Former Leeds United striker Noel Whelan has slammed Marcel Bielsa for over-relying on Kalvin Phillips, as told to Football Insider.
Phillips is one of four Whites players yet to miss a minute of Championship actions this season (WhoScored), with the defensive midfielder, along with Adam Forshaw, Ben White and goalkeeper Kiko Casilla currently Bielsa’s most heavily relied on options at Elland Road.
Leeds-born Phillips has even featured throughout both of his side’s Carabao Cup ties this term, with the 23-year-old one of only three players to remain in the starting line-up from the eleven who beat Stoke 3-0 in the league last Saturday.
Whelan now fears Bielsa’s handling of Phillips could risk the midfielder being sidelined or simply burning out, after his former side suffered numerous injuries last season.
“Yes, I think so,” Whelan told Football Insider when asked if Phillips was being overplayed. “The games are coming thick and fast and it’s a long season where you need your best players fit and firing throughout.
“Bielsa needs to show common sense and carefully man-manage the key players like Kalvin. I don’t think he should have played in the cup games, they were good opportunities to rest him and give someone else a chance.
“I hoped he wouldn’t play against Stoke the other night. I wanted us to win the match, but there is enough quality in the squad for Kalvin not to play every minute of every game.
“Given the amount of injuries we got last season, you can’t deny it’s a massive issue keeping everyone on the park.”
If Phillips is starting to burn out already, he is doing a good job of hiding it, as the Leeds product is currently averaging more tackles (5.8 to 4.1) and more successful tackles (3.8 to 2.8) per ninety minutes than he did throughout his 44 second-tier appearances including the Play-Offs last season, according to data collected by WhoScored.
The defensive midfielder is also averaging the same number of interceptions (1.4) and more blocks (1.6 to 1.4), as well as playing more passes (68.8 to 62.9) and is finding teammates more frequently (only mislaying 9.6 passes compared to 11.2) so far this term.
Bielsa not resting Phillips while he had the chance to in the Carabao Cup could come back to haunt the Argentine further down the line, though, as the Whites now only have league games to play until entering the FA Cup in the Third Round come the turn of the year.
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