When a loose ball fell the way of Dael Fry on the edge of the Middlesbrough area on Saturday, Leeds United were in little danger, which makes Kalvin Phillips’ rash lunge on the defender that little bit more frustrating, with the midfielder now suspended for this weekend’s trip to Huddersfield Town.
Leeds fans love a good tackle and Phillips provides them with a real bite in the heart of midfield. However, the academy graduate has been walking a tightrope in recent weeks, and on the eve of the yellow card threshold being lifted, the 24-year-old received his fifth caution.
That rules him out of the West Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield on Saturday lunchtime, with Bielsa already confirming that Ben White is an option to replace Phillips in the midfield.
White stepping up into the ‘Phillips role’ makes sense, but it does disrupt Leeds’ defensive unit in a fixture that’s proved to be awkward for the Whites to handle over the years.
Phillips does an excellent job screening the defence, whilst he sets the tempo for Leeds’ attacks with his passing; there’s no denying that he’s the heartbeat of Bielsa’s side, which makes his absence at Town such a blow.
With that in mind, we break down his season so far…
In all competitions, Phillips has played 2,275 minutes of football, making 19 appearances in the Championship and two in the League Cup.
The holding midfielder has scored one goal – in the 1-0 win over Birmingham City in October – and registered two assists (Barnsley away, Boro home).
Whilst three goal involvements are impressive, that’s not why Phillips is so important to Bielsa.
He’s made 1,331 accurate passes at a success rate of 85.8%, with Phillips keeping the ball moving nicely as Leeds transition defence into attack.
The 24-year-old has won over 50% of his duels and made an astonishing 94 interceptions this season. In addition to all that, he’s made 2,138 successful actions (71%), an incredibly high number in such a competitive division.
Unfortunately, it was one of those duels Phillips lost that resulted in this suspension.
He was a fraction late getting to the ball and caught Fry deep in Boro’s half, leaving Bielsa without the vital cog in his machine ahead of a trip across Yorkshire on Saturday.