The Chalkboard: Bielsa should start Ayling at CB instead of Phillips when Leeds face Rotherham

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has a big selection decision to make at centre-back when his side will look to get back to winning ways against Rotherham United this weekend, with Pontus Jansson missing through suspension (Leeds Live) following his red card in the 2-1 defeat to Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

On the chalkboard

The Yorkshire outfit have rarely had a settled backline this term due to various injuries and suspensions, although they did have three of their four strongest options available against the Potters in the form of Jansson, Luke Ayling and Liam Cooper, with Ezgjan Alioski filling in at left-back in the absence of Barry Douglas.

When either Jansson or Cooper have been sidelined, Bielsa has usually opted to drop defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips back into the heart of the defence, which has worked particularly well on some occasions but not on others.

The 23-year-old is returning to the fold himself following a three-match suspension after his straight red card from a centre-back position in the defeat to Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day, and is likely to return to the starting XI.

Where should he play?

Even though Phillips has been such a huge hit in the deep midfield role, that hasn’t stopped Bielsa using him as a centre-back when he has needed to, and the experienced manager may well choose to follow the same pattern at the New York Stadium.

However, with the Whites slipping up against Stoke last time out when Adam Forshaw played ahead of the defence, the Argentine boss should instead push the former Middlesbrough ace forward, bring into midfield the man who makes Leeds tick in Phillips, and then move Ayling across from right-back to partner Cooper.

It may not be the 27-year-old’s natural position but he can certainly do a job there as has been proven in the past, and Jamie Shackleton showed in Ayling’s absence previously that he has the ability to do a great job at full-back because of his technical ability.

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