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Scout Report: Derby County

Derby County have had a mediocre season so far. Sitting 12th in the table, a recovery in the early part of 2020 has stalled, with no win in four. In the home form table, they sit second and haven't lost since mid-December, and they're in the same position in an overall table since 1st January. Rooney's arrival in January was a catalyst, but they still haven't been able to rectify problems away from home, almost typified by the dismal 3-0 defeat at The Madejski. It must be said that the teams they've played at home since the turn of the year are mostly struggling themselves - Barnsley, Hull City, Stoke City, Huddersfield, Fulham, and Blackburn.

While their most famous player may be 34 they have an incredibly promising group of youngsters that should see them in good stead for the future. Matt Clarke (23), Max Lowe (23), Jayden Bogle (19), Krystian Bielik (22), Jason Knight (19), and Max Bird (19) all have over 1000 minutes (and in fact, the initial three have double that). And it should be stressed that it was the introduction of some of these youngsters that helped to turn the season around.

 

At the back, Ben Hamer took over from Kelle Roos toward the end of 2019. In terms of stats, both keepers are fairly similar. Conceding 1.3 goals per game, with roughly a 70% save percentage. At this point, they've even played a similar number of minutes (Hamer 1,620 vs 1,710 for Roos). My only recollection of Hamer in a Reading shirt is fumbling a cross to allow Northampton to equalise in the League Cup, and it's safe to say he still doesn't look composed coming for crosses; often flapping or punching clear rather than collecting the ball.

Chair makes a run between CB and FB - ends up scoring.

Curtis Davies and Matt Clarke have solidified their partnership at centre back. Again a tale of home vs away form. At Pride Park they've conceded fewer goals than any other team at home in 2020 but allowed more than any other away from Derbyshire. They read the game well, but lack pace. Runs into the half-space between centre back and full back seem particularly potent, especially given the requirement for those in wider positions to get forward. That drags one of the pair across, and out of position.


The deeper midfield duo often has Max Bird playing alongside another. Rooney plays there when there's not much of an attacking threat from the other side; when the opposition counter-attack quickly England's top scorer can become a bit of a liability defensively. In effect, he is Derby's Charlie Adam. Because of this he can be pushed behind the striker's instead but has significantly less impact from that role. Regardless of where he plays, he often drops deeper to pick up the ball, with the sole purpose of launching balls forward, and he's always a set-piece threat. Duane Holmes also rotates between the two. The diminutive American is good with the ball, often driving the team forward, and has the legs to cover Rooney defensively too.

Up top Chris Martin and Martyn Waghorn have both taken on the burden of the lone striker role. Their ability to drop deep and link with the midfield is why they've been preferred over Jack Marriott's runs in behind - that, and the ex-Peterborough striker has been unusually goal-shy. In fact, you would think that the squad's passing ability would gel with Marriott, and that was evident in one of his last starts against Barnsley on New Year's Day. He crafted numerous opportunities with intelligent runs but squandered almost all. Despite grabbing a goal that day - with an assist from Rooney on debut - he's hardly featured since.


The other reason why is that Derby's main attacking outlet has increasingly become their fullbacks. Max Lowe and, in particular, Jayden Bogle (deputised by Craig Forsyth and Andre Wisdom respectively) offer width and have fantastic delivery. Bogle's four assists are only bettered by Martin - who usually only has to roll the ball to Tom Lawrence. There's no need for runs in behind when the aim is shorter passing to move up the pitch. To that end, both Davies and Clarke are adept and composed on the ball. Content to play the easy ball wide, but also looking to play vertical passes to move higher up the pitch. 

All this means that Tom Lawrence is free to cut in from the left - this season he's scored nine, often thunderous strikes from the edge of the box that swerve all over the place and completely deceive goalkeepers. You would expect Yiadom to cull some of his attacking instincts to deal with the Welshman. Waghorn (or whoever is on the right, usually Knight is his understudy) may not have the same level of ability but can be just as potent. Knight is interesting defensively, as he man marks the opposition fullback almost to a fault. Often he drops so deep he almost forms a back five. With the opposition right-back having to deal with Lawrence, it's a great way to negate any threat from those players. 

To highlight their offensive threat, it's Lawrence, Waghorn, and Martin who have scored the bulk of Derby's goals this season. 30 from 49 in the league. As mentioned, Yiadom vs Lawrence is a crucial battle, but so too is Swift or Pele's control of the space in front of the defence. Stopping Martin's link play removes one weapon from Derby's arsenal. Likewise, our centre backs will have to be ready to deal with crosses; which should be bread and butter for Miazga in particular.

Nobody should be under any illusions - going to Pride Park is a tough fixture. It's unlikely to be as easy as the reverse, when Scott Malone was sent off after four minutes, but it's not an impossible task. Tricky players like Ejaria and Olise should be able to cause issues in the Derby defence, and we will get chances. Just got to hope that we're ready to take them.

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