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Everton 0-1 Leeds: Five things we learned as Phillips shines

There is much to celebrate following Leeds’ long overdue Premier League victory at Goodison Park.

Everton v Leeds United - Premier League
England international Kalvin Phillips shone as Gareth Southgate watched from the stands.
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With just 11 minutes of normal time remaining, Leeds United were facing the prospect of taking home two points less than they deserved for a second successive match. Big chances had been squandered and a goal was ruled offside. Up stepped Raphinha.

Of course, it was the shot with one of the lowest xG values that slipped past the persistently stubborn Jordan Pickford, but it was a long time coming from a Leeds side who have dominated two Premier League mainstays in the past week.

A first win at Goodison Park since 1990 was a welcome reward for a Whites side that produced several impressive individual performances, from Illan Meslier between the sticks and Kalvin Phillips in the middle of the park, to Jack Harrison and Raphinha on the wings.

Here are five things we learnt from a morale-boosting victory that has the Peacocks back on the right track.

Phillips showed Southgate how it’s done

Having watched a premium Phillips display from the stands, Gareth Southgate will hopefully be wondering how he can incorporate the Leeds star into the England squad in a way that will result in a display half as tantalising as the one at Goodison Park last night.

It is no wonder that the Whites suffered from the 24-year-old’s absence from the first team. Completing 94% of his 84 attempted passes is an outstanding achievement, and is amplified by the fact he failed to complete just two of his 20 attempted long balls.

Covering over 12 kilometres, the academy product produced a tireless display in holding midfield, and ran the show despite Everton looking strong in the central areas and boasting successful summer signings in Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan.

His crossfield passes were sublime, and his switching of play on five occasions kept options open for Leeds in their relentless onslaughts on the hosts’ goal. While the likes of Ezgjan Alioski, Stuart Dallas and Mateusz Klich drifted around the pitch, Phillips was the constant as his side dominated the ball. This is the player England can build their team around.

The sky's the limit for Meslier

Hugo Lloris is surely counting down the days he has left as France’s first choice goalkeeper. Meslier showcased the distribution, shot-stopping ability and maturity of a player 10 years his senior on his debut in January, and has only gotten better since.

Registering eight saves, the 20-year-old at the very least matched counterpart Pickford to earn his fourth clean sheet of the season, and keep out the top-flight’s highest goalscorer in Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the process.

There are plenty of exciting talents at the club, particularly after a number of additions were added to the U23s side this summer, but surely none have a higher ceiling than the France U21 international.

Even after his wayward pass was snatched up by James Rodriguez, Meslier remained calm and got back in time to catch the subsequent lobbed effort. He otherwise exuded confidence coming up against one of the division’s more threatening attacking outfits in Everton.

£17 million was a bargain for Raphinha

Leeds’ winning goal was trademark Marcelo Bielsa. With Dallas closing down on the central defender, Patrick Bamford pressured Pickford into playing a long ball down Everton’s left flank. The visitors won back possession and immediately hit their opponents on the break. Operating in congested space, Klich and Harrison worked the ball to Raphinha, who searched for a pass before rifling the ball into the back of the next instead.

Having impressed in the first half against Arsenal before quietening down after half time, the Brazilian stepped it up a notch against Everton, and was a constant threat throughout the 90 minutes. Oh, and he has one hell of a left foot.

The graphic above showcases the variety in Raphinha’s game. As well as registering four shots, three crosses and two key passes, the 23-year-old also won four duels, three recoveries and three tackles - promising numbers for a recent addition to Bielsa’s attack.

Unsurprisingly, Alex Iwobi looked troubled when facing off with Raphinha while playing in the somewhat unfamiliar left wing back role, and although the Nigerian did not fare much better against the brilliant Harrison, he was probably still glad that the switching of wingers occurred early in the match.

Jury still out for Cooper’s top-flight credentials

FBL-ENG-PR-EVERTON-LEEDS
There have been mixed reviews of the Leeds United captain’s start to life as a first team regular in the Premier League.
Photo by CLIVE BRUNSKILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

It feels harsh to put a somewhat negative spin on such a positive performance, but one of the more prominent talking points this season has been club captain Liam Cooper, and whether or not he is truly good enough for the Premier League.

