This is Going to Get Worse Before it Gets Better - Notes for Derby
Tuesday, 13th Sep 2016 05:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Tuesday night’s game at the iPro Stadium by delving into their forums.
“What on earth has happened? The consensus was optimistic about our season, but at the moment whoever Pearson puts in the team has a stinker and the team play poorly. It’s quite difficult seeing our much-vaunted manager’s decisions not making a bit of difference”, “It’s a bloody shambles.”
“I really wasn’t expecting us to fall so far so quickly.” Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Newcastle left Derby sitting in 19th place in the table and followed a 1-0 loss to local rivals Burton Albion before the international break. “With so much uncertainty to our start, it’s a nervous time to be a Rams’ fan.”
“We are in deep, deep trouble.” With one league goal in six outings, many are struggling to make sense of their start to the season. “This is going to be an awfully long season”, “No one is too big for League One”, “Relegation form, we look abysmal, no ideas or creativity and our players look lost.”
“What the hell is going on?”, “We have spent tens of millions on a team on the cusp of promotion. A mid-table or relegation scrap season is unthinkable”, “Something somewhere isn’t working”, “Things needs to change very fast. Nigel Pearson won’t last more than a couple of weeks unless they do.”
“I thought Pearson was a safe, sensible choice. However, he has taken us backwards so quickly that I don’t know how we rectify this. It’s a mess”, “We were told by Leicester fans that it would get worse before it got better. I hope that it gets better soon, because this is excruciating to watch.”
Rams knew that the 53-year-old former Leicester manager would move the side’s playing style away from the fluid 4-3-3 system which brought a fifth-place finish last season. They have been baffled by the stagnant, toothless football which a capable playing squad has continued to produce this season.
“If I could genuinely see what Pearson was trying to achieve I would be a bit happier but it’s bloody awful”, “I blame Pearson for this. Instead of trying to build on the successes of previous seasons he has tried to implement something completely different to no avail”, “Very little needed changing.”
“Is this Paul Jewell again, a decent reputation coming in but having no idea? I hope not”, “The tanker is being turned around. Reserve judgement for a few games yet”, “I get why people are angry with Pearson but I can’t see how making another change will do any good. I don’t know, who does?”
“The right man for the job.” Many fans are urging patience. “Nigel has my full support. I’m willing to sit mid-table as he sorts out this mess”, “This isn’t a quick fix. There is rubbish to get rid of before we build. The core of this team bottled it for the past three seasons and they are not all that, are they?”
Stripping Down the Engine
“Is Pearson trying to reinvent the wheel?” “Pearson’s tactics have been all over the place so far. He doesn’t seem to be able to get the team playing with any plan or direction”, “We are so slow and pedestrian, playing tippy-tappy sideways and backwards with no urgency, no pace and no threat.”
“We are all willing to deal with a period of transition but what we have seen so far this season is a fundamental breakdown in planning and communication”, “We don’t have the players for 4-4-2 and this formation leaves us far too open at the back”, “Seven Championship seasons in a row for this”,
“I saw Pearson mouth the words ‘just that last ball’. It isn’t, it’s the system, pal. Any Tom, Dick and Harry can see that”, “We are an easy and predictable side to play against. Teams come to the iPro, contain us relatively easily and know they will always have an opportunity to nick a goal or two.”
“Well, it’s certainly exciting. I might be watching through my hands when we lose the ball.” Derby’s starting XI (above) for Saturday’s game gave an indication of what Pearson is trying to achieve with new signings from Watford, Matej Vydra and Ikechi Anya, adding wide pace and mobility up front.
“We will be overrun with Will Hughes and Craig Bryson in central midfield.” Fans were far more concerned with a lightweight midfield which has consistently struggled to impose itself. The failure to balance the midfield by signing cover for the injured George Thorne has often been lamented.
“We are crying out for a George Thorne or a John Eustace type of player”, “Playing without a holding midfielder means that our midfield doesn’t know what it’s doing”, “We have too many numbers 10s in midfield and nobody who will put a tackle in”, “The central midfield is just too weak and feeble.”
