The diamond midfield - should Leeds continue what Hockaday started?

Elland Road Revie Stand

Should Leeds United continue to operate the diamond midfield that Dave Hockaday introduced?

The midfield diamond has come somewhat back into fashion in recent years, from Angel di Maria’s Benfica blowing away the opposition in 2010 to Liverpool winning 11 Premier League games in a row last season and finishing second in the top flight.

Roy Hodgson incorporated the 4-4-2 diamond as England beat Switzerland 2-0 this week, and it appears as if the benefits of two central box-to-box midfielders are becoming apparent.

However, one person who tried to bring a diamond into English football was Dave Hockaday, who set Leeds United up with that system - and subsequently lost three of four Championship games and lost his job.

Caretaker boss Neil Redfearn used the same system, but with different players, as he oversaw the Whites to victory over Bolton Wanderers, and with the academy coach to be in charge this weekend, he will surely do the same.

The decision to stick with the diamond brings up the question of whether Hockaday was right to change formation - and all answers point to yes, with just the wrong personnel being used.

Under Hockaday, Rudy Austin was the deep-lying midfielder in the four-man midfield, but he seemed to be unsuited to the role. He is not mobile enough to work as a defensive shield, cutting out attacks before they start, but he also displayed no creative abilities to work as a deep-lying playmaker.

Tommaso Bianchi and Alex Mowatt have frequently featured as the box-to-box midfielders, and they have fulfilled this role with impeccable attention, completing at least two tackles per game, and registering in the top tiers for both average passes per game and pass accuracy in the Leeds squad.

The duo's ability to both win the ball and recycle possession has been key for the Whites, and they have done a lot of the work that should be Austin’s to complete.

The tip of the diamond and the undoubted playmaker of the midfield was Luke Murphy, until Casper Sloth arrived and made the position his own in the victory over Bolton. However, the Dane's performance as a defensive workhorse should not go unnoticed, as he completed four tackles.

With the arrival of Adryan, who is expected to become the guaranteed number 10, Sloth could quite easily drop deeper into midfield and take over the deep-lying role from Lewis Cook - who had replaced Austin for Redfearn’s first game in charge.

If Sloth does sit deep, then he has displayed the talents to fulfil both the roles that Austin cannot, taking the pressure off of Bianchi and Mowatt. In turn, they can support new signing Adryan in creating goalscoring opportunities for the forwards, with Leeds currently averaging the lowest shots per game in the entire division - 7.2.

Whilst Hockaday could not cater for the players at his disposal, with Sloth and Adryan arriving after his dismissal, his desire to incorporate the diamond may work into the next head coach’s hands. The current playing squad is suited to its intricacies, and if perfected, the Whites could quite easily find the form that will see them shooting up the Championship table.

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