It wasn’t meant to be for Leeds United when they travelled to Cardiff City on Sunday.
In many respects, Marcelo Bielsa’s men were desperately unlucky to come away on the wrong end of a 2-0 defeat, having enjoyed almost 65% possession and an xG of 1.86 to their hosts’ 0.35, as per Wyscout.
And there were two key moments that were really emblematic of their misfortune.
The first was Patrick Bamford blocking Jack Harrison’s shot to deny a certain goal, and the second was Kalvin Phillips misplacing a pass in the centre of the park in the build-up to the opener.
The 24-year-old is usually Mr. Reliable in the engine room, and to see him waste possession so casually was hugely out of character.
Perhaps most worrying, however, was that it wasn’t a one-off.
As pictured above, Phillips’ pass completion rate was just 71% on Sunday – 13.4% lower than his season average and his second lowest of the campaign to date, as per Wyscout.
Moreover, he made just two successful passes into the final third – a completion rate of 40% and 25.9% lower than his season average.
But his mistake in the build up to the goal was by far the biggest misstep of his display.
The pass into him is a very simple one.
Admittedly, he’s going back towards his own goal and he has a man chasing in from behind, but there is so much time and space that you fully expect him to pop off a simple pass back to his defender, or even to put his foot on it and turn his man.
That’s kind of quality and self-assurance that we’ve come to expect from him.
Instead, Phillips gets his connection all wrong.
Whether he took his eye off the ball or just lapsed in concentration, only he will know, but you can tell by his body shape immediately after striking the ball that he has not played the pass as he intended to.
From there, Junior Hoilett goes on and scores a cracking goal from distance.
Obviously, a bit of rustiness is forgivable at this present moment in time, and Phillips is so dependable that it’s hard to criticise him too much at all.
But when it comes down to it, if Leeds are to bounce back from this disappointment when they play Fulham on Saturday, they need their most influential midfielder to be at the top of his game.
We can’t afford too many more mistakes like this one.
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