“We are rudderless and lacking any form of cohesion. Any team can run a lot.” Fans have highlighted a midfield unable to dictate a tempo or add potency to attacking play. “There is no movement from our forward-minded players and they give the midfield no option but to go back or sideways again.”
Pearson is trying to introduce width and wing play but some fans cannot reconcile this with signing strikers who are noted for movement rather than aerial prowess. Central defenders have also been criticised for hoofing the ball clear and full-backs have failed to link consistently with their wingers.
A midfield which was once a strength is now seen as a weak area. “Maybe there are too many one-trick ponies in the squad”, “The central midfielders got used to the luxury of an extra man. They had more time and space and an easy ball out when under pressure. It’s not happening under Pearson.”
The lack of physical stature is a regular theme. “In midfield and up front we look like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”, “Men versus boys, the Newcastle team looked so much bigger than us”, “We were beaten by a Newcastle side superior physically, tactically and with more confidence.”
A Lack of Confidence
“The Newcastle performance was one you would expect from a relegation candidate”, “The game was over when they scored”, “We are unrecognisable from the team that went to Hull in the play-offs and put on a performance”, “We are totally, absolutely, totally and utterly bereft of confidence.”
“I don’t like the term ‘bottlers’, but as it is, we are”, “The bottom line is that it is a confidence issue right now”, “We are easy to neutralise and have a very soft centre”, “There are huge mental issues in the team. Newcastle scored and we were done. Confidence evaporated. We can’t be that fragile.”
Derby 0 – 2 Newcastle
“I have turned over to ITV to see some guy blindfolded listening to the noise of Hoovers and naming which one it is. I’m really struggling to work out which has been the most entertaining viewing”, “If you think that defeat had to do with bad luck, you are an ostrich”, “The team needs ripping apart.”
“Well, that got worse.” Rams felt that their side played brightly until Yoann Gouffran rifled home a powerful low volley on 20 minutes from a corner. United sealed a comfortable win with a second in stoppage time after DeAndre Yedlin capitalised on hesitant Rams defending to bundle the ball home.
“Pearson played with two deep central midfielders and a flat front two. There was a gaping hole in the middle of the final third throughout the match. Our wingers were pushed forward, meaning that we had four players ahead of the ball and all marked out of the game and with no space in behind.”
“Our players were running around like headless chickens. Newcastle cut through our midfield like butter”, “Our midfield was a fright and there was no balance. We struggled to play it out from the back”, “Bryson and Hughes were reduced to positional, safety-first stuff”, “A team with no ideas.”
Burton 1 – 0 Derby
“Well done Burton, extremely well deserved”, “Burton did a job on Derby, they got it tactically spot on”, “Was it me, or was that just like watching England-Iceland in the Euros?”, “A £300k team against a £30m team, what a joke”, “There is no excuse for losing to Burton. You can’t defend that.”
“Oh, the irony of calling Nigel Clough tactically inept.” Jackson Irvine headed the Brewers into a 12th minute lead in the sides’ first league encounter on the Friday before the international break. “They deserved the win and showed commitment, desire and focus. We were like lambs to the slaughter.”
“Okay, does anyone think we can score here?” Fans were frustrated with a starting XI (above) which had three creative central midfielders but with two playing in holding roles. Chris Martin failed to make any impression in what was his last game before moving to Fulham on a season-long loan.
“Two forward-thinking midfielders playing a holding role. What’s the point?”, “The creative side of our game has evaporated”, “It isn’t part of the plan to go long, but everyone’s passing has been so pathetic that the players are getting frustrated and just smacking it. No-one’s even chasing the ball.”
“Wrong pass, wrong decision every time”, “We can’t press high enough up the pitch to put Burton under pressure”, “This performance is actually making me angry, it’s clueless dross”, “I can’t think of a single redeeming factor, it has been absolutely terrible so far”, “We look horrific, just horrific.”
“I am fuming with this. I usually keep quiet but this has depressed me”, “Garbage from start to finish.” Although furious with their own side, Rams were genuinely magnanimous at full-time. “I am genuinely chuffed for Burton, good luck to them”, “Both teams got exactly what they deserved.”
