Derby County: Will the serial chokers bounce back this season?
Derby County will attempt to finally get out of the Championship this season after two straight seasons of snatching failure from the jaws of promotion. It all looked so rosy at the turn of the year as Derby County looked to have responded to their 1-0 Play Off Final defeat by storming into a position of real strength in the race for promotion. An astonishing run of just 12 points in 13 games not only dropped them out of the promotion places, but the play offs. There is reason for optimism this season as they look to erase the memories of the last two seasons, but will they return to the Promised Land?
The first cause for optimism is the appointment of new Manager Paul Clement to replace Steve McLaren. Clement has joined Derby after a few years as Carlo Ancelotti’s Assistant at Paris St Germain and then Real Madrid. Clement’s appointment should be a big boost for County fans as he has learnt from one of the best in the business at arguably the biggest club in the world. He has a growing reputation and should bring a lot to Derby as he looks to use everything he has learnt under the Italian to be successful as a manager and get the Rams back into the Premier League.
The main reason for anticipation at Derby is the signings. They have signed some key players and have managed to permanently sign Thomas Ince and Darren Bent permanently. Ince was a key player during his loan spell and the winger scored a staggering 11 goals in 18 League appearances and with Bent also netting 12 in 17, things are looking promising going forward for Derby County. Add Andreas Weimann to that and they have a very formidable front line. Weimann has struggled to regain the form he showed in 2012/13 but should still be a class act at Championship level. Centre Back Alex Pearce could be a good addition to a defence that looks a bit shaky and Scott Carson joins to put pressure on current Number 1 Lee Grant. Northern Irishman Chris Baird also joins to add depth to the squad.
Arguably Derby County’s potential starting XI is up there with the strongest in the league, but one weakness that they will look to address is their lack of depth in key areas. In the goalkeeping department none of Carson, Grant or Kelle Roos look good enough to be in the Premiership so that is one area that will need to be looked at. In defence they have Richard Keogh, Pearce, Baird (Also a centre midfielder), Stephen Warnock, Cyrus Christie, Jake Buxton, Raul Albentosa and Craig Forsyth (Also a left midfielder) which is one of the few areas in which they have a mix of real quality and depth.
In the centre of midfield they have George Thorne, Will Hughes, Craig Bryson and Jeff Hendrick to choose from, which is a huge positive for the Rams. The main problem in this Derby team is the lack of a decent winger to partner Ince, with Simon Dawkins and potentially forwards Johnny Russell and Andreas Weimann the main candidates in a position that looks very weak indeed. In attack they are very strong with Weimann and Russell joining Bent, Connor Sammon and Chris Martin.
The key to another push for promotion will not only be bringing in a new goalkeeper and a winger, but also keeping Chris Martin fit. Scotsman Martin, who signed for free from Norwich City in 2013 after an initial loan spell, has scored a brilliant 46 goals in 97 games since he signed permanently for the Rams. With Darren Bent joining, they have 2 players capable of netting 20 plus goals and also have midfielders capable of scoring 10-15 goals. Everything points to a successful season, as long as they can keep it tight at the back.
Derby must also look at their head to head record with the likes of Middlesbrough, Queens Park Rangers, Burnley, Hull City, Ipswich Town and Brentford. These matches are the types of matches that set the tone for a season and the key will be to look at picking up wins in their home matches and at least a point on the road. They must also think about numbers early on and say to themselves that they need to be looking at 90 points for promotion and 80 for the play offs and by doing this they can assess where they are and where they should be. Whilst these points totals will be helpful to them, they must also look at the table to assess the situation so they can always keep an eye on whether they are hitting their targets in terms of league position.
Will the season finally end with joy for Derby County fans, or will they have another season of failure to dissect when it gets to May? Only time will tell, but it promises to be an interesting season for Derby.
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