The Rams have began the new 2013/14 campaign with four points. Here I assess the season beginning and what it means for the different positions.
First and foremost, Lee Grant is clearly a more consistent and reliable figure behind the back four than previous tenants of the number one jersey. Things are fine in that department.
At the back. With two right-backs vying for a place in the starting eleven it appears that Derby are blessed for choice there. Freeman has the nod over loanee Smith, and deservedly so – he appears to have taken a leaf out of Brayford’s book, he’s been impressive going forward recently and produced a wonderful cross for Martin’s second goal at Brighton. The other flank of the back four is occupied by Forsyth, who doesn’t appear to be as confident on the ball.
At the heart of the defence, Keogh and Buxton are competent defenders. The pairing weren’t at their best in the home defeat at Leicester but we know they can be solid, a steady start to the campaign. The debate as to whether the Rams should dip into the market does, however, rumble on. If either of the pair do get injured then unquestionably a centre-half is a necessity. Derby are quite light in that department, there’s little defensive experience to back them up so I think a loaned player for a short while to add extra competition and squad strength would only be a good thing. Clough no longer has the option of bringing Brayford into central defence.
In midfield, the accommodation of Hughes, Bryson and Hendrick has come in the shape of a diamond-style formation. Derby do lack width with that formation but, on the other hand, have all of the three valuable personnel. If width is what you want then who do you sacrifice, Hendrick, Hughes or Bryson? A tough one. Hendrick offers more strength, Hughes’s vision and quality on the ball is to be admired and Bryson’s box-to-box work-rate is a vital attribute.
In terms of their beginning to the season, they’ve had a good one. Hughes, for me, has started the best of the trio. Let’s also not forgot Coutts, who operates as a wide-man or down the middle. He can be influential on the right-hand side but so far we’ve only been treated to small snippets of it. It’s early doors though.
Ward has began the last two matches from the bench. What an option to bring on. He can inject a burst of energy and spark as a sub to shuffle things up. I think he’ll be back from the start pretty sharpish. Jacobs and Davies are brilliant options from the bench to add a new lease of life to the team. Ward should’ve been introduced sooner on Saturday, and should’ve been followed by Jacobs or Davies. I am very pleased to see such a diverse range of options at Clough’s disposal on the bench to bring on, bringing on more quality can only be beneficial.
There’s every reason to be happy with the forward line. Martin has exceeded many people’s expectations, including mine, and showed strength to hold the ball and frustrate defenders. He showed his clinical qualities in scoring a brace at the AMEX. As for Russell, it’s going to take him time to adjust to life in the Championship but the signs are good so far. Meanwhile Sammon is stuck on the bench, an option to bring on to bully tired defences.
The start to the campaign has demonstrated that the Rams can hack it away from home. They arrived home from the south coast with an array of positives and did exactly what couldn’t be achieved last season on the road. Resolute in defence and more clinical in attack.
Ultimately, I’m quite satisfied with the opening to the season. On paper it looked like a pretty tough start, first a club with huge resources and then two sides that made last season’s top six. Even in defeat, Derby have been worthy of more. The squad appears to be pretty much (there is still the centre-half debate) in shape. Things looked good, there is bound to be some soreness due to the manner of the weekend’s defeat but, in the overall picture, there are positives and things to work on.
From observation of the Rams’ beginning to the campaign, where do you believe the potential flaws in the side are and what are the positives going forward? Comment below or tweet @NathansRamsBlog.