Derby 1 – 1 Carlisle (14 – 13 on Penalties) (EFL Cup)
“Another seriously bad game. I’m starting to get a little worried”, “We were not pressing, we were too deep and losing the midfield battle. It was not good enough and so, so odd”, “It sounded like one team were playing football, Carlisle, that is”, “Surprise, surprise, Derby fail to see out a game.”
“Well that was easy enough.” Derby took the lead when Darren Bent poached home a rebound after Nick Blackman’s shot was tipped on to the woodwork, but the visitors’ levelled through a Mike Jones shot in the fifth minute of stoppage time. The quiet extra-time was a prelude to an epic shoot-out.
“Are you not entertained?”, “That was pretty funny”, “It was never in doubt”, “The goal drought is over, 15 tonight”, “It was the most entertainment we have had in a while”, “The game was boring for the most part but the shoot-out was really exciting. I was really wired and couldn’t go to sleep.”
A starting XI (above) mostly of fringe players had the same problems getting any rhythm going as the regular league side. “The slick passing is a joy to watch, from Carlisle that is”, “They played triangles around our 4-4-2, especially when our central midfielders tried to press, like it was a training match.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Have we had a worse kicker than Scott Carson?” The 30-year-old ex-Wigan keeper “kicks the ball into touch too often”, “I’m surprised at how often he kicks out to nobody or out of play when under no pressure”, “He has made some brilliant saves and his clean sheets are something to build on.”
“Most keepers would have saved Carlisle’s shot”, His decision-making is becoming questionable.” Rams were unhappy about the Magpies’ second goal on Saturday. “I have no idea what he was doing, He bottled it, too scared to go with his hands”, “A cowardly piece of goalkeeping, quite shocking.”
“Cyrus Christie had no footballing intelligence whatsoever. He gets to the 18-yard box and stops dead in his tracks, so frustrating.” The 23-year-old ex-Coventry right-back “looked interested against Newcastle but started hiding again”, “He always wants to beat the extra man, a complete waste.”
“Newcastle let Christie bring the ball inside into traffic rather than let him go wide”, “It is frustrating to see him give the ball away so often. It was double figures in that game”, “A threat in aggressive forward-thinking mode”, “He can’t defend and going forward often doesn’t know where he’s going.”
“I would celebrate if Marcus Olsson looked up before putting a cross in.” The 28-year-old former Blackburn left-back “could be a very useful partner with Anya. Both have attacking qualities and could feasibly rotate”, “He gets forward well and is a goal threat but his simple passes can be off.”
“Olsson is agile, faster and a more comfortable attacking threat than Craig Forsyth”, “Instead of opening up his body to receive the ball, his touch forces him back towards his own goal”, “He gets done on far post set-pieces all day long”, “Some of his crosses have the subtlety of a Scud missile.”
“Chris Baird is sound defensively but his crosses are very poor.” The 34-year-old ex-Baggie “is the only player I know who gets a nosebleed every time he passes the halfway line”, “He defends well at right-back but offers nothing else”, “He doesn’t look like he wants to take it on in the final third.”
“I would put Alex Pearce in for Jason Shackell after his poor performance against Newcastle.” The 27-year-old former Royal “looks a steady defender despite looking rusty on occasions with the ball”, “Pearce is fairly good and there is nothing in his game to be concerned about. He needs game time.”
“Everyone knows Jason Shackell is poor with the ball but he was bad defensively against Newcastle as well.” The 33-year-old ex-Burnley centre-half “wasn’t great but at least he was taking opponents on when given the ball”, “He does his defending well but his distribution is slow and dreadful.”
“Shackell takes too long on the ball thus halting any attacking momentum”, “He is cool as custard under pressure and has a calming influence on our defence when under the cosh”, “He sorted out our chaotic defending. His positioning is immaculate but can’t pass a ball without first stopping it.”
“What a performance by Keogh against Newcastle. He covered three positions and the only player making incisive passes.” The 30-year-old Republic of Ireland international centre-back “is one of the few who gives 100 per cent every game”, “The only player who can pick the ball up, drive forward and find a man.”
Jordon Ibe and Richard Keogh
“A battler who gives his all for the team and drives us forward.” The one-time Town youth player “is a top ball-playing defender at this level and we are lucky to have him as our captain”, “He is good with the ball, puts everything into every game and adds things to our attacking play where possible.”
