For Leeds United, the prospect of losing Kalvin Phillips either on a permanent basis or temporarily through injury or suspension has long been a daunting one.
The England international has firmly established himself as the key figure in the heart of the Whites’ engine room, consistently breaking up opposition attacks before kickstarting some of his own.
In 2020/21, Phillips missed nine Premier League fixtures for his boyhood club. In those games, Leeds picked up a meagre total of six points from a possible 27, losing on seven occasions.
His absence at the base of the midfield was all too obvious for their grateful opponents, and planning for his potential departure or inevitable short-term absence became a priority.
However, due to the financial restraints of the ongoing pandemic, Marcelo Bielsa was unable to add significant reinforcement to his first team squad over the summer, leaving Leeds exposed in the middle of the pitch yet again.
With Phillips needing some extra time off following his impressive exploits for England in Euro 2020, the £36m-rated gem played no part in their curtain-raising fixture against fierce rivals Manchester United, a game that Leeds lost 5-1.
However, it appears as though Bielsa’s prayers have been answered. Adam Forshaw made his long-awaited return to action against Crewe Alexandra in the second round of the Carabao Cup back in August and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
The 30-year-old only played a handful of games in 2019/20 before missing the entirety of last season due to injury, but he has seamlessly slotted back into Bielsa’s side in recent weeks.
Forshaw came off the bench twice in the Premier League after his cup outings, starting in the draw with Leicester City, defeat against Tottenham Hotspur and the weekend’s stalemate with Brighton.
Before the 0-0 draw with the Seagulls, former Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford lauded the tough-tackling dynamo and said that his return to the first-team squad is like having ‘a brand new player’.
Speaking on Sky Sports ahead of the tricky encounter at the Amex Stadium, Beckford said: “He’s been like a brand new player. So much energy, so much hunger. But I like that when Adam came in it was like there was nothing to worry about, nothing was missing.
“His passing ability, his movement, he breaks up play really well, he links up the game really well. Brilliant, brilliant football player.”
The £20k-per-week maestro didn’t disappoint with his display on the south coast. As per SofaScore, he was awarded a match rating of 7.6 out of 10, with only goalkeeper Ilan Meslier receiving a higher total amongst his teammates.
Forshaw was dominant throughout the 90 minutes at Brighton, winning 10 of his 14 duels and making a whopping seven tackles, while losing possession just seven times, highlighting his effective performance.
Therefore, the player who was described as “class” by former Whites striker Noel Whelan and previously praised by Bielsa could be the solution to the Argentine’s midfield conundrum in the weeks and potentially years to come.