Indeed, The Chronicle reported recently that the 24-year-old will likely demand exit talks with mooted new manager Steve Bruce, after he was denied a departure by former boss Rafael Benitez.
The Englishman plays in a very similar position to his compatriot, the all-action midfield role that the former Arsenal man perfected over the second half of last season at St James’ Park.
It would make sense, then, that Phillips’s potential arrival would spell the end of Hayden’s time on Tyneside, which is a scenario that would likely please all parties. However, with Tottenham Hotspur also in the hunt for the Leeds star, amongst others, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Magpies will complete a swoop for the 23-year-old.
When you consider the statistics, everything tells you that Phillips would be an ideal Hayden replacement. As per WhoScored, the Whites ace averaged more offsides drawn, clearances and blocks per game than his Newcastle counterpart last term, while featuring much more regularly for Marcelo Bielsa’s side than Hayden did for Benitez’s team.
Hayden completed more tackles and interceptions per game, though, while committing fewer fouls, so it would appear that the two men line up pretty closely in terms of the style of their games.
So the obvious conclusion to draw from this is that the Magpies are targeting Phillips so that they can finally give Hayden the compassionate departure that his tremendous services deserves, and there won’t be many Newcastle fans too upset at that potential scenario.