Anyone who has followed my blog this season knows how positive I have been on a number of fronts. From the appointment of Paul Clement to the way the money was spent on, seemingly, quality signings. Following on from that, the steady and imperious progress made after a slow start was all the more reason for optimism – even if the football wasn’t particularly great.
However, after the events of recent weeks, and particularly the absolute shambles of last Saturday’s performance against Wolves, it’s time to have a bit of a rant.
I like Darren Wassall, he’s a good coach and he has done a good job with our Under-21s. But he is out of his depth at first team level – this is evidential in the lack of improvement since his appointment. It’s also worth noting the unwarranted positivity that remains in his post-match thoughts. We were absolutely shocking at Wolves last Saturday, a game we should’ve won at a canter, but Darren came out after the match saying how well he thought we’d played with the optimism of a CBBC presenter. Now I get that he’s dealing with some underperforming players at the moment and confidence is still fragile in spite of the previous two wins, but his comments just go over the top. All the fans want to hear is how they see it themselves.
Additionally, I’m not too impressed with our tactical shape at the moment. Although I’m still a fan of the 4-3-3 formation that we have employed for a number of years now, we’re still playing the wrong players in the wrong positions. Bradley Johnson is a prime example in the left-wing position, and I have the nagging suspicion that he is only there to keep him in the team. He has been poor for a long time and it wouldn’t surprise me if his omission was greeted with positive response by the fans. The same applies to Johnny Russell who also has been struggling for a while now. Russell is something of a fans’ favourite; you can never doubt his commitment to the cause as he always gives you 100%. There is also that goal against Forest two seasons ago in the 5-0 win. But for me he is not producing any quality currently and he is certainly keeping better players out of the team. There is also the argument that George Thorne is not performing to the high standards he set himself two seasons ago, and that Jamie Hanson may be a more viable option in that position.
So we have the players to potentially do the business on the pitch but it’s clearly not happening. I thought the two wins against Brentford and Blackburn might have kicked us on, which makes the Wolves performance even more baffling and annoying. I have to say that some players don’t seem to be relishing the fight that we are in, and this could be a sign of the psychological weakness of those that are underperforming. The hope is that if confidence can somehow be restored, then the commitment to the cause may bring the quality that £25 million undoubtedly brings.
As it stands the Rams are currently six points behind Brighton in fourth and seven points behind the top-two. Is there too much to do now? I personally think so – especially considering the way we are playing and the form that the top four are in. It is certainly a far cry from a few months ago when we had the chance to cement a top-two place!
Finally, it appears that Wassall is going to be our Head Coach until the end of the season regardless of how results turn out. Personally, out of the contenders for the job in the summer, I would go for Nigel Pearson. He isn’t my favourite person but a good man manager who gets results. As for the rest of this season, on paper the Rams have four winnable games ahead of them. Certainly three wins out of four might put us in a better position, but we will see. It’s quite difficult to be positive as a Derby fan at the moment – take note Darren Wassall.