Coach Marsch said the mural of Phillips, Albert Johansson and Lucas Radebe hammered home the loss, but believes shrewd reinvestment, greater squad depth and his first pre-season has put the Whites in better shape ahead of tomorrow’s league opener at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Leeds have signed Luis Sinisterra, Marc Roca and a trio who have worked with Marsch before in Rasmus Kristensen and Americans Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams.
More are expected, starting with goalkeeper Joel Robles.
“I believe our strongest line-up is better and stronger than it was last season mostly because there’s more clarity as to the way we want to play the game,” asserted Marsch yesterday.
“We’ve been able to invest heavily in tactics we think are important, set-piece ideas, the idea of what we want this environment to be like from a team perspective, from a day-to-day work perspective. We’ve even made some adjustments to what’s going on at Thorp Arch to be more efficient.
“We have made incredible progress in the last six weeks and I think we’re going to see a better version of what I would like us to be on matchday. Some of the additions have been important but the (other) players have had time to work more intensively and minutely on the details.”
Still there was sadness at Phillips joining Manchester City for around £45m.
“Last week I drove through the city and saw the mural of Kalvin,” said Marsch, who remains in contact with the midfielder. “It got me a little emotional, because I know what he means to this fanbase and this community.
“When I knew I wanted to be a coach, I thought it would be about tactics and competitiveness but I realised more and more the role of father figure took the more prominent position in the way I lead.
“So when I see the mural of Kalvin it’s hard not seeing him here every day and not being attached with a young man you really liked, that you want to really see be successful. Now I just have to do it from afar and see him in an ugly colour of blue.”
None of the new recruits are direct replacements for Phillips.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be about replacing Kalvin with one or two players, and more just about continuing what we wanted to achieve in that position,” explained Marsch. “A lot of the players have adapted more, including Adam Forshaw. Tyler Adams and Marc Roca, how they complement each other and understand what we want the game to look like, fit really well.
“You could also include Darko (Gyabi, billed as a development signing when he came in the opposite direction to Phillips) and Archie (Gray) who I think are going to see playing time in that position over the season.”
Dan James completes a suspension tomorrow so has asked to play for the under-21s at Derby County this evening.
Sinisterra, Forshaw, Liam Cooper, Junior Firpo, Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas will be missing, and goalkeeper Dani van den Heuvel suffered a terrible injury in a car crash on Holland Under-20s duty this summer.
“It was a pretty severe neck injury where he broke some vertebrae so we were really worried about him – not even as a football injury but as a life situation,” said Marsch. “It’s probably a couple of months before he’ll be training.”
Leeds are expected to sign 32-year-old former Everton, Wigan Athletic and Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Robles next week on a free transfer.