There have been some serious improvements this season from last, everyone has in all honesty but some more than others. The two that are remarkable are Liam Cooper and Kalvin Phillips, both in unbelievable form and both heavily criticised by the majority over the last couple of years.
Kalvin Phillips’ goal yesterday was his third in the opening six Championship games. To put that into perspective between the four central midfielders last season we scored two goals combined. Eunan O’Kane got two assists yesterday, something that he rarely did last season and Cooper was part of a defence that hasn’t conceded a league goal in five games. Phillips took his goal very well and again had a wonderful overall performance, not for the first time this season. Adventurous runs into the channels and big and important tackles were on show again and after two brilliant outings at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest he is in focus as a crucial part of what is being done. Most people wouldn’t have been shocked to see him loaned or sold in the summer, myself being one but Christiansen and Phillips have proved the majority of us so wrong, and like myself, we are absolutely delighted that this is the case, at the end of the day we all want the best for Leeds United and players playing well is the most important part of that.
It hasn’t been an easy road up until this point and there a few reasons for this. At times he has been hammered for poor performances, criticism often pointed his way last season and in all honesty most of the time it was justified. He was very inconsistent and had some games where he just didn’t really show up. The week after he would put in a top performance before dropping again for the next couple. Players get praised when they play well, and will be criticised when they don’t, like anyone doing their job. Phillips has been told to break into the final third this season by Thomas Christiansen and he is taking up that invite without being asked twice. His partnership with Eunan O’Kane has flourished and the pair are looking very good together, each of their games fitting well with the others. He said after the Bolton game in the season opener that he has been told to push on and let O’Kane sit in the middle of the park and that has continued in most of the games since.
The aim for Phillips is to now keep the consistency up. He has proved he fits into the system that Thomas Christiansen has set up and making sure he keeps himself to the standards that he himself has set is so important now. Players will have off days, and it’s making sure they come between good patches of form and not good games inbetween a bad patch of form. Bringing players through the youth system has often worked at Leeds United but at times players have got away with lower standards because they have come through that system, but that currently isn’t the case for Kalvin Phillips. Garry Monk was keen to use the midfielder last season but he never really got the best out of him, and Christiansen has done exactly that in the early stages of his role as head-coach of Leeds United. The advanced role suits him down to the ground and his energy and tackling ability aren’t taken out of his game in that position. Such an encouraging start to the season by Phillips.