing suited this strategy as he is also competent at reading the opponent’s play and winning the ball back before releasing his teammates in attack. This skill will only serve to further impress teams at the top when they consider making a move for him. The video below shows an example of Billing winning the ball back for his side in the opponent’s half.
Finally, Billing offers his team a potent option when it comes to crosses into the box. Although he invariably starts deep in midfield, Billing is dynamic enough to make late runs into the opposition’s area to get on the end of his teammates’ crosses using his height and athleticism to outjump defenders. His aerial ability is also useful from corners, both from an attacking and defending perspective, as well as when competing for the ball from goal-kicks or long-balls. Below is an example of Billing arriving in the box to receive a cross.
What Are His Weaknesses?
Given his wide range of technical abilities, as well as his physical attributes, it’s hard to find weaknesses in Billing’s game. He offers almost everything you could want from a central midfield player and, should he continue to improve on his strengths, he appears destined to reach the very top.
However, his manager David Wagner did at times during the last 12 months express his frustration that Billing perhaps wasn’t making the most of his abilities. Back in March, he had this to say when asked about the young Dane.
“Unfortunately he took time out for three or four months at the beginning of the season, which was very frustrating.
“It’s shown that he now understands how important it is to work hard in every training session and every game.
“In professional football there are no presents because you are a talent.
“What you have shown in the past you have to confirm every single day and he is doing that at the minute.”
Wagner’s feeling is one that is generally echoed by the club’s fanbase. Billing clearly has all the potential in the world but has perhaps lacked the consistency and focus needed to be a regular in the team up to this point in his career. Under Wagner’s guidance, however, there’s every chance he’ll develop into a Premier League midfielder and gain senior International recognition in the coming seasons.
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