With Leeds United star Kalvin Phillips out for an extended spell, Marcelo Bielsa will be desperately searching for ways to ensure his side doesn’t miss their midfield talisman too much.
While it may be a bit of a leap for the Whites boss to chuck in a wholly unproven 19-year-old, Lewis Bate could well be the surprise answer to Leeds’ problem.
In fact, according to Ram Srinivas, co-founder of football analytics consultancy MRKT Insights, Bate has all the hallmarks of being someone to take over from Phillips in years to come.
He said: “Bate is a well-rounded deep-lying midfielder; he’s well capable of helping a team control possession, acting as a metronome to keep things ticking over as well as being very productive in build-up. He’s very positive in his passing and shows good awareness of the spaces opening up around him and team shape, which helps his team play out of a press and also attack the opposition in transition.
“All in all he’s just a multi-faceted midfielder whose biggest weakness is probably just his size but he more than makes up for it with his other qualities. He’s very well-suited to Bielsa-ball and probably capable of serving as an understudy to Kalvin Phillips.”
Dubbed as “very gifted” by The Athletic’s Phil Hay and as a “lovely passer” too, the 5 foot 8 Bate has predominantly spent the most of his time this season with the club’s U23s side in the Premier League 2 – out of the 14 games the Whites have played, the midfielder has completed the full 90 minutes in all but one.
The 19-year-old has featured mainly as either a central midfielder for the U23s and in a more holding role, and with a busy festive schedule for the first-team, may well fancy his chances of making the step-up.
While the January transfer window gives Bielsa the perfect opportunity to bring in players from the outside to strengthen his options in the middle of the park, giving Bate the chance to shine could turn out to be a masterstroke.