Lack of Performance. Lack of optimism.
At the end of Tuesday evening Derby were sat within the Play Off places yet the optimism that usually surrounds a team sitting towards the top of their division wasn’t evident.
A modern day crisis club to a wider audience, it’s safe to assume that fans aren’t too willing to get too far ahead of themselves but in a division which is at its most average in a number of years, there’s an opportunity to be seized by someone.
Derby are a team in transition however and since his arrival, Gary Rowett has been trying to shift the bottlers tag. Of course there’ll be personnel changes but there’s also a culture that has needed to be altered and something as fundamental as that doesn’t happen instantly.
With the exception of Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich (ironically all promoted in the same season) the majority of sides promoted from the Championship in the past five seasons have been relatively functional and it’s that style and mentality that Rowett is trying to install into Derby.
Gone are the days where they’ll look to pass teams off the park. Derby are a lot more rigid and solid now, often looking to hit teams on the counter and utilise the pace and movement of Tom Lawrence, Matej Vydra and David Nugent.
Derby with space to run into are a completely different proposition and it’s quite possible that they sit so far back at times enticing the opposition onto them so they can hit them on the counter and exploit the space left behind.
For all of their qualities, Tom Huddlestone and Joe Ledley aren’t the most mobile of central midfield pairings and Derby are dangerous in the transition from defence to attack (look at Nugent’s goal against Forest). With that in mind, the addition of a more athletic and mobile central midfielder to win the ball higher up the pitch would give Derby another option and it’s surely an area that Rowett will look to address in January.
Going back to the relative lack of optimism around the teams form and it largely goes down to the lack of entertaining football. Derby can be good but they can also be quite tedious.
Rowett certainly talks a good game, he’s entertaining in his interviews and comfortable in front of camera, happy to crack the odd joke which endears him to fans but the worry when your team isn’t overly stylistic is that once results start going the other way then trouble’s around the corner.
Football is becoming a borderline entertainment industry and if fans aren’t getting the expected level of entertainment then they become disinterested pretty quickly and want change. This is one of the reasons why a manager who’s team plays attractive football is usually always afforded more time than a manager who’s team doesn’t because if the results aren’t there then what else is there? And that’s the trap that Rowett may fall into with a notoriously impatient fan base.