Phillips joined Manchester City from Leeds United in the summer but has played 14 minutes of football in all competitions and has featured for just a minute in the Premier League.
However, that has not deterred Southgate from naming him in his England squad for their upcoming Nations League fixtures against Italy and Germany.
Keown stressed that despite his struggles to get into the Manchester City team, Phillips has been outstanding for England on the international stage and Southgate needs him to have minutes under his belt.
He believes the England boss wants some of his important players such as Phillips, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw to play in the upcoming games to get some match fitness given they are not featuring for their club sides.
Talking about Phillips’ selection, the former defender said on talkSPORT: “He has been outstanding in the games he has played for England.
“He is in a situation where he plays for Manchester City but can’t get quite get into the team.
“One assumes that he plays in both of these matches where Gareth Southgate would say, ‘Pep is not going to pick you but I am’.
“There have been messages that there will be minutes for certain players.
“Maguire and Luke Shaw – are they going to play?
“He must be picking them to play them because they have not played any football yet.”
Phillips was a regular starter at Leeds, where he flourished under Marcelo Bielsa, but is finding life tougher at Manchester City.