The Suicidal Omission Of Luciano Becchio TSS December 30, 2012 Leeds United 73 Comments Despite the glaringly obvious fact that Leeds United were lacking in aerial presence against Hull City yesterday, Luciano Becchio – the club’s top goalscorer this season – remained on the bench as an unused substitute. For much of the fixture, Leeds seemed incapable of retaining possession, constantly hoofing the ball forward to a front line of Davide Somma and Ross McCormack who failed to win a single header against a lofty Hull City XI. It seemed like such an obvious substitution to make. Leeds were constantly under-fire in difficult conditions and, as is so often the case away from home, hitting the ball long to relieve pressure was necessary – particularly when the opposition is dominating so completely and your own players seem incapable of measuring a simple pass. In fairness, this wasn’t a fixture Leeds were ever going to dominate by playing short balls and attempting to retain possession. It’s such a huge match for Hull, the crowd were right behind them throughout, their players were clearly up for it, applying pressure every time we got a touch of the ball and Leeds were left chasing shadows. They also have a lot of players more suited to playing at pace, it was imperative we slowed the game down where possible. The truth is, the correct tactics for this match were exactly what Warnock played (hoof it clear, slow it down). His team selection wasn’t too bad either, save for the truly baffling omission of Luciano Becchio – this was the exactly the kind of game in which he thrives. When your backs are to the wall and your only hope is to hit it long, Luciano Becchio is priceless. He’ll win more headers than he loses, and even those that go the other way will often end up being cleared straight into the path of our advancing midfield players, solely because of the pressure Luciano Becchio puts on the opposition defence. Another talent we missed is his ability to dictate the pace of a game. He’ll either hold the ball up until support arrives or force opposition defenders into conceding corners, free-kicks and throw-ins – all of which serve to slow the game down, allowing Leeds to play at a more comfortable pace. A more dogged and scrappier fixture would have been much less comfortable for Hull. I’m not telling Leeds United fans anything they don’t know already. Warnock knows the value of Luciano Becchio too, he’s been hyping him up in interviews since day one – he always planned to build his team around Luciano, it was a match made in heaven. So why then did Warnock never make the obvious change? The Leeds boss claims he didn’t play Luciano because he’s got a slight knock to the thigh, before adding that he’ll be back on New Year’s Day – if he’s going to be fully fit in 3 days, then he must have been 90-95% fit on Saturday? Why would he even be on the bench if he wasn’t fit enough to play? The excuse doesn’t make sense. A far more plausible explanation is that Becchio’s omission was punishment for the disappointing Boxing Day performance. It’s one of the things I admire about Warnock; he isn’t afraid to drop players when they’ve had a poor performance, it’s an important motivational tool in football, every player needs to know they’re fighting for a place in the first eleven. But dropping players sometimes backfires. Some players really are indispensable to a team, especially when – like Leeds – you’ve built your entire side around them. It’s the same thing that happened to Chelsea when they tried replacing Didier Drogba (a similar kind of player to Luci) with Fernando Torres, their entire team had been built around the former and the style of play they’d honed to perfection over several successful Premier League campaigns was rendered totally ineffective by changing just one player. Whether it was injury or punishment, Leeds United need to be more adaptable. God forbid Becchio should be injured or sold in the not so distant future, but if he is, we can’t be turning up at places like Hull with no idea how to beat them.