16th – Derby County Season so far in Numbers

When I was planning this campaign of articles, I always had in my mind that I wanted to have “Derby County Stats” behind one of the windows, fully aware that some people absolutely love this stuff and some people don’t.

I do enjoy a good stats feast every now and again myself but would not know where to start in terms of producing an article. Thus who better to step up to the plate but my good friend and fellow DCFC Blogcaster Ollie Wright from The Derby County Blog. Take it away Ollie! 

‘Almost exactly a year ago, I found myself writing a piece called “A Roman Tortoise in West London’.  This was “inspired” by the tactics of our then manager Gary Rowett, who was busy introducing us to his special brand of ‘shithouse’ football – a term which became locally popular not least thanks to the social media skills of Ryan O’Meara, until Rowett’s eventual departure and replacement by Frank Lampard.

‘West London’ referred to Brentford, where at the end of September, Rowett’s men had secured what was on the face of it a creditable point against everyone’s favourite dark horse for the play-offs.  That performance – which followed a crazy run in which Derby had lost 3-1 at Sheffield United, beaten Hull 5-0 at Pride Park, then lost 4-1 at Bristol City – was the first real sign of what was to follow for the rest of a briefly promising, often grinding, occasionally appalling and ultimately disappointing season.

By “Roman Tortoise”, I meant the ancient Roman ‘testudo’ which Rowett’s team formed after taking the lead against the Bees through an early Joe Ledley goal.  They did not have another shot until injury time and left Griffin Park having mustered a ‘grand’ total of three efforts.  The  local Beesotted blog was so appalled that it sent a series of tweets alleging – quite fairly – that Derby had been scared to play them.  JAJ011-Roman-testudo

Staggeringly, Derby would ‘surpass’ the figure of three shots by totalling two efforts in their 1-0 win at Preston later in the season – that game, settled by Tom Lawrence’s goal from range, followed the traumatic 4-1 home defeat to doomed Sunderland and Rowett was perfectly happy to admit afterwards that how we won was utterly irrelevant, so long as we did.

Finishing the game with low numbers of shots became a very regular occurrence under Rowett.   In total, his team managed less than ten shots in 14 games during 2017/8 (including the 1-0 play-off win against Fulham – three shots).

Under Frank Lampard, things couldn’t be more different.  Only in the 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday have his Rams managed less than ten shots in a match so far all season – and in the majority of games since October’s riotous 4-1 demolition of West Bromwich Albion, they have been closer to 20 efforts in the match than ten:-

West Brom A 20 – 16
Middlesbrough A 19 – 11
Birmingham H 18 – 6
Aston Villa H 11 – 21
Sheffield Wednesday A 9 – 14
Stoke A 16 – 8
Swansea H 16 – 7
Wigan A 16 – 7

Total 125 – 90

In those eight games, Derby have managed an impressive 51 shots on target – 6.4 per game – while conceding only 24.

West Brom A 9 – 5
Middlesbrough A 7 – 0
Birmingham H 10 – 3
Villa H 5 – 5
Sheffield Weds A 3 – 3
Stoke A 8 – 4
Swansea H 4 – 2
Wigan A 5 – 2

Total 51 – 24

Most impressively of all, at the famously scrooge-like Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough, the Rams had seven shots on target to Boro’s zero.  Only thanks to a freak own goal did the home side fluke a point they did not deserve on the balance of play.  The record books contain the 1-1 draw, but they will not record the boos and jeers which rained down on Pulis as Lampard’s Rams fizzed around them in a brilliant first-half display of stylish dominance, on and off the ball.

As Chris pointed out in the latest Derby County BlogCast , we handed them a footballing lesson.

Rowettball was supposed to be about defensive solidity, but if we’re being really honest, the reality was that his team were regularly out-shot by their opponents.  By the end of the season, when they had totally run out of steam, the shots totals looked pretty awful:-

Total shots

Sunderland H 7 – 14
Preston A 2 – 19
Bolton H 9 – 9
Wolves A 6 – 12
Burton A 10 – 10
Middlesbrough H 16 – 14
Cardiff H 17 – 12
Villa A 7 – 24
Barnsley H 16 – 14

Total 90 – 128

(On target – 29 – 37)

This was such a far cry from the strong run in Rowett’s season, which ran from October until February.  Derby’s pitiful end to 2017/8 – a play-off berth had been all but guaranteed by the time the Rams beat Brentford 3-0 at the start of February and yet it was very nearly thrown away – highlighted the task of renewal which the new manager faced.

