5 best players for Leeds United in 2018-19

25 Feb 2019 01:01 pm, by YorkshireSquare

Leeds United are currently flying in the Championship, fighting at the top for an automatic promotion place as things stand. They have been playing some entertaining, innovative football under “El Loco” Marcelo Bielsa. Bielsa’s attention to detail (a phrase which is something of an understatement) and astute footballing mind has meant that Leeds United are punching above their weight. Bielsa’s vigorous training methods and unique opposition scouting tactics aside, a fair few players in the squad have bought into his philosophy and are now thriving in his tutelage. Some of these players would seem to be obvious candidates, but a couple of them might surprise you in the sense that their contributions are slightly understated compared to their teammates. They’ve caught the fancy of the betting world and online casinos are full of bets on Leeds United finishing top of the table.

Kemar Roofe

When you talk about an obvious pick for Leed’s best player this season, most folks would be inclined to pick Kemar Roofe. Leed’s top scorer and probably the player that is marked out to be the biggest threat of the lot, Roofe has scored 14 goals and has 2 assists to his name. The forward has been pretty proficient in front of goal, converting 52% of his shots on target in 2214 minutes of gametime. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that 2018/19 is probably Roofe’s best season for the Lilywhites since being snapped up in 2016. Bielsa has meticulously built the team around supplying the forward, who had been on West Bromwich Albion’s books for years and had been sent on loan to destinations ranging from Northampton Town to Icelandic club Vikingur Reykjavik over the course of 4 seasons until he permanently signed for Oxford United.

Roofe has displayed amazing link-up play, with his output not just being limited to scoring and creating chances but also involving him bringing his fellow attackers into the game. Roofe is often paired up with fellow attacking midfielder Klich, taking players on and perennially exploiting spaces. Roofe’s runs into the box and gives the widemen more options to exploit. Bielsa has utilized Roofe’s tendency to dribble at players to the fullest, with his dribbling often keeping the opposition busy and providing the space and time for other players to make their moves and open up new avenues.

Roofe is a vital cog of Bielsa’s extremely intricate, possession-based, aggressive football and if Leeds are to continue their campaign to ensure promotion to the Premier League, Roofe’s performances shall be incredibly important.

It is to be noted though that despite his exploits as their top scorer, Roofe has a slew of other attacking talent outdoing him. The likes of Norwich and West Brom have outscored them and yet find themselves behind Leeds.

Kalvin Phillips

When you wonder how Leeds United made it to the summit without being spectacular goalscorers or resolute defenders, Kalvin Phillips is the answer you’re looking for. Phillips, an academy graduate, played under quite a few managers that got engulfed by the merry-go-around kickstarted by the previous ownership. Followers of Marcelo Bielsa’s footballing journey would remember his time back in Atletico Bilbao. It was quite the team, boasting of the likes of Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez. One underrated Bilbao player that Kalvin Phillips could be compared with though in terms of how Bielsa’s undertaking of player development is Oscar De Marcos.

The Bilbao right-back used to play in almost every position bar goalkeeper and forward on the pitch for Bielsa, although he was mostly found in midfield and his versatility would help Bielsa develop a maverick team that once humbled Pep’s Barcelona. As we speak, Phillips has been played both in the center back and defensive midfield by the Chilean and impressed in both positions although Bielsa eventually decided on making the 23-year-old the anchorman of his flourishing 4-3-3 shape that seems to transition to 4-1-4-1 during the passage of play.

Phillips has covered almost every blade of grass, being ever willing to tackle and vie in key midfield battles that not only helps the team burst forward from key areas, but also lessens the amount of pressure that’ll have to be absorbed by the Leeds backline. His time training and playing a few games at centre back has seemed to develop a positional and tactical maturity in him. If Leeds keep this up and do indeed manage to get promoted, Phillips could make for an interesting player to follow given rumours that Gareth Southgate was monitoring him for a call-up to the national side due to his impressive performances in his newfound deep-lying defensive midfield position under Bielsa.

Liam Cooper

Yet-to-be-capped by the Scottish national side, Cooper has been a real leader at the back. The skipper has really taken on the leadership mantle, defending with a genuine flourish and lending assuredness to Pontus Jansson. Cooper has also been quite good at starting moves from the back, distributing the ball calmly and keeping the backline tightly knit since Bielsa’s high-tempo football demands that they hold a high backline which could leave them susceptible to counter-attacks.

Pablo Hernandez

Former Valencia and Swansea City winger Pablo Hernandez’s footballing pedigree was never really up for question. The Spaniard, who has been capped 4 times by Spain, has exerted his influence all over the pitch for Leeds this season even though he’s a Wideman. The player has accrued an impressive tally of 7 goals and 11 assists, displaying scintillating continental flair and technical prowess to wow Championship audiences every matchday. Hernandez’s current contract situation might hint at him merely winding down his career but the current standard of his displays suggest that there’s so much left in the tank of the Spaniard.

Mateusz Klich

The midfielder has had quite the revival after being snapped up from FC Twente only to disappoint and then being shifted back to the Eredivisie on loan to Utretcht. When he came back for pre-season, most fans wouldn’t expect to be someone who’d warm the bench and not have much of a part to play in the season to come. Bielsa thought otherwise, however, and Klich has been a fixture since. The midfielder has showcased a knack for coming up with the goals, scoring 7 goals and also laying out 6 assists to show for his attacking contribution. Klich would be essential to Leed’s promotion aspirations come the end of the season.