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Thomas Christiansen, after a flying start as Leeds boss, is now under pressure at Elland Road after his side lost 5 of their last 6 Championship games.
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips has been very influential this season, almost surprisingly so, with young starlet Rolando Vieira being kept out of the side by the local lad doing very well and after a one-match ban for five yellow cards, Phillips is once again available for selection.
Those simply reading the result of Leeds’ previous game will see only another defeat and assume the West Yorkshire side are in free fall; however Christiansen had a good right to feel aggrieved at some of the decision making from the referee against Derby in his side’s 2-1 defeat.
The fact that the performance was better than we’d seen previously from Leeds but they were missing Phillips means his return should give them an even bigger boost. They are more than due a win now in the league so with Phillips returning their chances of success look good.
Before his one-game suspension, Phillips had played in all of Leeds’ Championship matches this term and had managed to score 5 times during the process.
The 21-year-old has been in sterling form at both ends of the pitch in what has been a true breakthrough season for him. As well as his 5 goals, Phillips has managed to create another goal from his deep lying central midfield role, slides in 0.9 key passes per game on average and has scored his 5 goals from just 18 shots at goal, which really shows off his accuracy.
His pass completion rate of 74% is not bad but he could do with a little tweaking, though his work rate is not in question, seeing how he averages 87 minutes over his 14 appearances in the league – rarely needing to be subbed off.
In his defensive work, he has shone too. 1.6 interceptions per game to go along with 1.8 clearances and fully 3 tackles mark him out as a ball-winning all-action midfield player who ensures his side win back possession at the earliest opportunity.
There’s no doubt that we all thought young Ronaldo Vieira would be the main man in the Leeds engine room this season but that has not happened. If Leeds are to win promotion, a midfield general of this type is a key factor and this closer look at his stats really do show how good he has been.
We talk a lot on these pages about how important it is to have a goal scorer in the side, and Leeds would have been far better off with Chris Wood in the mix. However, the fact remains that most of the game is played in the middle third of the pitch and so with Phillips in this sort of form, Leeds are all the better for his presence.