“It’s a risk playing Bradley Johnson against Ipswich. With his Norwich past, both sets of fans booing him will hardly help his confidence.” The 29-year-old ex-Canary “might remember the art of playing football again, bless him”, “He seems to be lacking in confidence and is very error-prone.”
Bradley Johnson attacking a Forest fan
“Bradley’s a shadow of the player who went up with Norwich”, “He doesn’t have that ‘I’ll show you lot’ attitude. He seems to crumble”, “He seemed lost in the middle of the park against Carlisle, not sure what he was supposed to be doing”, “Every pass he attempted seemed to go badly wrong.”
“I have just witnessed Jacob Butterfield pass the ball back to Carson from the halfway line.” The 26-year-old ex-Huddersfield midfielder had a poor game at Burton. “He wouldn’t show for the ball and his passing was too negative”, “Anonymous and a waste of a starting position. He’s a loser and I want him out.”
“Butterfield hasn’t produced a killer ball, tackle, decent shot or telling contribution all season”, “He can play a superb ball when left alone to do his thing, but won’t get that time against a decent side at this level”, “One of our most gifted players. He has amazing feet and can score from anywhere.”
“We want Craig Bryson hitting that penalty area.” The 29-year-old ex-Kilmarnock man “is so much better on the edge of the opposition’s penalty box than ours”, “An honest, hard-working, energetic player. When he is good, he is brilliant but when he is not, you forget he is even on the pitch.”
“Did I just see Craig Bryson as our deepest outfield player? I’m out”, “There is no way on God’s earth that he should be used in that role”, “He’s in the wrong part of the pitch”, “He stretched teams and ups our intensity on the ball and is a threat in behind the striker, contributing to our build-up play.”
“What’s up with Will? He looks an absolute shadow of himself”, “We need him making stuff happen, not defending”, “He’s a fantastic pinpoint passer of the ball with great vision and is as smooth as silk, but never in a million years is he a defensive midfielder. He’s not big enough and too lightweight.”
“Hughes didn’t track Burton’s runner for their goal. He was one of the worst players, taking people on all game and failing.” Rams think the 21-year-old youth product is wasted even more than Bryson in a holding role. “At times he was our deepest outfield player against the Brewers, shocking.”
“Hughes has a natural talent that can turn a match. He has the ability to control and dictate a game. His Achilles’ heel is that he is one-footed”, “He shines around other skilled players”, “He has a great football brain and can make a dull game an exciting one”, “Our best player since the Jim Smith era.”
“The pace of the new frontline could give Tom Ince more room to operate. He just needs to improve his decision-making”, “Too often he looks like he’s about to do something. He gets in good positions, taking a nice touch but the end product more often than not isn’t there”, “He can be too wasteful.”
“Ince used to look like he would do something every time he got the ball. Now he looks poor.” The 24-year-old former Hull City winger “did nothing wrong at Burton because he did nothing”, “He was only a goalscorer when he was on loan”, “He is greedy at times but he looks eager to show what he can do.”
“I don’t think Johnny Russell could have played any worse than he did against Newcastle. He could not pass, shoot or even run. If he starts against Ipswich, I give up.” The 26-year-old former Dundee United man was widely criticised on Saturday. “He tried hard as ever but he was in fact awful.”
“Russell slowed everything down and passed backwards more often than not or lost the ball quickly if he ran with it”, “He looks like a pub player”, “He has been distressingly bad. He keeps coming into the centre”, “He is all endeavour and no end product, and he is a terrible decision-maker at times.”
“Anya tried his hardest and has lots of energy, but Newcastle’s Vurnon Anita had him in his pocket.” The 28-year-old new arrival from Watford “looks a proper wide player, buzzing around a lot”, “Each time he got in a dangerous position Newcastle doubled up on him so he had to play the ball back.”
“Anya will be a good signing, he’s head and shoulders above our other wide men”, “A clever winger in the out-and-out mould we have wanted”, “We’re not signing a goalscorer here, but he has speed, trickery, versatility and a great attitude. He works hard and he will get the fans off their seats.”
