At the beginning of the season many people were surprised to see Kalvin Phillips pair with Eunan O’Kane in the centre of midfield for Leeds United. And after the first few matches, where Phillips and O’Kane were one of the better pairs in the Championship, Thomas Christiansen looked to be a genius. After all, while Phillips got a few chances under previous manager Garry Monk, O’Kane was pretty much a forgotten man in the midfield for much of the season. Ronaldo Vieira and Liam Bridcutt were the preferred pair for Monk, but those days are gone, as Bridcutt moved on to Nottingham Forest and Vieira has had limited chances so far this season, only getting a few substitute appearances and League Cup starts. But now that Leeds have lost three matches in a row, perhaps Vieira should be recalled?
Yeah, that was poor. Where's Alioski and Vieira? How is Dallas not starting games yet? Time for a shuffle TC. #lufc— The Scratching Shed (@TSSLUFC) October 14, 2017
Plenty of fingers have been pointed at various positions and players during the last three matches. With the team looking a pale imitation of the side that carved up Burton Albion and was able to win on penalty kicks in the League Cup against Burnley, something has to change. Maybe Vieira should be part of that change. Christiansen has seemed unwilling to rotate his midfield for Championship matches. O’Kane was dropped for the Cardiff City match because of “illness” and Mateusz Klich looked rusty and off the pace: exactly what you would expect of a player that has barely played so far this season. O’Kane and Phillips worked earlier in the season, and while the central midfield perhaps has not been as guilty of poor play as some of the other positions, it’s certainly a place to look at rotation.
Alioski was rested after international duty. Vieira had a knee injury but Christiansen said he was unlucky to miss out. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) October 14, 2017
And while it appears that Ronaldo Vieira has a slight knock, if Leeds are going to be successful this season, Christiansen needs to remember that the Championship is a long, tough season. While the League Cup run has been impressive, and given a chance for some of the fringe players to shine, its tested the depth of the squad a little bit. Vieira, among others, needs to get some time in the Championship. While he’s not as good on the ball as O’Kane, Vieira is perfectly capable in the dark arts of midfield destruction. With the ease that Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff City were able to cut through the Leeds midfield to score, perhaps having a midfielder or two who can shut down the opposition isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Shame the team sold the best defensive midfielder in Bridcutt, eh?
If Vieira is fit for the match against Bristol City, he needs to start. Not that important if it means a change to a 4-3-3 or dropping Phillips to accommodate Vieira, but Christiansen needs to give Vieira more than a token last minute substitution to shut the match down, like when Vieira came on against Forest. Perhaps this is how Christiansen learns the benefit of depth in the Championship and the reasons that most managers rotate players in and out in this league: there are too many good teams and the margin for error is too great.