'Knowing Bielsa...' - Exclusive: McLeish reacts to shock early Leeds team news pre-Villa
Alex McLeish admits the injured Kalvin Phillips has left some big boots to fill after Pascal Struijk was surprisingly confirmed as his replacement at Leeds United.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Aston Villa and Scotland manager believes the 21-year-old centre-back may have to adapt his game to plug the gap left by the England holding midfielder.
Speaking at his press conference, as quoted by the Yorkshire Evening Post, Marcelo Bielsa revealed that Struijk would take Phillips’ place in the starting XI against Aston Villa.
Struijk, who has made eight senior appearances for Leeds, featured as a centre back against both Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers. He has never played in midfield for United.
McLeish admits Phillips will be a tough act to follow in the Whites’ midfield but suggests Struijk could prove to be a secret weapon for Bielsa.
McLeish told Football Insider: “Knowing Bielsa, he’ll have something up his sleeve.
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“Phillips was the man for the position, the key man for that position and you don’t have too many key men in the same position that you can bring out from the dressing room like: ‘Oh well I’ve got this other key man.’
“Perhaps the guy he will bring in will adjust in a different way because he can’t play the same level as Phillips – or maybe he can. It’s somebody that we don’t know too much about and that Bielsa has got up his sleeve.”
Struijk played five times in the Championship last season and made both of his starts as a central-midfielder.
He joined Leeds from Ajax’s youth system back in January 2018.
In other Leeds United news, rivals told to splash out an ‘astronomical figure’ for an Elland Road star.