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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Marcelo Bielsa’s latest trick at Leeds? Turning Kalvin Phillips into a sweeper

Kalvin Phillips could not have picked a better man than Antonio Conte to produce his latest Andrea Pirlo impression in front of, as the Yorkshire incarnation of the Italian maestro got the better of his England team-mate Harry Kane.

Kane may have finished on the winning team with Tottenham Hotspur, but he could not add to his one Premier League goal this season and Conte will have been impressed with the performance of Phillips.

Conte managed the real Pirlo at Juventus and with Italy, so it was always going to take some performance from Phillips to show the Spurs head coach just why the Leeds United supporters call him their “Yorkshire Pirlo”.

It was a pull from Phillips on Kane that had Conte ranting and raving in his technical area towards the end of Tottenham’s comeback win, but the reality is that he would have loved the way the 25-year-old played in the Leeds hybrid back three.

Marcelo Bielsa afterwards confirmed that Phillips was moved back from his normal place in the centre of midfield to help deal with Kane, even though the player himself claimed he did not know why the manager had changed his position.

When the England captain dropped deep, Phillips stepped out of defence and followed him to cut out his passes. And when Diego Llorente went with Son Heung-min, Phillips often dropped further back to effectively provide cover.

Not even referee Andre Marriner could escape the attention of Phillips, who piled into the back of the official in the 35th minute to leave him in a heap on the floor – much to the approval of most of those inside the Tottenham stadium.

Leeds had better get Phillips signed up to a new contract because it is a fair bet that Conte will now be a paid-up member of his fan club along with staff at Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

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