Considering all of the off-the-field issues that Derby County have had to contend with behind the scenes in recent months, the Rams have made a very solid start to the 2021/22 campaign.
Wayne Rooney’s side managed to pick up six points from their opening five Championship matches and have suffered just one defeat which came very late on at Peterborough United.
That comes despite the Rams starting the campaign with a threadbare squad against Huddersfield Town.
Eventually, the EFL relaxed rules around their transfer embargo a little bit so that Derby could bring in the likes of Richard Stearman, Ravel Morrison, Phil Jagielka, Sam Baldock and Ryan Allsop.
The Rams can reflect on a job well done therefore in the first month of the campaign, but there can be no room for them to get carried away.
The reality remains that this is going to be a very testing period for the club between now and January.
Rooney will be hopeful that he can get his squad picking up results and avoiding injuries and suspensions as much as possible.
Then hopefully their situation will have resolved enough behind the scenes for more players to be signed in January.
With all that in mind, we take a look at TWO dilemmas that will remain on Rooney’s mind over the international break…
How to get the best out of Lee Buchanan following Craig Forsyth blow
One major dilemma facing Rooney over the international break will be how to get Lee Buchanan ready to make a return to Derby’s starting line-up in the Championship.
That comes following the news that Craig Forsyth is set to begin a three-match suspension after the FA retrospectively punished him for appearing to stamp on Nottingham Forest’s Phillip Zinckernagel in their 1-1 draw last time out.
His suspension will begin straight after the international break meaning he misses games against Birmingham City, West Brom and Stoke City.
Forsyth had been involved in all five of Derby’s opening Championship games this season having emerged as Rooney’s first-choice at left-back ahead of Buchanan.
Buchanan had been making waves for Derby in that position after bursting into the side towards the back end of last season.
That had even seen the promising defender attract the attention of other clubs during the summer transfer window, most notably from Nottingham Forest.
Amidst that transfer speculation, Buchanan managed to make just one start and three appearances in total for the Rams in the opening month of the campaign.
Rooney must now get the defender focused once again on life at Derby if his head has been turned by transfer speculation.
Buchanan is a quality player with a bright future in the game and he must now get back to the form he showed last term to cement his place in the side during Forsyth’s absence.
20 quiz questions about Derby County’s 2021/22 season so far – Can you score full marks?
How to get Derby scoring more goals in the final third
Another major dilemma that will have to be on Rooney’s mind at Derby over the international break is how to get the Rams both creating and taking more chances in the final third during the rest of the campaign.
The Rams are the joint-second lowest scorers in the division so far with them having found the net just four times in their opening five league matches.
Only Sheffield United, with just one, have scored fewer goals than a Derby team who were also the lowest scorers in the Championship last season.
Given the Rams have already lost Colin Kazim-Richards, their top scorer from last term, to injury for a period it is going to be harder than ever for them to start converting chances in the final third.
Derby’s poor finishing in front of goal cost them in their 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest last time out.
Rooney’s side had enough chances to potentially put that game beyond Forest in the first half, but ultimately left themselves vulnerable to a late leveller from Brennan Johnson.
The Rams need Baldock to chip in with more goals after his debut strike at Hull, but they will also need more from the likes of Tom Lawrence, Louie Sibley, Morrison and Kamil Jozwiack in terms of their goal output as well.