Should Rams rein in growing expectation?
In July, Joel Clyne wrote a piece on Derby County building for the future and an overview of their summer signings. Now, 13 games into the new season with aspects of the division starting to take shape, Joel thought it would be a good idea to have a closer look at how the Rams are progressing.
Not so many changes were made at the club last summer. So far, the biggest and most significant change has been that of the formation. Out has gone the dated and rigid 4-4-2 and in has come the more fluid 4-2-3-1.
Clough has always wanted the side to play football on the ground, much like his father was famously quoted, yet there have only been sporadic periods during his tenure that Rams fans have seen this. Until this season.
The formation seems to suit the players in the squad and enables Derby to get the best out of their most talented players – Kris Commons and loanee Alberto Bueno, neither of whom are big enough or strong enough to play as an out and out striker. The formation gives these two the freedom to do as they please and gives the side that bit of magic that many sides are crying out for.
It is the front four that have most pleased in recent weeks. The loan signing of Bueno from Valladolid until the end of the season was always going to be a risk but so far it looks as if it has paid off. He has scored three in seven appearances, not bad for a player who had previously only managed two goals in his professional career. Bueno also has an assist to his name but, on a wider scale, his all-round play has been a joy to watch and his ability to find pockets of space in between midfield and attack has been beneficial to the side.
Bueno has removed a burden from Kris Commons, who has carried the expectations of Pride Park on his shoulders for too long. Commons has always been a talented player who, on his day, can win a match single-handedly but also one that has been injured too often and is a frustration at times. For all the talent that he possesses, Commons often doesn’t do himself justice and it is his inconsistent performances that frustrate players, managers and fans alike.
The above is an honest assessment of Commons. I imagine it is one which the majority of Rams fans would agree with. However, at the time of writing Commons is in outstanding form having already notched up seven league goals – only one short of equalling his totals from the last two seasons. The quality of his goals have been Premier League standard.
Maybe the penny has finally dropped for Commons. Maybe he realises that with, hard work and dedication (he turned up a month before the rest of the squad for pre-season training to make sure he didn’t have another season like the last one), he can reach his potential. Maybe he’s just playing for a new contract (his current deal is up at the end of the season).
Current form has been excellent but the Rams made a shaky start to the season. A solid 2-1 win away to Leeds on the opening day was the only win in the first six games of the season, although the performances deserved more and the side was unlucky not to take all three points from a demoralising home game against Queens Park Rangers, conceding two in the final few minutes.
It is this naivety that will put a stop to Derby being in the top six come the end of the season. Fans should be content with a top half finish. Some will say that we should be spending money and going for the play-offs but this side aren’t ready for that. I don’t think it would be a good idea to go up that way either. The best way forward is to continue plucking talented youngsters from the lower leagues and spending big money on a signing or two in the summer.
In the summer, it seemed that Derby fans had come round to the idea that this was a project which would take a few years to come together. The club is at a good stage in its development and it is reassuring that supporters have progression to reflect upon.
Current form proves that Derby have the right man in charge. The side is young, so there will be drops in form, bad results and abject performances along the way but this is all to be expected.
Patience is key.