It also makes a mockery of Rowett’s decision to brag prior to the Stoke v Derby game that his Rams side had more points and goals at the equivalent period last season than Lampard’s did now.  All that served to do was highlight the club’s catastrophic January transfer window and how badly the team played from February onwards (for the record, after the first 20 games, the two managers had an almost identical record for Derby).

So far, Lampard’s team have steadily improved their attacking performance as the season has progressed, from so-so earlier in the season to one of the best performing teams at this stage.  I am a huge fan of the data analyst Ben Mayhew’s scatter graphics, which compare the relative stats of a division’s teams in a very easily accessible manner.  In his categorisation, Derby are among the stronger sides both offensive and defensively, yet still don’t have a particularly high amount of ‘expected goals’:-

Wilson, Lawrence and to a lesser extent Mason Mount chiefly take their shots from distance, which is partly why Derby’s xG is relatively low, compared to other major Championship sides. However, all of Derby’s attacking stats have become much better since the rise to prominence of Jack Marriott.

Shots total (shots inside box)

Mount 50 (23)
Lawrence 50 (16)
Wilson 46 (12)
Marriott 35 (30)

Marriot almost exclusively operates within the box. his shot locationsare much stronger than the other attackers, which is why it’s no surprise that he has been hitting the net on a regular basis ever since replacing David Nugent as first choice striker.

It has helped that Wilson is running his own personal goal of the season contest and has larruped in five league goals from outside of the penalty area already (plus that startling free kick at Manchester United).  I have moaned about players shooting from outside of the box for a couple of seasons now – Bradley Johnson is one, Tom Lawrence another habitual taker of potshots – but Wilson has my permission to do whatever he damn well likes.

In the past five seasons, the top total of goals from further than 18 yards out has been the eight netted by David McGoldrick in 2013/4.  Assuming he is not recalled by Liverpool, there is the target for Wilson to aim for and hopefully surpass.  This does highlight, though, that we can’t and shouldn’t expect Wilson to score more than about ten, the way that he’s been going, so we will need Marriott to stay fit and firing to have a real chance of success.  It’s Marriott who goes in where it hurts – which why we have to hope that he doesn’t get hurt.

Overall, partly thanks to Marriott’s emergence, Derby are now one of the top sides in the division for shots per game (fifth equal):-

Leeds 15.4
Villa 14.7

West Brom 14.6
Brentford 14.5
Derby / West Brom 14.4

And are also fourth best for shots on target per game:-

Brentford 5.8
Villa 5.2
Norwich 5.1

Derby 4.9
Leeds 4.8

At the back, Derby are fourth equal in the division for shots conceded per game:-

Leeds 9.9
Bristol C 11.4
Norwich 11.5
Birmingham / Derby 11.6
Sheffield U 11.7

And joint fifth for total goals conceded:-

Middlesbrough 14
Leeds 18
Forest 22
Swansea 23

Bristol C / Derby / Norwich / Sheffield United 24

Across all of these top-line measures, Derby look like a realistic top six side at this stage, which is very encouraging.   The only slightly less impressive measure is the actual goals scored –  again, I would argue this is because of this squad’s predilection to shoot from further out, instead of patiently creating clearer opportunities closer to the goal.

Shots outside of box per game (against total):-

Derby 7.3 (14.4)
Brentford 6.7 (14.5)

Leeds 6.3 (15.4)
Villa 6.2 (14.7)
Norwich 5.9 (14.6)

Last season, Derby were highly dependent on Matej Vydra for goals, but this season, the burden is being shared around more:-

League goals

Wilson 7
Marriott 6
Lawrence 4
Mount 3

Nugent / Bryson 2

All things being equal, it’s only a matter of time until Marriott overhauls Wilson.  There was some panic at the suggestion that Wilson could be recalled by Liverpool in January and while that would be a serious blow, he is less essential to the team’s prospects than the main man, Marriott.

