Whilst Pablo Hernandez may take on the role of principal first violinist in the orchestra that is Leeds United, sorry Patrick you’ll have to be content with second violin for now, there is no doubting that Kalvin Phillips is the conductor. The maestro in defensive midfield, setting the tempo of the game, ensuring all the performers in Marcelo Bielsa’s concerto follow the same metrical rhythm. Be it the short baton gestures of his short passing game or the long gestures of the long balls, Phillips has been a master at guiding the ensemble around the pitch.
His stats on Saturday alone show the importance of his direction to the team. Phillips had 94 touches against Wigan, completing 71 passes (88% passing accuracy), more than any other player on the team, even one more than the whole of Wigan’s outfield starters managed combined. His pass map like musical notation stretching across the whole pitch; demisemiquaver short passes, maxima long balls (16/20 long passes completed), dictating play, directing the symphony to the joy of an admiring crowd.
Kalvin Phillips pass map vs Wigan, image from @LUFCDATA
And it wasn’t just against Wigan that Phillips was so impressive. Against Salford the Yorkshire Pirlo was equally impressive. 128 touches, 99 successful passes (84% pass accuracy), 86 of which were in the opposition, 33 more than any other player. But it’s not just his passing and offensive play which is important, should the ensemble play out of tune, off rhythm he brings them back into line. Three tackles won against Wigan, three aerial duels won, three clearances and one interception. Likewise against Salford, with five ball recoveries setting the team back on track, getting them playing in the right direction again. Over the Championship season so far Phillips has racked up 185 successful passes, second only to Romaine Sawyers. In terms of long passes he has completed 35, the only outfield player to have completed more is Yoann Barbet.
Many fans questioned Leeds United’s transfer activity over the summer but they flat out refused offers for Pablo Hernandez and Kalvin Phillips, perhaps the most important business of the summer. With Phillips conducting the concerto the likes of Hernandez are free to play the solo parts, create the chances and score the goals. The nickname of ‘The Yorkshire Pirlo’ may have been tongue in cheek but it is not so far from the truth, his vision, creativity and passing ability are key to directing Leeds United’s promotion push this season.
Inspired by 1964white (And Kalvin Phillips), data and stats from the incomparable @LUFCDATA
Kalvin Phillips, the conductor of Marcelo Bielsa’s concerto