How did Dave Hockaday cause Leeds United's downfall against Millwall?

Leeds United 2

Dave Hockaday's team selection is at fault for Leeds United's 2-0 opening day defeat to Millwall.

Leeds United started the season with a renewed sense of vigour, brought on by new owners, new management and an apparent new direction. A host of signings from abroad - with Massimo Cellino using his Italian connections to sign a number of Serie A players - left the Whites faithful desperate for the season to begin.

However, when Dave Hockaday's team selection was announced for the opening day game at Millwall, doubts were raised. Despite the new era promised in Yorkshire, eight of the starting line-up were at the club last season - many of whom were derided for their lack of effort.

Lining up in a 4-3-3, new signings Nicky Ajose and Souleymane Doukara led the line, with Noel Hunt - regarded as the worst player at Elland Road last season - playing down the left wing. Gaetano Berardi was left on the bench, whilst Matt Smith, one of the few highlights from last season, was reduced to a 30 minute cameo - during which he outplayed the three starting forwards; in his short spell on the pitch, he registered more shots than the three starting strikers combined for the duration of the game.

Calls for Smith's inclusion would go against the style of football that Hockaday has been attempting to introduce, with the bulky strike unable to compliment a team focused around close-knit possession. However, if he was to lead the line from the central striking role in the 4-3-3, he could act as an outlet for the attacking play, holding up the ball when needed. Whilst he may not be able to create play for his teammates, he would offer the physicality required to create space for the technicians around him to manoeuvre into.

With Smith in the side also allows for a conversion to 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, with the wingers dropping deeper to congest the midfield. Whilst it may seem to be a defensive move, it would allow the midfield more time for their build-up play, with a higher number of bodies to pass to in the central third of the pitch. Then, when ready to start the attacking phase, Smith is able to hold up play until his teammates have moved up the pitch into the final third of the pitch.

The commitment levels appeared to be as low as they were last season, and, despite controlling 55% of the possession, the play was regularly centred around the halfway line. Doukara was the player located highest up the pitch, yet even he struggled to find space in the final third - dropping deep to try and receive the ball.

Whilst it is nigh-on impossible to forecast the direction of a team off the back of one competitive game, Leeds showed little to bring hope to the Elland Road faithful. Hockaday will know that Cellino has little patience when it comes to managers, with the Italian's record at Cagliari less than desirable, and the coach will be aware that a few more early season losses will see him out of a job, so it is in his best interests to change to the best system for his players. And if he doesn't, it may be yet another season of despair in Yorkshire.

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