Kevin Phillips has backed Leeds United to make a January move for Lewis O’Brien to offset their current injury crisis.
It’s not a very happy Christmas for Leeds United fans, as the club goes through their most difficult period under the management of Marcelo Bielsa. With an injury-ravaged side, the Yorkshire club suffered a thrashing at the hands of Arsenal on Saturday, and their problems in the league are expected to continue well into the new year.
The fault is not related to Bielsa or his coaching style, instead just a bout of bad luck with injuries to key players. Without those stars, Leeds have been unable to replicate their success of last season, as they languish in the 16th spot on the table, treading along the fine line of the relegation zone.
Leeds are expected to make a few signings when the January window opens up, with particular emphasis on bringing in new midfielders. It could be due to Saturday’s performance coupled with the absence of key man Kalvin Phillips, who could be out until mid-February.
They have been linked with a few, including an ambitious move for Juventus star Weston McKennie. While the transfer for the American is optimistic, it’s not realistic as a more viable option would be Lewis O’Brien. Leeds were keen on bringing the Huddersfield midfielder in the summer but baulked at his £10 million asking price.
Since a move never materialised, O’Brien signed a new four-year deal in September. Reports suggest there is a release clause in his contract worth £10 million, which will have to be triggered by interested parties to sign the midfielder.
With the injury crisis, Leeds are expected to tear up their original plans for the transfer window and focus their efforts on bringing in midfielders. As former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips told Football Insider, it could be an indifferent window from Bielsa’s perspective, who may have to go against his principles to solve the issues at hand.
Phillips said, “I think Leeds under Bielsa have never really gone out in January and brought players in. However, this is a case now of Bielsa may be going against principles to bring in two or three players. He has to make sure they can cope when they do get injuries in that squad.
“They need someone who can come in at a decent price and do a good job as understudy to Kalvin Phillips until he comes back – and O’Brien could be that player. It’d be almost a no-brainer to get that business done in January.”
From a logical point of view, Phillips could be right on these points. Irrespective of Bielsa’s principles and ideas, Leeds are in real danger of dropping into the relegation zone if results do not improve in the short term. Hence they might rekindle their interest in O’Brien.
Moreover, the possibility of Newcastle strengthening their squad using massive funds could go against the Yorkshire side in their battle to stay afloat in the Premier League. Hence important signings such as that of O’Brien’s could become necessary for the club in the upcoming window.