The Scotland international registered the second-highest pass accuracy (91.5%) among Whites players, as well as two tackles, two clearances and two aerial duels. It is also worth noting that it was his and Robin Koch’s responsibility to silence the in-form Calvert-Lewin.

However, there have certainly been multiple occurrences this season where the 29-year-old has been caught out positionally. He has a particular tendency to find himself in no man’s land when opponents are approaching the Leeds box; rather than closing down the man on the ball or marking his teammate, he will instead occupy space in between the two, where he is often ineffective.

Last night, this ensued in the seventh minute. Cooper’s presence in no man’s land allowed Doucoure to lose him and force a save from Meslier at close range. The fourth goal in Leeds’ most recent loss against Crystal Palace could also be attributed to a positional mishap from the captain.

However, Leeds have kept two clean sheets in a row, and while Meslier has been fantastic, the developing partnership between Cooper and Koch also deserves credit. There were no major errors from the duo against Everton, and there were certainly some bright moments from one of the Peacocks’ longest-serving players in Cooper.

The jury is still out in this case, but regardless of his displays on the pitch, the fantastic work Cooper does off the pitch makes it hard to criticise him. He is a model human being, and as the captain of the Championship-winning side the least he deserves is a chance to prove himself.

Leeds avoid goal drought curse

Leeds were undoubtedly wasteful in the Championship. It was one of the few flaws in Bielsa’s second tier outfit, but one that was balanced out by the sheer number of chances created.

Is the club facing similar issues this season? Their xG value from the goalless draw against Arsenal and last night’s win in Merseyside would suggest as much, but it would be a fair assessment to say they have been unlucky, rather than squandering.

Of course, Harrison’s 10th-minute opportunity, put on a plate for him by Raphinha, should have been a goal, while Bamford will feel like he should have equaled Thierry Henry’s record of scoring in his side’s first five away matches of a season 11 minutes later.

However, hitting the woodwork so frequently is not a sign of Leeds lacking a clinical edge. There was nothing particularly wrong with Harrison’s 45th-minute header that agonisingly hit the post. Furthermore, Bernd Leno and Pickford were both enjoying one of their better days against Leeds’ attackers, and even when the latter was beaten by a low effort from the Manchester City loanee last night, Ben Godfrey was on hand to block a certain goal.

Sitting rather comfortably in mid-table, the Peacocks are already having their critics admit that relegation is not a likely scenario come the end of the season. Bamford already has almost half as many goals as he scored throughout the entirety of last season. An improvement has been made in the shooting department.

Patience is still required, though. Most of the players in this squad predate Bielsa, let alone the Premier League. The transition between the Championship and the top-flight is still being processed, and it will be for much of the season. What is promising is that Leeds are already doing enough to test the very best sides in the division, and have been doing so since day one.

What to take away

Everton have been one of the most effective attacking outputs in the Premier League so far this season, so to beat them and keep a clean sheet is hugely promising, particularly on the back of a three-game winless streak.

There were positive performances across the pitch. Alioski, who won four tackles, deserves plaudits for continuing to showcase his first team credentials, while Klich was quietly brilliant in attacking midfield once again, acting as the focal point for many of Leeds’ moves.

Confidence certainly could not be much higher ahead of Bielsa’s reunion with Frank Lampard, and this Leeds side are more than capable of posing a challenge for the Blues.

Poll

Who was your man-of-the-match versus Everton?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Kalvin Phillips
    (53 votes)
  • 20%
    Illan Meslier
    (19 votes)
  • 16%
    Raphinha
    (15 votes)
  • 4%
    Jack Harrison
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Ezgjan Alioski
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Mateusz Klich
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (0 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now

What are your thoughts following last night’s victory? Who was your man-of-the-match? Vote in the poll above (viewable in browser) and let us know in the comments below and on Twitter at @ThruItAllLUFC.