Leeds United: Ross McCormack’s runs and why he needs to start

If you read this blog closely and follow me on Twitter, you’ll soon come to realise I very much like Ross McCormack. The fact that we were seemingly willing to lose him (happily) in the summer, in exchange for Craig Mackail Smith, riled me. I was never convinced he’d be accepted at Leeds, purely because he was never really given a chance in his first season. He eventually came good and won the fans over, and has since has gone on to be a ridiculously effective striker in an ever weakened side. McCormack is loved to the extent that he is one of few Leeds players left to genuinely inspire confidence these days.

The Burnley game, when he got his first goal, is the first memorable example Leeds fans saw of his abilities:

McCormack against Burnley
1. He points to where he wants the ball whilst running across the last man, making sure to stay onside.
2. Then, when the ball is put on a plate for him by Bradley Johnson, it is simple enough for him to burst away from the defender and score.

As we can see here, Ross McCormack shows what it is he does best. Yes, whilst he is also exceptionally gifted with the ball at his feet (when compared to the majority of players in this league), it is in fact his runs across the last line of defence that are particularly impressive. It is why he is wasted in the hole or on the wings – he should be used as the main striker.

The Spurs game is a prime example of McCormack’s ability off the ball, the timing of his runs to split defences. Both of the goals are the direct result of his movement. The first, Luke Varney’s, is shown below:

Varney Goal

1. This shows McCormack directing Michael Brown where to place the ball. The ball ultimately ends up here, except at Varney’s feet.
2. Prior to this, he comes back from an offside position, in the blind spot of both of the Spurs center backs.
3. He spends a second (and literally just a second) within view of the center backs, clarifying that they need to pick him up, but not giving them the time to decide who should.
4. This creates a situation whereby El Hadji Diouf is ultimately picked up by the right back and the right center back. This leaves Varney almost entirely free, which gives him the run on goal and the opener. Yes, McCormack does not touch the ball, but his run allows space for his attacking partners to move.

For McCormack’s goal, we see similarly impressive movement:

McCormack vs. Spurs

1. A simple knock down to Diouf, and it is literally two men against about 5 defenders.
2. As soon as he lands however, he is already running.
3. He points to Diouf where to place the ball.
4. Then it just becomes a straight sprint against the center backs, two people he’s got a few seconds on already due to his fast movements alone, never mind when it comes to pace. This allows him all of the space and time to check inside and hit the ball past Friedel beautifully.

Ultimately, this proves the extent to which Ross McCormack and his running ability is an incredible asset, even when his technical ability is discounted, which is a big deal considering he is one of the best in the squad with the ball at his feet. I think, even given our recent signings, it would be harsh for McCormack to fall out of the first team.

I’d advocate having McCormack play especially in those games where larger, more lumbering center backs play for the opposition, given the fact he’d easily out manouvre them. Morison will probably be an effective partner, comparable to Andy Keogh in the early parts of last season, when McCormack was at his goalscoring peak. Becchio and McCormack likely never worked as Becchio is not likely to provide for others, or, at the very least, halt the sort of balls McCormack thrives on. This is not a criticism of Becchio, merely pointing out why they did not work especially well as a duo. Diouf and Morison should possibly rotate for the position alongside McCormack. In reality, however, this will likely sadly not occur. However, I back McCormack to take advantage of those few times he will be given a chance as the main man.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).

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