Under Nigel Clough, combining the talents of Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick and Craig Bryson proved difficult. Selection difficulties appear to have reached a new level with the strength of Paul Clement’s squad. Here’s a look at who Clement could pick this weekend.
In pre-season a few different formations have been tried but you get the impression that McClaren’s 4-3-3 won’t be used in a hurry. It’s great to have a variety of formations that the squad can adapt to quickly, the predictability of the 4-3-3 and its flaws contributed to the downfall last season. I feel that Clement will go with 4-2-3-1, particularly away from home.
This is a tough choice for Clement and it is his first very big call. I don’t feel that either Carson or Grant have stood out hugely. I’d go with Grant and then play Carson in the subsequent League Cup fixture and use the first two competitive matches of the season to make a more concrete decision.
Starting with right-back, it really has to be Chris Baird – possibly the new skipper. As for centre-half, Jason Shackell is the automatic choice at the moment but alongside who? I think Clement will go with Keogh but, for me, it has to be Pearce. Forsyth at left-back is an easy choice for me, Warnock has never really managed to establish himself.
The two of the 4-2-3-1 starts with Thorne, impressing in pre-season and getting game time show that he is putting this injury behind him. He has recovered from a previous long-term injury pretty well, as Rams fans discovered during his loan spell. To pick a partner for Thorne is more difficult. Hanson has certainly staked his claim and deserves to be in and around the first team squad. Hughes has to be the other of the two central midfielders. Having said that, Baird is a contender too if Hughes plays as one of the 3 more advanced midfielders.
The line of 3 in the formation for me would be Russell, Ince and Weimann. Both Russell and Weimann have caught the eye in pre-season, perhaps out wide isn’t their most favoured position but with Martin able to do what Martin does best as the lone striker, there should be ample opportunities for the pair to get into the middle. Ince is good centrally, he has a good left foot and can weave his way through the likely occasions in which teams pack men behind the ball.
Martin is without doubt the striker. I don’t think Bent quite does it on his own up front. He is, however, a fantastic option from the bench.
That leaves the team I’d go for on Saturday as Grant; Baird, Shackell, Pearce, Forsyth; Thorne, Hughes; Russell, Ince, Weimann; Martin. Subs: Carson, Keogh, Warnock, Bryson, Hendrick, Dawkins, Bent.
The bench could vary a lot each game. In mine, there is no Shotton, Christie, Ssewankambo or Hanson. And what about Bennett? He seems to be stuck in the Under-21s.