KALVIN PHILLIPS has twice this season suffered the indignity of being substituted before half-time by demanding Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
But the Argentine has this week made no secret of his admiration for a player who has become pivotal to how Leeds play in this season’s Championship.
“He is a versatile player and that is a very important skill in modern football,” said Bielsa about Phillips, who is expected to revert to central midfield today after deputising at centre half.
“If you look at his game last year, he played some games as offensive midfielder, and then as a number ‘8’, and then as a number ‘4’.
“And now he plays as a centre back.
“I think if I had to do the same process but backwards I think he could play in these positions with good results and this tells a lot about him because usually players lose their versatility when they drop back.”
Pontus Jansson’s return from a foot injury means Bielsa will make at least one change from the side who beat Reading 1-0 in midweek.
But the United head coach may be tempted to make more with the half-time introduction of Samuel Saiz and Jack Clarke against the Royals providing a much-needed spark to his side’s attacking threat.
Asked if Clarke was ready for his first start, Bielsa said: “You evaluate the players according to the number of obstacles they overcome. If you have a look at the first part of the second half from a physical point of view he didn’t have the same in the second half so you always ask yourself questions about it. “
“Of course, he has many things to learn yet and he has to look at Pablo Hernandez as an example. Pablo (Hernandez) has many details that Jack Clarke can learn only by looking at him.”
I think if I had to do the same process but backwards I think he could play in these positions with good results and this tells a lot about him because usually players lose their versatility when they drop back.Marcelo Bielsa