Marcelo Bielsa has insisted that Kalvin Phillips did not benefit from missing three games, despite the midfielder seemingly producing two superb performances upon his return to the Leeds United lineup, in comments reported by Leeds Live.
Phillips missed the trio of fixtures after being sent off against Queens Park Rangers last month. And Leeds had a mixed time without him, winning one and losing two of those games.
He appears to have made amends for his absence however, with the Whites earning a draw at Brentford and then beating Bristol City at Elland Road last weekend.
It appeared, from the outside, as if Phillips produced two performances deserving of the man of the match award. And thus, with the youngster perhaps not producing his best form before his red card, some may be tempted to argue that he actually may have benefitted from being sent off.
However, Bielsa clearly does not agree with that theory as he suggested that he was not as influential at Griffin Park as some may expect.
“He lost a level as is natural. You can recover some things just playing, even this description he had positive impact in the match against Brentford for us because he knows how to cover our players in defence, but he recovers his real level in the last match,” he said, as reported by Leeds Live.
“He defended against attackers or playmakers like the 20. There he had more impact in defence and more efficiency. To know what I am saying is true, normally Kalvin makes double or triple of the movements of high intensity of our centre-backs, maximal speed.
“Against Brentford and he didn’t do double or triple, he did half of the centre-backs, but last match he came back to normal values. That means he didn’t play three matches, the situation made him worse.”
TBR View – Bielsa’s comments surprising
It is surprising to hear Bielsa suggest Phillips took one game to get back up to speed. He is clearly not being critical of the academy graduate. And he will know better than anyone else what Phillips’s performance at Brentford showed.
But it did appear that the 24-year-old was superb in both fixtures.
Perhaps, it is down to the fact that Leeds have struggled to replace Phillips whenever he has been missing during Bielsa’s tenure that it seemed to be a much better display than the stats would suggest.
Ben White has been a revelation at Elland Road. But he struggled to fill the void Phillips left.
Even when he is some way short of his best, Phillips is as good as almost any midfielder in the Championship.
And the last five games could not have made that any clearer.