When McDermott switched his first Leeds team against Sheffield Wednesday into a side with a midfield diamond, I assumed it was a temporary stop-gap to function with the players at his disposal. At Reading he favoured a flat 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1, with a huge onus on wide play. In the last five games of the season, however, it seems as though McDermott has fallen in love with a system that has fallen out of fashion in the footballing world. Pre-season has shown his commitment to this system even further.
Whilst it has worked (to an extent) without the injured youngster, Sam Byram is imperative to the long-term success of the diamond. There was a constant debate last season about Byram’s best position, and whilst I remain adamant that ultimately Byram will find himself at the attacking end of the pitch, currently the question is whether he should be operating in defence or midfield on the right hand side.
Thinking about the the diamond formation as a whole, rather than thinking in terms of a flat back line, it would make more sense to think of Byram and Warnock as operating in the same line as Paul Green, the anchor man. All three are in positions of pure transition. Positionally, Byram and Warnock can be best described as Wing Backs. Usually this role is most effective alongside three central defenders to offer balance, but Green can drop deep and fulfill the role of the third centre back on the transition. McCormack and Green are also two players between the lines that can exploit the available space effectively.
Admittedly a backup plan is necessary, but as a first option the diamond with the width provided by Byram and Warnock is a good notion. Byram is one of our best players in both defence and attack, so it’s a positive to have him functioning in both roles, and Warnock offers enough going forward that it’s worth allowing him to do so.
Football is about three basic phases – attack, defence and transition. With this formation two systems exist over the phases. It is only in defence that the system operates as a conventional 4-1-2-1-2. Whilst attacking it is very likely that Green will remain deep and cover so that in both this and the transition the system becomes a 3-5-2 with Byram and Warnock pushing into midfield and providing the necessary width.
I personally rate Peltier as a very good centre back for this level, but believe he is half the right-back Byram is already. Certainly he is far worse going forward, and we cannot put our attack down the right on his shoulders. Byram, therefore, is key to the system functioning.
Whilst wingers need to be signed to allow for other systems, the 4-1-2-1-2 is, in itself, an interesting notion tactically and Byram and Warnock are key to the functioning of it. It bodes well, therefore, that the idea of Byram leaving the club seems to have become less and less likely in recent weeks.
Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).
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