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Leeds United got their season off to a very good start with a hard-fought win at Bolton Wanderers on Sunday, with midfielder Kalvin Phillips grabbing two of their goals in a 3-2 success.
Phillips was excellent for the Yorkshire side and may have slipped under the radar a little bit in terms of expectations, with most people believing that Ronaldo Vieira would be the big up-and-comer in that midfield. One thing Vieira doesn’t have is the local influence; Phillips was born in Leeds and truly has the club’s interests at heart.
The club are very well off for holding midfield options with Vieira facing challenges from the likes of Toumani Diagouraga, Liam Bridcutt and new arrival Vurnon Anita. But none of those players can get forward from the deeper lying positions like Phillips can.
That bridge between the central midfield positions and the forwards is important as the side can’t allow gaps to appear. Phillips, not surprisingly for a 21-year-old, is improving steadily and that is something which should not be forgotten.
Fans seem to scream louder and louder for new signings while forgetting what they already have at their disposal. Thomas Christiansen clearly saw Phillips getting better and entrusted him with a start from day one, a decision which was instantly rewarded.
Leeds’ most positive players last season were at extremes with the likes of Pontus Jansson truly outstanding at the back and Chris Wood exceptional up front. What they missed though was perhaps that midfield powerhouse who can move them forward without the need for a long ball or a long, protracted period of passing.
It’s something champions Newcastle had with Jonjo Shelvey, who after receiving the ball deep was always looking forward and trying to improve his team’s position. Phillips, while lacking the long passing range of Shelvey, has a similar attitude and could yet end up being their key man this term.
The way he drove forward through the midfield areas at Bolton was mightily impressive. While the opposition on the day was perhaps not the strongest, his performance stood out nonetheless. After their home clash with Preston, Leeds play Fulham at home and Sunderland away in the league over the coming weeks and these games will help in showing how important Phillips now is.
A of man-of-the-match performance or two in this group of games would go a long way in Phillips cementing his place in the starting XI for the rest of the Championship campaign.