“Nick Blackman is woeful. Anyone can be excused a lack of confidence but he can’t even take up good positions. He’s an impostor.” The 26-year-old ex-Reading man “is selfish, confidence-shot, no accuracy and predictable”, “I can’t totally write him off because I refuse to believe he is this bad.”
“I like Darren Bent but am coming to the conclusion that he is more likely to be an impact substitute for the last 15 minutes.” The 32-year-old former Town and Aston Villa striker “misses so many chances it’s unreal and he constantly gets caught offside”, “Unless it is on a plate for him, he is of no use.”
“Bent thrives on through balls into the channels but our midfield lacks the creativity to play them. As per usual he was the right man in the right place to score against Carlisle”, “He offers nothing other than tap-ins and poacher’s goals. He offers nothing more widely to us as a team and he lacks pace.”
“James Wilson was anonymous in the first half against Newcastle. He lost his man too easily for their goal”, “He shouldn’t have started.” The 20-year-old loan signing from Manchester United “needs to learn when to release the ball. He is lightweight and not particularly fast”, “I’m yet to be convinced.”
“Wilson had a rather inauspicious debut from the bench at Burton”, “I have high hopes for him if he is not stifled by our naïve tactics”, “We need to play through balls for him to run on to”, “He looks very composed in front of goal. He looked very direct playing for Brighton with his pace and skill.”
“Vydra had a good game against the Magpies, he has fast feet and a quick brain. He looks nippy and likes to turn people. He had limited service to show this and became quiet in the second half”, “His movement was great. He looked strong and skilled with the ball at his feet”, “Exactly what we need.”
The 24-year-old ex-Hornet “showed some glimpses he might be better than the ineffective strikers we have been buying”, “He plays off the last defender and has pace that frightens them. He can be unplayable when a team plays a high back line but looks lost when defensive lines drop deeper.”
“Vydra is good with both feet and looks to have electric pace and he makes intelligent runs into the channels. I’m very excited”, “His first touch, awareness and work-rate are less heralded qualities”, “He’s naturally clinical up front, but is not a presence in the box and not great with his back to goal.”
Rams’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich is a massive next game now, a must-win game”, “A big game this now”, “An encouraging and uplifting performance is paramount to kick-starting our season. Here’s hoping it happens on Tuesday”, “Surely we can create some chances against Ipswich”, “It has got to click at some point.”
Saturday’s defeat has added huge significance to this game. With just over half of Rams predicting a home win and 22 per cent going for a Town victory, home fans are warily optimistic. While 2-0 home wins and 1-1 draws are common forecasts, all of their pessimists see us nicking a single goal win.
“Derby 0–1 Ipswich, and I’m desperately hoping to be proved wrong”, “I seriously cannot see where the next goal is coming from”, “Ipswich at home usually means utter rubbish by us. We could be in trouble from set pieces if Keogh and Shackell can't clear the ball. We are tiny and not very strong.”
“Ipswich have strong but slow centre-halves but they will score probably at set pieces against us”, “Our only hope is if Ipswich implode like they did at Reading and gift us a couple of penalties”, “If we play with same intensity against Ipswich as we did for the first hour on Saturday, we'll batter them.”
“No doubt, this will be horrible game to watch, hoofball versus hoofball. I'm bored already. We might be little bit faster but they'll work harder”, “Ipswich will be organised and difficult to break down. We can nick it perhaps by the one goal but I don't expect it to be anything but attritional.”
“Leon Best first goalscorer, who else?” Rams have horrible memories of a Rotherham fightback last March when our new striker equalised in stoppage time to secure a 3-3 draw. The Millers had been three down with eight minutes to play. “Let's hope we are 4-0 up with 10 minutes to go this time.”
One Ram drew a comparison between our recent financial and playing records. “Ipswich finished two places behind us last year and just sold Murphy for £3 million, the replacement? Leon Best. They only spent £1.5 million this summer, £400,000 last season, £100,000 season before and nothing the year before that.
“Now that's a club that may look at us with green eyes. We have spent more than Ipswich this summer than they have in the last seven seasons but yet they were only two places behind us in the league last season.”
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