This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Leeds United were mightily impressive against Middlesbrough on Saturday as they won 4-0 at Elland Road.
However, it wasn’t all positives after the game as one incident will have worrying repercussions for United in their next match.
Indeed, Kalvin Phillips picked up his fifth yellow card of the season, meaning that he will miss the Whites’ clash against Huddersfield Town.
Marcelo Bielsa has already confirmed who will be taking up his defensive midfield duties, but will that work?
The Argentine was asked if Ben White is the solution to Kalvin Phillips’ suspension to which he replied: “Yes, he’s our most important option.”
This is certainly an interesting way of reshuffling the pack as it takes one of Leeds’ best defenders and plays him out of position.
However, White is a ball-playing defender, and he does like to be a bit of a playmaker, but moving him into Phillips’ position may not work.
Now, we’re not saying that White doesn’t have the capabilities to play as a defensive midfielder, because he looks like he’d be a brilliant midfield player due to his incredible passing and dribbling skills.
However, playing as a defensive midfielder in Bielsa’s system is a different kettle of fish.
Bielsa’s defensive midfield role isn’t necessarily about playmaking, making runs from deep or creating. It’s about being a destructive force in the midfield, making more tackles than anyone else and protecting the backline.
In fact, in many ways, it’s actually more defensive than the role White has been playing so far this season.
If White tries any of his marauding runs while playing in the midfield he won’t have Phillips’ presence to fall back on, and he could leave his backline in trouble if he is caught in possession.
Playing the Brighton loanee in the 24-year-old’s position could backfire for United as he isn’t a tough-tackling destructive player.
Instead, he’s more of an elegant ballplayer who can read a game excellently, making more interceptions per game than anyone else in the Championship, but he’s not one of the top tacklers in the division.
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