We have still not seen the best of Martyn Waghorn, a relatively expensive signing who cannot break into the team.  Nugent, a player now placed squarely in the ‘veteran’ category, has been preferred to Waghorn as a striker at times and now Marriott has burst past him, too.  Surely at some point soon, Waghorn will get his chance – perhaps in place of the fitful Lawrence on the left – and hopefully with a run of games, he will start to chip in some goals, too.


It’s Forest next of course and they have been decent this season.  We discussed this at length in the last BlogCast, so give it a listen.  What I will say here though is that the two sides are fairly similar in terms of their overall stats, but with Derby edging it in most areas – and so theoretically, I make them slight favourites for this match, especially factoring in home advantage.  Anything could happen in the Derby derby, but on paper, it looks like another very tight match is in the offing.

A win against the Red Dogs would really cement Derby’s status as a play-off contender this season, but similarly to the defeat at ten-man Stoke, even if the worst happens and it goes the other way, the bigger picture is one of improving performances, underpinned by relative defensive stability and plenty of attacking threat.  It is a very competitive division this season and while there is no stand-out Wolves or Newcastle to run away with it, there are at least eight teams who justifiably think they have a great chance.  Derby are one of them and are doing it by playing football instead of relying on a cautious, catenaccio approach.   For the Rams to be in fourth as it stands, ahead of big spenders West Brom, Boro, Forest and Villa, is genuinely impressive, particularly factoring in that this is Frank Lampard’s first managerial experience.

In short, it is going well and as far as I can see, all of the evidence points to this being sustainable for the second half of the season – especially if we can buck the trend of recent seasons and actually strengthen in the January window, instead of coming out of it weaker.

Posted on December 16, 2018, in Derby County Advent Calendar 2018, General Rams Comment and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. A well considered and argued piece. The data reveals that my mere “feeling” about the season so far is largely supported. Part of that “feeling” is we are poor at preventing and defending crosses, any data to back up that? Additionaly I get very frustrated at too many balls play played square or backwards when more obvious through balls are available. Possibly a function of the spectator having an aerial view not available to the players. Again, it would be interesting to know if there is evidence for this.

    I very much look forward to the next instalment, particularly as we enter a season defining period. Oh, one final thing, can we have someone on the coaching staff do something about making throw-ins more productive. It’s an area of the game that is severely underestimated as an attacking threat in my opinion, a potential tactical advantage as evry other team seem to be just as poor.

  2. Thanks Ashley. In terms of crosses faced, I don’t have data to hand on that, but what I would say is that analysts these days see crosses as much less dangerous than throughballs (in other words, you have to bomb in a lot more crosses than you would slipped balls through the defence to score the same amount of goals). Perhaps a clue to how well we deal with balls into the box is that Derby have let in five goals from set pieces so far this season, which is one of the better records in the Championship (Millwall and Preston are worst for this, with 12 conceded). Overall, we’ve conceded 16 times from open play, which is the sixth best record in the division (Leeds and Boro are tied for best, with 9). So the defensive record is not bad.

    Passes which don’t go forward will forever be debated. Without wishing to bang on too much, I prefer us to dominate the ball and would rather we were doing that than conceding possession easily, which was the Gary Rowett philosophy. Ultimately, if you don’t have the ball, you have to do more running around chasing opponents and you get tired. Sometimes, having the ball is about conserving energy and waiting to pick the right pass. Not everything can go forward in that scenario.

    Long pass, short pass, whatever – it’s about being composed enough to make the best decision, usually with next-to-no thinking time. We have players who are capable of doing that under pressure, for example Tom Huddlestone, who is a master at calmly switching the ball to the opposite wing, or Wilson and Mount, who can make smart, sharp passes in dangerous areas.

    What I keep an eye on is passes into the final third, as that is ultimately where the damage gets done. For that, we have been generally better than our opponents across the season as a whole. Same with shots (both on and off target).

    On the whole, as long as we’re creating more chances than the opposition on a consistent basis, I’m happy enough – and Lampard’s team are doing that.

  1. Pingback: 22nd – Jack Marriott | RAMSPACE.CO.UK

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