Tag Archives: McCormack

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.

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Leeds United: Changes to be Rung for Hull Trip?

Yesterday’s capitulation against Nottingham Forest is endemic of the issues Leeds have faced this season, with mistakes made in team selection and substitutions contributing to a poor performance. With that in mind, there are several decisions that need to be made for Saturday.

Start Ross McCormack: the Scot has found himself suffering from a poorly timed injury this season, taking time out just as El Hadji Diouf found his form. However, McCormack remains Leeds’s most technically able player, one of Leeds’s more gifted goals getters and creators and offers more to the team than Diouf has done over the last two matches (Diouf was especially poor in the first half against Middlesbrough). A poor performance against Derby aside, McCormack was integral to the best performance of our recent form, the away victory over Huddersfield, and Warnock’s inability to remember this is a criticism that needs to be made. Required.

A change of formation?: Hull, with their continental 5-3-2, are likely to dominate possession up against the now standard flat 4-4-2 of Leeds. This was the case for sure in the return fixture earlier this season. A switch to a 4-3-3 would allow a central three of Austin, Norris and Green to combat Hull’s midfield effectively and play a part our midfield has failed to play in recent months. Furthermore, it would allow McCormack and Thomas to provide effective support to Becchio against what will be a strong defence, whilst releasing Byram to challenge a full back one on one. The defensive help provided by the wide men in a 4-4-2 is not necessary when facing this narrower (in the final third) formation. Would be ideal, but seems unlikely.

Give Somma longer and more support: Warnock seems a big fan of alienating certain players, immediately pointing to McCormack as a sub last season and similarly saying Somma should have scored more against Forest, before we even get to the horrendous treatment of Dominic Poleon all season long. This is in contrast to the lack of criticism the likes of Peltier, Varney, Brown and Kenny have received at times, with two of the four at times undroppable even when playing incredibly poorly. Warnock needs to realise the likes of Somma and McCormack need belief from the manager – how can they be expected to score some of the more spectacular efforts they are well capable of when their manager constantly queries their ability to score from 5 yards? Warnock seems especially keen to find any excuse to drop Somma and McCormack, ahead of his demands for a new striker. Whilst in Becchio Leeds have one of the best finishers in the league, Warnock needs to realise the other 3 front men (adding Diouf) make up probably the most potent strike force in the league. Somma needs support and another 30 minutes against Hull.

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Talking Points: Leeds versus Wolves

Talking Points: Leeds United versus Wolves

Talking Points: Leeds versus Wolves

The Becchio-McCormack Partnership

Last season, there was incredible doubts as to whether these two could work together. McCormack was at his best during the period when he was partnered with on-loan Becchio-lite Andy Keogh, during which period McCormack scored around ten goals in thirteen games. This was likely due to Keogh’s work ethic and ability to run the channels, plus his ability with his feet, something Becchio lacks to an extent. Becchio similarly did not seem at his best last season, partnered primarily with McCormack. Admittedly, Becchio was off the boil and effected by a pre-season injury that he never truly recovered from. However, looking at performances where McCormack and Becchio did not play as a conventional front-two, for example Nottingham Forest away, Becchio seemed to still have the ability locked away, unable to be brought out by McCormack. However, against Wolves, the two worked excellently in tandem. McCormack and Becchio, obviously, were the only two outfield players involved in the goal. It is the less obvious moments that showed how effective they were however. It was only once McCormack went off and Diouf partnered with Becchio that it became clear how much the first choice front two have been working on their attacking movement. Diouf was far less able to get onto Becchio’s flick-ons, and much of our attacking threat died with McCormack’s departure. Admittedly we were seeking to hold on to our lead, but it proved a point. Becchio and McCormack is a partnership that can run and run, and will hopefully lead to goals this season.

Additional Attacking Threat Required
Whilst the above is the case, it is clear we could still do with someone to come off the bench for occasions like this. Diouf held the ball up well, but it would have been useful to bring a striker on with pace in the place of McCormack. There were enough occasions where we could have nicked another goal in the last 20 minutes, putting the game to bed. Hopefully rumours about Maynard coming in on loan turn out to be true. It does not seem entirely ridiculous.

It’s Not Easy Being Green
Green had an excellent first thirty minutes. He was instrumental in counter-attacks from Wolves set-pieces, oddly accurate with overhead kicks (grounded, but still) to McCormack, who could then break. It seems a real shame that he might be out for an extended period. Diouf looked a decent replacement, but I’d prefer Green’s solidity and work ethic to an extent.

The Beast Unleashed
Rodolph Austin was a heavily hyped signing. There were two trains of thought, the first being one of sheer excitement, the other one tinged with memories of Da Costa. This is no Da Costa. Austin is a terrifying, terrifying man. He’s going to be integral to our midfield this season, and came ever so close to opening his United tally. Whilst he will likely require a break mid-season to deal with his lack of holiday, for the first few months Austin will be ahead of the curve.

No Hole in Defence
Jason Pearce was excellent. He got his head on everything. Peltier was solid. The full-backs, whilst they both slipped on occasion, were good enough (it is worth pointing out Wolves players also slipped once or twice – this shows the pitch was at fault if anything). Tom Lees is fit and should be back soon, allowing Peltier to actually play in position. Finally, our defence looks solid. This is an odd feeling, one where mistakes and defensive failures are not constantly expected.

The Real Test
Warnock’s teams generally do poorly against teams with good passing ability and pace. Blackpool on Tuesday is the real test. A result against them and we may have a season on our hands.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1) to get a constant, ridiculous, never-ending, stream of thoughts about Leeds.