When Liam Bridcutt went down injured at Elland Road against Blackburn in the early stages of the season it seemed like we were going to struggle. As it was we sparked that night and haven’t really looked back. Eunan O’Kane partnered Kalvin Phillips for months and even when one didn’t play in came Ronaldo Vieira who didn’t let us down.
O’Kane and Vieira started the game last night and for the first hour we dominated before Bristol City came back into it. Bridcutt didn’t make the game as he was suspended from the weekends defeat at home to Cardiff City. His form hasn’t been up to his own standards in recent weeks in my opinion. there is no doubt that Liam Bridcutt is a leader on and off the pitch but should he come back into the side for trip to Ipswich Town on Saturday or do we stick with the winning formula from last night? Eunan O’Kane and Ronaldo Vieira will both feel they have a strong case to keep Bridcutt out of the side. Despite having a tough last half an hour or so the pair did well last night as we picked up more second balls than the last two games combined.
Ronaldo Vieira doesn’t seem like a player who would need a rest but that may well be in Monk’s thoughts in the coming weeks. The youngster is only 18 and is easily the young player of the season at the football club and possibly one of the contenders for that honour in the league as well. He was back to his bullying self last night but did send a few wayward passes during the game, is that a problem? No, people need to realise he will make mistakes especially at that age but the talent that is within Vieira is huge and we are only seeing some of it at the moment. Kalvin Phillips came off the bench last night but I would expect him to maybe miss out on the squad for Saturday at Ipswich.
Eunan O’Kane showed a different side to our game last night, something we haven’t seen since he was injured a couple of months ago. He picks up similar positions to Bridcutt which I will get onto but his game is very different. The purpose about his passing is more forward thinking that Bridcutt and he likes to run with the ball to drive us forward. The thing that he doesn’t have is the defensive side to his game that Bridcutt does. Should they be able to play together? Yes they should but as we saw against Blackburn it didn’t work. O’Kane couldn’t get on the ball and the gap between the deep midfielders and Hernandez was enormous, Charlie Mulgrew dominating Leeds’ three man midfield all on his won, without leaving the centre circle.
If the pair can work out how to address the situation and play together without losing what others bring then it can work. Ronaldo Vieira does more running than any other midfielder. He gets about the park more than any other player in the squad and that shouldn’t be understated. His energy and distance covered is crucial to the others being able to play their game and it does seem the strongest and most productive option is Vieira and someone, whether that be O’Kane or Bridcutt. If Vieira is in need of a rest then it will be the Irish midfielder and the skipper and if not then Monk has a big decision to make. We have fourteen games left and every one is now a cup final, players need to stand up even when they aren’t playing well and make sure we do everything possible to get a result.