Ten games into the new season and we have reached one of the season’s milestones, where we always check on how we think our club is doing. So with almost a quarter of the campaign completed, how has Paul Clement fared in his debut season as a head coach? Here’s my take.
Probably the biggest and most noticeable change from the last two seasons is our defence. Last season it was inconsistent at best, showing signs of being resolute towards the start of the season, but falling apart quite drastically (not helped by the rest of the team!) towards the end. However, it appears as though Mr Clement has come in and noticed straight away that this was a key area that needed addressing, and the signs so far are very promising.
We have only conceded seven goals in our first ten games and they actually look solid now, so much so that one can have confidence in them during a game. The addition of Scott Carson in goal and defender Jason Sahckell has certainly helped, but the form of last season’s captain Richard Keogh has been for me the most pleasing. Vilified for the majority of last season, he has shown unbelievable character to not only be part of that defensive set up but to actually be arguably our best player so far this campaign.
The improved form of Cyrus Christie at right-back has also been very welcoming. The way he lost confidence in his game last season was awful to watch – but he his young and still learning his trade. Lastly there is the left-back role, which seems the most confusing and the one position that appears to still be totally up for grabs. Last season’s almost ever-present, Craig Forsyth, and Stephen Warnock are fighting it out and Mr Clement doesn’t quite seem to know which is his preferred option just yet.
But for the grace of God and terrible luck, our midfield has been totally transformed from that of last season, and even pre-season for that matter. The loss of Will Hughes was obviously a massive blow and with Craig Bryson not being fit it was left to Mel Morris to dip into his pockets just before deadline day to bring in two big-money signings.
Bradley Johnson settled in straight away and has given us a different presence in that area. Jacob Butterfield seems to be taking a bit longer to settle, but with Thorne and Hendrick in there as well then our almost “trademark” passing game is not that far away. With Bryson’s energy to hopefully be soon returning, there may be an issue in the middle of a pitch due to an excess of quality. A nice issue, of course.
Although it’s hard to keep playing to the high standard of the last two seasons, the firepower now at our disposal provides the ability for Rams’ fans to feel a little underwhelmed at the attacking performance so far this season. When there are quality players in the squad, surely it has to come good eventually, and I do believe that it will. The signs are there and I’m convinced that when it all comes together it is going to be almost impossible to play against. With Chris Martin leading the line you always fancy your chances.
A bit of a mixed bag really if truth be told. The Rams have had good halves in games but then have let themselves down in others. Drawing the opening four games was frustrating to say the least, but it showed that we now have that solid base that all good teams need. The defeat against Leeds was perplexing, not least because we arguably played our best football of the season up until that point. Since that game however, we have kicked on with four wins out of five and with improved performances as well. Things are without a doubt coming together game by game.
So all in all not a bad start for our debutant head coach, with hopefully a lot more to come in the coming months. By Christmas, I think we’ll be even happier.