For Leeds United to be successful in the Championship next season, they need to built a team round Ross McCormack.
Since his arrival at Leeds United in 2010, Ross McCormack has shown his incredible talent in the Championship, but this season he has been head and shoulders above the rest. To put it simply, he is heavily responsible for 61% of his side's goals this season.
McCormack has been an integral part of the Championship outfit this campaign, despite lacking real quality around him. The Scot has scored 28 league goals this season and assisted eight. Leeds have only scored 57 in the league.
Surprisingly, McCormack has suggested that he has little interest in leaving the club ahead of next season. This despite apparent interest from Premier League sides. For that reason, it would make sense for Leeds to go into the summer looking to build a new team around the 27-year-old.
What does that require? Clearly the former Cardiff City man is one of the best in the division at finishing chances. At the same time, he is also great at creating chances for his strike partners. It would be best if Leeds brought in a forward who could take some of the creative burden off him, allowing him to put opportunities away rather than having to craft them for others.
McCormack’s best spell this season came alongside Dexter Blackstock, who helped heavily in this regard. That said, he has also worked well with Matt Smith, who has had a fine first season at Elland Road. In 2011-12, when Andy Keogh was replaced by the fit-again Luciano Becchio, McCormack’s goalscoring tailed off slightly, as the creative onus was once again upon him. Under Neil Warnock last season, when McCormack was shifted wide and deep, he stopped scoring as many, but remained one of the side’s top assist providers. That was a real waste.
The Scotland international clearly works best with a strike partner, so Leeds have to explore formations allowing them to play two up front. Success has been achieved with a 5-3-2 system, so the Yorkshire club would have to look into signing a left wing-back better than either Stephen Warnock or Danny Pugh. Similarly, Leeds need better quality back-up to Sam Byram than Lee Peltier, especially given the former's injury troubles this year.
Alternatively, Leeds could once again look into a 4-4-2 system, but then they would have to think heavily about their central midfield and wingers. Few of their central midfielders seem talented enough offensively and defensively to handle playing in a central two, and they had little success with the January signings of Stewart and Kebe.
The final option would be to consider McCormack as a lone striker with talented and creative inside forwards either side of him, but Championship football generally necessitates at least one striker able to win the ball in the air and hold it up - and McCormack is not that man.
The reality is that at Championship level you don’t come across many strikers with McCormack’s ability in front of goal. Building a team around him should be the priority heading into next season because that's what the statistics say.