99 Problems but Keogh ain’t one
With all the drama of last season over, our EFL case won and Derby having a reasonably positive transfer window to date, hopes were high amongst Rams fans for Philip Cocu to really push forward with the next phase of his DCFC project in season 2020/21. I think it’s fair to say that our worst start to a season for 28 years wasn’t exactly in the brochure.
When the fixtures were released, even the most negative of Derby fans would have looked at an opening run of Reading at Home Luton away and Blackburn at home as an opportunity for a decent start. Losing all three of these games has obviously been horrendous but the manner of the defeats have set alarm bells ringing at ear drum busting volumes.
When the team was published for the Reading game the chronic lack of an attacking threat was there for all to see before a ball was kicked. Derby had yet to generate transfer funds for the manager and injuries to Lawrence, Waggy and Rooney left the Rams looking toothless. That said the ease with which Reading cut through us was worrying.
Luton away at least contained some bright sparks and but for the injuries to Marriott and Joswiak, Derby may well have won this game but, once again, our old friends the goalkeeping error and his mate ‘not defending a cross’ gifted the game to Luton.
Yesterday’s defeat to Blackburn was an embarrassing mauling which frankly could have been a lot worse. Of course goals change games and Bradley Johnson could hit those two shots again 1000 times and wouldn’t score twice, but the gulf between the two sides in terms of organisation, application and pure fitness & physicality was huge.
After the game Cocu spoke about desire and passion. Not dissimilar to speeches he did over a year ago after similar tonkings at Brentford and Charlton. Clearly the message isn’t getting through which didn’t go unnoticed by Derby fans on social media. The inexplicable decision to drop Matt Clarke and play the entire second half, 3 nil down, without a recognised striker on the pitch also didn’t reflect well on the coach.
To my mind there are several key issues which Cocu needs to attend to quickly and some of them are not going to be easy.
Injuries accepted, there are simply too many youngsters in the team. All of the kids have their merits but we need to wind back a little bit and rotate them better than we are. Knight is one of the few players full stop who seems to have the nuts for the fight but both Bird and Sibley need to be pulled out. Buchanan definitely has his merits going forward but isn’t ready defensively. It’s not what Mel wants but I’m assuming he doesn’t want to be in league 1 either.
A few weeks ago, Cocu spoke about sorting the defence out first then going for offensive players. On the evidence thus far the defence looks worse than it was last year. MTW has had an awful start and there are already whispers of ‘Albentosa’ and ‘Bragstaad’. He simply can’t be that bad but he needs to adapt to the Championship quickly. Whilst he is doing that, I would have Curt back in with Clarke and get right back to basics.
Having said that, any midfield screening of our defence is non-existent. Rooney and Bird are just too easy to play against and offer no cover to our back line at all. You can look at the positional play of our defenders on all the goals this season (and it’s not great viewing), but they generally are A) on the back foot after we have lost the ball and/or B) trying to cope with a flood of unmarked runners. I would put Shinnie in immediately and leave him there until Bielik is fit. I would also consider pushing Wiz forward into the holding role as another option.
Talking of Wazza, I can’t have been the only one who looked at the first pictures of pre-season training and felt better about my body shape after seeing Wayne squeezed into that new sky blue training top. There is no doubt that Rooney’s arrival last year saved our season and the odd error he made was far outweighed by the many moments of magic he produced. Back then he looked lean sharp and hungry. This year he looks out of condition, sloppy and almost a little bit disinterested. That might be harsh, but if he is going to be in the team he needs to get in shape and get his fire back quickly. Whilst he’s doing that, let’s get him to number 10 or on the bench.
Clearly three games in is no time to be taking rash decisions on your head coach. Especially when he has 3 years worth of contract left, key players are injured and recruitment, particularly for that physical centre forward, is not yet complete. However if we don’t reverse this trend in the coming games against Watford or Norwich then the pressure is definitely going to be on.
Come on you Rams,