I suppose, Neil, that is what you get when you don’t play a 36-year-old park bench in the hub of your team. It’s been a bizarre few months in terms of selections, especially the crippling realisation that it had been decided that Michael Brown was a key player – key enough that he was supposedly rested at half time against Manchester City. At some point, however, over the last 3 days, Warnock clearly re-assessed and decided to go down another route entirely. This route worked, and it was one that surprised me, at the very least. The route was a midfield that can pass, and went against everything I’ve seen thus far from the Warnockian school.
Paul Green was important during our better run this season, immediately following the announcement of GFH Capital’s takeover. David Norris hasn’t actually done anything wrong, but has been dropped repeatedly in favour of other names from our central midfield roster. Michael Tonge has barely been seen since signing permanently for Leeds, despite providing an important foot-on-the-ball presence during his loan spell. It is no surprise that with three players able to function with the ball at their feet, Leeds provided one of their best performances of the season thus far.
What did last night show? Two things really:
- Michael Brown, as much as he has developed into a sarcastic cult figure in recent months, is quite clearly past his prime. He’s uncomfortable with the ball and offers little to nothing in the way of creating chances for those ahead of him. Yes, sometimes give him the last 10 minutes when closing out a game to kick the opposition and stop them from scoring, but aside from that, he’s a liability, an immobile butcher in the center of the park who sees the game pass him by. It isn’t his fault, he’s just too old.
- The 4-3-3 works and compensates for our lack of out-and-out wingers. Those three central midfielders work at home, with all of them able to offer an attacking thrust and also a bit of tackling ability. For the trickier away games Rodolph Austin should be deployed to guard the defence, but gone should be the days when a central midfield two allows only for one able passer to shuttle about alongside one of Warnock’s wrecking machines. It also allows us to field players who are traditionally strikers on either flank, such as Varney and McCormack, without it actually hindering our ability going forward.
If the lessons from last night are learned, it could lead to an improvement in displays and, therefore, results. The first step is moving Michael Brown away from the first team regulars.
Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).