Talking Tactics

Promoted stars: Phillips the main man for Leeds

By Adrian Clarke 6 Aug 2020
Kalvin Phillips

Adrian Clarke says the midfielder is a natural ball-winner and quarterback style passer who will be integral to their 2020/21 hopes

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Defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips is the star of Leeds United.

Phillips is a classy operator in and out of possession and links his team's defence with the rest of the side.

The 24-year-old's versatility is also a huge asset for head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

He is able to slot in as an extra centre-back when required, allowing the team to easily switch from 4-1-4-1 to a system with three at the back.

Breaking up play 

Sitting in front of the back four, Leeds’ midfield anchor is a natural ball-winner. He reads the game well and is mobile and forceful in regaining possession.

In 2019/20 his turnovers were the springboard for 1.6 shots per match, the best figure for any Championship midfielder.

Most moves started ending in a shot
Championship midfielder Club Per match 2019/20
Kalvin Phillips Leeds 1.6
Ryan Leonard Millwall 1.4
Christian Norgaard Brentford 1.4
Pablo Hernandez Leeds 1.4
Alfa Semedo Nott'm Forest 1.3

Given he is surrounded by attack-minded midfielders, there is a huge onus on Phillips to provide defensive stability.

The Premier League will test this side of his game, but he is an outstanding prospect.

Set-piece specialist

Phillips has an excellent right foot which is put to great use when Leeds win set-pieces. His dead-ball deliveries consistently cause problems.

He also showcased his eye for goal against Blackburn Rovers in July, whipping a beautiful effort into the top corner.

Phillips' incredible goal v Blackburn

Bielsa encourages his players to make a stream of progressive forward runs and, in his quarterback role, Phillips is adept at picking them out.

Capable of hitting precise long diagonals, the midfielder can take Leeds from one end of the pitch to the other in an instant.

Most 2019/20 long passes
 Championship midfielder Club Succ. long passes per 90
Paul Gallagher Preston 7.8
Barry Bannan Sheff Wed 5.5
John Swift Reading 5.5
Kalvin Phillips Leeds 5.4
Pablo Hernandez Leeds 5.4

When Leeds need to relieve pressure in the Premier League, expect to see Phillips hitting plenty of these longer passes to set up counters.

His game is developing quickly under Bielsa and he will shine on the big stage. 

Also in this series

Part 1: Bielsa's Leeds can spring a few surprises
Part 3: West Brom return as more attacking team
Part 4: Parker's Fulham can learn from the past
Part 5: Hector has transformed Fulham defence
Part 6: Pereira West Brom's creative fulcrum

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