Leeds United might not need to sign an alternative to Kalvin Phillips, claims one of their former players, because another member of the squad can fulfil that same role.
It has been a positive first season back in the Premier League for Leeds. They have been mathematically safe for some time and are on course for a mid-table finish. Soon, their attention will turn to planning for next year, when they will hope to consolidate.
It recently emerged that their priority for the upcoming transfer market is to sign a defensive midfielder. Phillips remains one of their key players but when he is unavailable, they have struggled.
For example, on Saturday they lost 2-0 to Brighton, when Robin Koch – originally signed as a centre-back – played in the holding role in Phillips’ absence.
Despite Leeds suffering on the day, pundit Noel Whelan thinks Koch can be the alternative to Phillips in the future.
“I’ve seen enough from Koch to suggest he could play that role long-term,” he told Football Insider.
“Even though he has only played in that position a couple of times you can see that he has the capabilities to do it. I have no doubt about that.
“He was competitive in midfield against Brighton. He was getting on the ball and trying to find space.
“I felt sorry for him though because it is difficult to gauge whether he can play in that role long-term when everyone else is playing below par.
“I cannot be 100 per cent confident that he can understudy for Phillips on that performance because everyone around him was a six out of 10 and some of them not even that.
“Could Koch step into an international’s role? The signs are encouraging. I think he has all of the attributes.”
Bielsa concerned about Koch
However, doubts linger about the long-term future of the German international.
Even though Leeds only invested in him last summer, a report last month claims Bielsa had doubts about his suitability.
Football Insider claimed that Koch had been demoted to fourth-choice centre-back, behind Diego Llorente, Liam Cooper and Pascal Struijk.
It was suggested that Bielsa thinks he needs to “toughen up” and that he is “too soft” to succeed in the Premier League. Concerns were also raised about his neglect of aerial challenges.
But there may be hope yet for a man who signed a contract until 2024 upon his arrival last August.