After starting their 2021/22 campaign reasonably well, all things considered, they will be hoping to build on this after the international break.
Many people would see their three draws in five league games as a real source of frustration for the Rams – but in their current situation – the East Midlands side’s main aim will be staying afloat in the Championship this term.
If they can snatch the occasional win like they did away at Hull City last month and keep ticking along nicely with draws, those points will tally up nicely and could be vital for their survival prospects at the end of the campaign.
Quiz: 12 of these 25 Derby County facts are fake – Can you identify them?
With no signings coming in on deadline day, the one main concern at Pride Park will be squad depth and the extent of this problem was discovered on matchday two of the league season when Colin Kazim-Richards was stretchered off the field against Peterborough United.
They may have been able to make two further signings since then, with two experienced options in Phil Jagielka and Sam Baldock coming in, it’s clear they will need to utilise some of their younger players to make it through a gruelling 46-league game season.
Add in a possible FA Cup run – and it’s almost impossible to see them remain injury-free. Teenager Jack Stretton has already popped up with a goal against Peterborough – but does he or any of the other youngsters make our best Derby County lineup with the transfer window now shut?
Let’s take a look at the best possible Derby lineup Wayne Rooney could field when his sidelined players return to full fitness…
In goal, it has to be the current third-choice goalkeeper. Bringing in Ryan Allsop in their current situation was bizarre to say the least, let alone dropping Marshall from the bench completely. The 36-year-old was Scotland’s number one goalkeeper at the European Championships in the summer – what a fall from grace this is.
At left-back, Lee Buchanan gets a start with the Rams able to retain him this summer amid interest from arch-rivals Nottingham Forest. The Rams will be hoping he will stay for the long-term, although they may need to stay up this season if they want to keep hold of him. It also remains to be seen whether the 20-year-old would sign fresh terms at Pride Park.
Another full-back in Nathan Byrne was also linked with a move away this summer, reportedly being the subject of interest from Scottish Premiership side Celtic along with Sheffield United man George Baldock. A move failed to materialise for either though. He starts on the right.
In the centre, Krystian Bielik will join Curtis Davies in the middle when the former finally recovers from his anterior cruciate ligament injury. The latter was rightly at the front of a queue for a new deal this summer when the EFL gave Derby the green light to make signings – and could be a key asset alongside Bielik in the latter stages of the campaign in their fight for survival.
Phil Jagielka starts the odd game, but they shouldn’t push him too far.
Jason Knight, who is also recovering from a severe injury, takes his place alongside Max Bird in what is a youthful combination at the heart of midfield, although Scotsman Graeme Shinnie remains an option in the middle of the park if needed. The former two still have a decent amount of time left on their respective contracts, so that’s one bit of good news for Derby fans.
In the advanced midfield position, Ravel Morrison and Tom Lawrence are two obvious picks there as high-quality Championship options. Barring any loss in form, especially with Lawrence who is now club captain, they should be two of the first names on the teamsheet if available. Morrison could prove to be one of the signings of the summer if he keeps his head down and performs consistently.
Kamil Jozwiak could join as the third man in there as an orthodox winger to provide something different going forward, but Louie Sibley should be given the chance to impress as a bright young player and at 19, he will only keep improving under Wayne Rooney.
Up top, they have Sam Baldock, Colin-Kazim Richards and teenager Jack Stretton as options. Stretton is good as an impact substitute but probably doesn’t have the sufficient senior experience to start yet unless he’s forced to.
Baldock is someone who does have a vast amount of experience – but is more suited to playing in a two up front. This is why Colin Kazim-Richards is our first-choice with the 4-2-3-1 formation when he returns from injury – and the East Midlands side’s fans will be praying he will be able to recover from his Achilles injury soon.