After seeing him limp off in the closing minutes of Leeds’ 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in the Premier League last time out, Marcelo Bielsa would have been hoping that Kalvin Phillips’ injury was nothing too long-lasting.
And after Bielsa’s press conference ahead of the game against Arsenal on Sunday afternoon, The Athletic’s Phil Hay tweeted that Phillips is a “doubt” but that “no decision on him (has been) made yet”.
Former Premier League striker Darren Bent made it clear just how important Phillips is to this Leeds team, saying: “It is a unique role, and you think who else can they get in that position who can do the job effectively. The answer to that is no one.
“He’s that good of a player that it’s hard to replace him. You don’t just get players like that, it’s not that easy. Who’ve they got to come in there? Klich’s really impressed me this season but he won’t play that role. Shackleton might be able to step in but the drop off would be massive.”
With an average WhoScored match rating of 7.06, Phillips ranks third among his Leeds teammates this season in the Premier League, with only Patrick Bamford and Liam Cooper scoring higher.
And when you look at some of his underlying numbers, it’s easy to see why he’d be such a massive miss for Bielsa if he fails to pass a late fitness check against the Gunners.
He ranks top for tackles made (2.7 per game), fourth for interceptions (1.6), fourth for key passes (1.3), and top for crosses (1.2).
Phillips plays his part in everything in that engine room for Leeds, and like Bent says, it’s almost impossible for Bielsa to try and find a like-for-like replacement, particularly with the squad he’s got on his hands right now.
The Leeds boss will be extremely worried about his side’s chances of clinching victory against Mikel Arteta’s side.