Marcelo Bielsa has played down claims of a falling out with Kalvin Phillips at Leeds – and has explained his reasons for substituting the England midfielder during Saturday’s draw at Brighton.
The midfielder has been an unmissable part of Bielsa’s team since the club’s promotion to the Premier League. That has continued this term too, with the 25-year-old making 13 appearances in all competitions.
However, since the international break, Phillips has undergone a change of role. Indeed, he has started the last two matches at centre-back instead.
But the experiment has failed to truly work so far. Phillips moved into midfield in the second half against Tottenham, while he came off altogether at half time in Saturday’s draw with Brighton.
Indeed, that withdrawal at Brighton has led some pundits to suggest all is not right between Bielsa and Phillips.
However, speaking ahead of Tuesday’s vital clash with Crystal Palace at Elland Road, Bielsa was quick to address concerns over the player.
And he insists Phillips is available for selection against the Eagles and explains his withdrawal at the AMEX was purely tactical.
“With respect to Kalvin he’s available for the game tomorrow,” Bielsa said. “As I said in the declarations after the game against Brighton, [Jamie] Shackleton and Pascal [Struijk] coming on were all to do with improving how the team was playing.
“I don’t liken it to his individual performance, whether it was high or low. I’m referring to the players who came off: Kalvin and Junior [Firpo]. But it was to look for a more efficient collective organisation, different with different characteristics of the execution of the same function.”
The pair have been missing since the 1-1 draw with Newcastle on 17 September. However, Leeds will hope they can soon return to action should they emerge unscathed for their reserves.
“With respect to the injuries, Bamford and Ayling are going to play with the 23s today. The recovery of [Robin] Koch is on the programme as scheduled,” Bielsa commented.”
Bielsa denies Kalvin Phillips is out of form
The question of Phillips’ form, however, contines to be questioned.
Not only cutting a seemingly unhappy figure on the pitch, some also suggest he’s not performing at his usual high levels.
Asked if he feels Phillips is below his best, Bielsa emphatically denied the claims.
“No, I don’t think he’s at the lowest of his level. Of course every game has its characteristics, its themes. There are times when the characteristics of the game and in the mind of the game, in this case my mind, to imagine a different option for the same function.
“But I don’t see Kalvin with any substantial difference.”
Bielsa though knows the importance of collecting points in their next two games.
After Palace on Tuesday, Leeds have another home match, against Brentford, on Sunday.
“The wins are always a necessity. Of course in this case also. We are considering every game successively. And we hope it’s a point of support to start a recovery,” he added.