Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has insisted that Kalvin Phillips plays best in midfield, following debate that rose from his recent change in role.
Phillips has enjoyed an incredible rise for both the Whites and England since his club’s promotion back to the Premier League. Not only is he one of his boyhood team’s best players, Leeds tend to perform better with him in the side.
While he has made his name in the centre of midfield, playing in Bielsa’s system at Leeds means that versatility is key.
As such, amid injury issues, Phillips played at centre-back in the first half of Leeds’ recent 2-1 defeat to Tottenham. He impressed against England team-mate Harry Kane, keeping the striker quiet.
In fact, Leeds went into half time 1-0 up thanks to Daniel James’ strike on the stroke of the interval. Thereafter, though, Phillips struggled and he admitted after Spurs’ comeback that he felt puzzled at Bielsa’s tactics.
Speaking in a press conference on Thursday, Bielsa clarified where he thinks Phillips operates best.
“At Leeds, his natural position will be at defensive midfield. That’s the place where you most see Kalvin’s qualities. Of course, I will try he plays most of his minutes in that position.
“Our best player against Tottenham – he was the best when alongside [Liam] Cooper and [Diego] Llorente, following Kane when he dropped deep.
“We talked about thinking who could adapt best to following Kane and it was Phillips. It’s a method very clear in Tottenham. Kane drops and does the diagonal from centre to the left [to Son].
“With Phillips and Llorente paired up with those two players and Cooper waiting as a free man. That worked very well. Nothing that allows a player to shine should make it uncomfortable for him.
“For me, the best of KP, you will find it in the middle of the pitch. With respect to his position with England, it does correspond for me to have an opinion.”
Bielsa then spoke about how Raphinha is the perfect example for youngsters to follow in the footsteps of in football.
Bielsa hails role model Raphinha
“To be a pro player, an important contribution is to possess a high spirit of the amateur,” the manager said. “I am referring to what a player develops when they play for nothing. Without expecting any recompense except for the victory. They are the future of pro footballers, they consolidate the most important parts to then become pros.
“Raphinha is a clear example of this. He has not lost anything you achieve when you play for fun. Of course, it’s added to this amateur spirit. He has had added a lot of things the pro game demands.
“The important thing is the development of those virtues in childhood because the ones that come with the pro game are complimentary. Of course, Raphinha is recognised and he will be so more and more.
“For his capacity to invent responses that are not expected. That’s not a virtue you obtain through professionalism. You have to conserve it, keep it, despite the professionalism.”
Leeds return to action when facing Brighton on the south coast on Saturday.