With the curtain fully drawn on the Rams’ 2015/16 season, it’s time to take a look back on what will ultimately be seen as an unsuccessful season, and highlight three things I think we learnt about our team.
1. An inconsistent shambles
Not my words actually, but a phrase used by one of our local radio’s commentary team after the first play-off semi-final. But it does just about sum up the Rams’ season. An inconsistent start, followed by a decent run of one defeat in 18. But then a bad run of no wins in seven ultimately cost Paul Clement his job. And although we did play better football in the latter half of the season, the performances were even more inconsistent.
Contrast that with Burnley, who went on a 23-match unbeaten run to the end of the season, and for me that’s why they won the league and the Rams finished fifth. Derby missed out on a second play-off final in three seasons with their defeat over two legs to Hull. Those two games summed the Rams’ campaign up in a nutshell. In the end, no one knew which Derby County were going to turn up week in week out
2. 4-3-3 or not 4-3-3
One of the biggest talking points over the last few seasons has been the Rams’ persistence with the 4-3-3 formation. On its day, and against the right opposition, this formation is without doubt totally suited to Derby’s players. But of course you don’t get to play the right opposition every week, and the inability to adapt to a different formation when needed has been painfully obvious now over the last three or four seasons.
It always seems to hinge around the midfield, as we now have plenty of options when it comes to wide attacking players that suit the 4-3-3 setup. The last three head coaches have all favoured this formation – it was under McClaren however that we achieved the greatest success. But as all Rams fans know, it was ultimately also his downfall as like the next two men in charge, no one seems able to adapt the team to play a different system on a regular basis or even as a plan B. That is surely the challenge for whoever the new manager is.
3. Experienced managers win Championships
If this season has proved anything, then it’s that old adage “you can’t buy experience”. When Paul Clement was brought in at the beginning of this season, it was his first role as head coach. And although he came to the Rams with an impressive CV as an assistant coaching at some of the biggest clubs in the world, the step up to being the man in charge is a big one.
To be fair to Clement though, he was handling the job quite well. But a string of poor results and poor performances cost him dearly in the end, although there is the argument that he just wasn’t given enough time.
Our next appointment is crucial if the club wants to achieve its ambition of Premier League football. Now surely it has to be an experienced head coach and, possibly more importantly, a strong character who can handle large egos. Clement’s successor for the rest of last season was in many people’s eyes not a strong enough person to handle the pressure that comes with such a position and also totally inexperienced at this level. And when you’re under that kind of pressure mistakes creep in and with Wassall that happened too many times. There is no doubting the talent within the Rams squad, and with the right man in place I’m sure we can go one better next season.
Obviously a new manager will want to swap and change the squad and naturally there could be some ins and outs this summer. Personally I don’t think many changes are needed, just a bit of tweaking here and there. Oh and get them to play well for 46 games, and maybe even entertain us along the way.
No pressure then.