Is the Luke Murphy renaissance complete at Leeds United?

Leeds United

The second half of the 2014/15 Championship campaign has been a personal triumph for Luke Murphy, so has he finally settled at Leeds United?

Murphy arrived at Leeds as a £1 million signing from Crewe in the summer of 2013 and immediately bore the weight of expectation as long-suffering Leeds fans finally saw the club splashing out.

A disappointing campaign both personally and for the club then followed, as Murphy often looked lost and overwhelmed in the centre of Leeds' midfield. Of course it didn't help that the team endured a torrid 2013/14 campaign under Brian McDermott and the midfield formation often left Murphy exposed.

For any League One midfielder making the step up, the Championship can be an unforgiving battleground, add to that the pressure of playing for Leeds United and a very demanding home crowd and more illustrious names than Luke Murphy have routinely suffered.

In 2013/14 Murphy shone in patches, never hid, and always grafted, but by the Autumn of 2014 many Leeds fans had given up on him. Murphy started five of the six games managed by Dave Hockaday before he was sacked, and in the last of those he was sent off for two bookable offences at Bradford City in the League Cup. It was the last we saw of Hockaday, and Murphy was tarred with a similar brush until a January recall under Neil Redfearn at Sunderland in the FA Cup.

Luke Murphy's stats for the 2014/15 season:

  PositionTeamGoalsGoal AssistBall RecoveryDispossessedTotal PassAccurate PassTouchesUnsuccessful TouchAppearancesMins Played
Luke Murphy MF Leeds 3 2 234 36 1,054 750 1,538 30 30 2,433

Redfearn's formation shuffle to a five man midfield has perhaps suited Luke Murphy more than any other player at the club. Murphy has played as one of the two sitting midfielders in front of the back four. This has allowed him the protection of a colleague alongside him - usually Lewis Cook - in order to make forward runs or dictate play from his own half. Murphy has become Leeds' playmaker, able to sit patiently on the ball and look up to find options, rather than hurriedly dispatch the ball with few available colleagues around him, as was often the case last season.

Murphy has excelled in his passing, with a 71% accurate pass rate, and he has demonstrated the range of his passing with short, neat passes to retain possession mixed with long searching balls to spread play and start attacks.

Having two players at the base of midfield has protected Leeds' back four, and many games have been won via a combative midfield, particularly away from home in 2015. Murphy has shown that he can mix it and do the dirty work, with 236 ball recovery challenges this season.

Further upfield, Murphy has matched last season's goal rate with just three, something I am sure he would like to improve. However, much like last season, all three of Murphy's goals have proved vital. His first was a late equaliser at home to Birmingham in a 1-1 draw in January, where defeat would have left Leeds perilously close to the bottom three. He added to that three days later with the decisive long range strike that beat Bournemouth 1-0 at Elland Road. His final strike was another long range effort, this time the opening goal in the 2-0 defeat of Reading at the Madejski Stadium.

Murphy has perhaps been Leeds' most consistent performer in 2015, with only Sol Bamba matching him over the second half of the season. Had this form been present to any degree before Christmas, he would surely have been in the running for the player of the season award.

As it is, Murphy has proven himself to be an all-round Championship class midfielder, and Leeds fans will be hoping he can continue improving and retain his status as one of the first names on the team sheet next season.

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