The return of Adam Forshaw, almost 700 days since last starting a league game for Leeds United was nothing short of a miracle. The midfielder was struggling with a serious hip issue for almost two seasons but finally made his first Premier League start for Leeds in their 1-1 draw against Leicester on Sunday at Elland Road. The 30-year-old has impressed in recent cameos against both Arsenal and Norwich City, which prompted Bielsa into naming him in the starting XI for a league match. He was named in the starting lineup in the league for the first time since 2019 against the Foxes, and he went on to produce a superb display. Starting alongside Kalvin Phillips, Forshaw brought a lot of energy and intensity to Leeds’ midfield.
Forshaw seems to be reminding everyone of what he can bring to the side. He had been playing brilliantly in the weeks leading up to the nightmare run of luck, where he subsequently endured injuries. He has indicated that he could be ready to play an important role for Leeds this season.
Let’s take a look at what the stats have to say about his season:
Forshaw started in a midfield pivot, with Kalvin Phillips next to him. Having a solid Forshaw-Phillips base liberated Rodrigo in an attacking sense whilst loosening the burden on his poor pressing. Forshaw was present everywhere on the pitch for Leeds, getting into spaces to receive the ball and win the ball back for his team. While Phillips was in a more holding role, Forshaw did get into positions higher up the pitch in the opposition’s half and was able to make threatening passes.
The above viz shows the pass map of Forshaw from the three games he has played in this Premiership season. Forshaw has played several passes in the opposition’s half and has a very high xT from the passes that he played into the final third of the pitch. As Leeds dominated the possession, Forshaw provided constant passing angles out from defense, providing an alternative option to Kalvin Phillips. On the ball, there was composure and sharpness, which was quite brilliant. Out of possession, against a midfield of Wilfred Ndidi, Boubakary Soumaré, and Youri Tielemans, he added stability and discipline.
An additional passing link in midfield allowed Leeds to progress the ball in a controlled manner, often finding their attackers in pockets of spaces behind the opposition’s defense. Forshaw attempted most passes to the players playing around him and also had a very high xT from the couple of passes he played towards Raphinha.
Playing in Marcelo Bielsa’s team, Forshaw is required to press his opponents higher up the pitch and attempt more duels. It can be seen that Forshaw has higher 50-50 duels in the opposition’s half, while he has attempted more ground defending duels on the left flank in his half. Together Phillips and Forshaw were able to win back possession of the ball from most of the duels they attempted.
Forshaw’s presence brought an assuredness to the entire team, and it may be no coincidence that this was Leeds’ best performance of the season by far. The midfielder offers qualities that no one else in the squad can bring – calmness in midfield and a link between defense and attack. Forshaw could play a key role under Marcelo Bielsa for the remainder of the season. If major injuries are fought off and a run of games put together, then Forshaw is still comfortably good enough to make a positive contribution to this team.