Leeds United got the Marcelo Bielsa era underway yesterday with a 2-1 friendly win over Forest Green Rovers at the New Lawn. Leeds, playing in a training kit, were dominant for most of the game and deserved the win. As for the way they played under Bielsa there was plenty of excitement as to how the Argentine would line them up.
It was never going to be a massive shock. With the club still lacking new signings and a few unavailable Bielsa played the best team available to him.
But one performance that stood out, compared to most of last season, was that of Kalvin Phillips.
The youngster gets plenty of stick from Leeds fans, who feel he is not up to the level necessary to take Leeds into the top six picture.
But he was excellent last night, showing what he is capable of when disciplined, fit and focused.
He also took on an important role in Bielsa’s team. One object of his tactics that became abundantly clear yesterday was the use of full-backs in the attack.
When Leeds pushed forward, Stuart Dallas and Luke Ayling essentially became wingers. It meant one central midfielder dropping off deep, nearly into a back-three.
That responsibility was given to Phillips yesterday and the 22-year-old thrived.
Here is some of the reaction to his performance…
Phillips covering some ground already. #lufc
— Matt (@_mattf7) July 17, 2018
Phillips going nowhere is giving the full backs lots of freedom to get forward. Ayling in particular looks good.
— James (@JamesLUFC) July 17, 2018
Delighted to see that Bielsa has basically turned Phillips into Pirlo. #lufc
— John Moon (@Johnmoon86) July 17, 2018
Phillips impressive that half and Forshaw getting very high up the pitch, Pablo drifting inside is leaving Ayling so much room on the right, good pressing and decent passing so far #lufc
— Ryan Pinnick (@RPlufc93) July 17, 2018
Phillips’ role going a little understated here. Constantly the source of the midfield press and very little of Forest Green’s possession has gone through the middle. #lufc
— AllWhiteStrip (@AllWhiteStripLU) July 17, 2018
That big chance for Alioski all came from Phillips going back to the goalie under pressure. A level of composure I don’t think I’ve ever seen out of Kalv. Great stuff. #LUFC
— ETHAN (@EthanFromOnline) July 17, 2018
only preseason game 1 blah blah blah, but is it just me, or does Phillips look MUCH more mature than last year. His defensive positioning looks great. He’s stronger on the ball, reading things well. Breaking up play. looking for possession. #lufc more please.
— Ohhhh Gary Kelly! (@BuntyLUFC) July 17, 2018
— Chris Eaton (@eatonc01) July 17, 2018
Phillips has been Brilliant
— L E E D S U N I T E D W O R L D (@james___lufc) July 17, 2018
Surprised to see Phillips as the deepest midfielder as well, have to say I’d expect Forshaw in that role, but he played well #lufc
— Josh Hobbs (@JoshAHobbs) July 17, 2018