With Leeds United going into the final few minutes of Saturday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers 1-0 down thanks to a goal that should not have stood and a penalty miss from Patrick Bamford, Marcelo Bielsa would have been forgiven for thinking that there was little else that could go wrong for the Whites.
But unfortunately for the Championship promotion-chasers, it did get worse before the full-time whistle blew.
Kalvin Phillips was sent off as stoppage-time loomed for a nasty challenge on Geoff Cameron near the QPR penalty area.
It was a challenge that screamed of frustration. Leeds were heading for their third defeat in a row. And they continue to search for their second win since beating Hull City in early December.
The problem the Whites now face is they have to tackle their next three games without their most important player.
Whenever Phillips has been missing since Bielsa came in, Leeds have struggled to replace him. There is no obvious replacement in the first-team, particularly with Adam Forshaw sidelined with injury.
It is a huge blow for the Whites. But perhaps, there is a small chance that Leeds can come through this period with some positives to reflect upon.
With that in mind, here are three potential upsides that could occur thanks to Phillips’s suspension…
Could Phillips’s absence push Leeds into January signing?
Admittedly the most unlikely upside seems to be Phillips’s absence pushing Leeds into a change to their January plans and make a signing who can be deployed in the Phillips role.
Leeds however, already look light in central midfield. As mentioned, Forshaw has been out for some time and Jamie Shackleton has also struggled with injury.
It would not be a huge surprise therefore, if Bielsa was previously open to signing a midfielder, but only if the perfect option came into conversation.
Phillips’s suspension does not change the situation drastically. But perhaps it could make making a new signing just a little more tempting.
Leeds should not be desperate. But their current predicament does also show that they will not always be able to rely on Phillips.
A new star could emerge?
Leeds do not have an obvious replacement for Phillips within the senior squad. However, they do have youngsters who have played in a defensive role for the under-23s.
Alfie McCalmont looks to be at the front of the queue if Bielsa is ready to promote from within. But the likes of Shackleton and Robbie Gotts will come into the equation.
Should any of those three players get a chance, it could prove to be a massive opportunity. Shackleton is, by far, the most experienced with 33 appearances under his belt.
This may provide one youngster with a chance to secure a spot in and around the first-team for the remaining months of the campaign.
And even if it is Ben White who pushes forward – as he did when Phillips was previously suspended – the likes of Charlie Cresswell, Oliver Casey or Pascal Struijk will find themselves higher up the centre-back pecking order.
New corner taker?
It would be incredibly unfair to pin all of the blame for Leeds’s corner woes on Phillips. His deliveries have often found their way into the right areas. And you cannot question Bielsa’s logic to trust one of the squad’s best strikers of the ball with taking the set-pieces.
But Leeds fans are starting to accept that their attacking momentum will all but evaporate the moment the ball goes out for a corner. Defenders are finding it all too easy to clear their lines.
Again, Phillips is hardly to blame. Leeds lack height in their squad.
So it may not be a bad thing to have a different player taking corners while Phillips is suspended. A different approach may perhaps lead to a change in fortunes that is difficult to explain.
And if nothing else, perhaps it may leave Phillips with a different role upon his return.
It is easy to forgot that he scored seven league goals during the 2017/18 season, so perhaps having the 24-year-old on the edge of the box instead could ultimately leave defenders worrying about heading the ball clear through fear it may fall perfectly into the 24-year-old’s path.