Plenty of Leeds United’s most influential attacking players have been lauded throughout the media this season but without brawn the brains often come unstuck.
Kemar Roofe and Pablo Hernandez have come in for particularly esteemed praise this season for their exploits in the final-third. The former has been finding the net on a regular basis and the latter has continued to age like a fine wine, orchestrating attacks and providing a touch of top-flight quality to pull Leeds clear at the top of the Championship table.
However, without the presence of a midfield enforcer such as Kalvin Phillips, who is willing to pickpocket attackers and stick to the task within an unglamorous role, the Whites would struggle for balance.
Phillips has quietly been a standout performer this season but his popularity took a slight tumble against Nottingham Forest last time out when he was awarded a straight red card for a strong lunge.
It was a challenge which is bound to divide opinion but, as the cliche goes, in this day age you give the referee little choice when you raise your studs like that.
But Phillips will learn from his untimely mistake and play a vital role in Leeds’ push for promotion, and that is an opinion shared by Sky Sports pundit David Prutton.
Indeed, in his column for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Prutton revealed that his aggression in the midfield is exactly what Leeds need.
‘Kalvin has a great bite about the way he plays the game. I don’t mean that in a nasty sense, but he has a good aggression about him and you always need a couple of those types of players – the ones who can assert themselves physically on a game.’
Almost every club that has ever achieved genuine success, whether it be in a promotion charge or a top-flight title-challenge, has boasted players on their ranks with an edge of nastiness.
That is not to say those players have to be malicious, even if that is sometimes the case, but the likes of Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane and now Fernandinho certainly offer something which few players can emulate, whether it be menacing intimidation or tactical fouls in midfield.
The midfield pivot is the unsung hero by nature and Phillips is no exception to the rule, but as the season develops his ball-winning capabilities and natural mean streak will play a vital role in maintaining Leeds’ promotion charge.
And Leeds’ ability to cope in Phillips’ absence through suspension could yet reveal the true extent of his importance to the club.
Leeds fans – thoughts? Let us know below!
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