Derby County are slowly turning it around under Wayne Rooney and the interim Pride Park boss is staking his claim for the permanent job.
Rooney has a great footballing brain and, whatever you think of him, it’s hard to argue with most of what he’s done since taking over from Phillip Cocu.
In the last five games, Derby are unbeaten. Rooney has ditched his boots for the dugout in that period and his side are managing to keep within touching distance of safety after a disastrous start to the season.
Of course, things aren’t perfect yet. Rooney’s side have drawn four of their five-game unbeaten run and they have, alarmingly, only scored eight league goals heading into tonight’s clash against Swansea City.
As one end of the pitch tightens up, Rooney had a simple message for the other: “I have said to all the attacking players that we need to start rewarding our defenders for the clean sheets, win games and get three points.”
At the moment, too many of his key men aren’t delivering in the final third. Tom Lawrence has failed to register a goal involvement, Martyn Waghorn’s two goals have been free-kicks, Kamil Jozwiak is yet to open is goalscoring account and, of course, Rooney is now in the dugout rather than the XI.
January has to be a month that Derby add some firepower to their squad. A traditional forward to go with Waghorn and Colin Kazim-Richards will be on the list, but adding goals elsewhere in the attack will be important too.
That brings us to West Bromwich Albion winger, Kamil Grosicki. The Polish international isn’t really getting his chance in the Premier League with the Baggies and a move to Nottingham Forest fell agonisingly short in the summer transfer window.
Of course, what the future holds for Grosicki is unclear; Forest might well be back in for him or a West Brom lifeline could be on the horizon, with Slaven Bilic’s future looking in serious doubt now.
However, if there’s a chance to get a deal done, Derby have to be in the mix for the 32-year-old.
He isn’t a long-term solution, but in the second-half of this season there’s a chance that Grosicki could go a long way to solving Derby’s problems.
Across 2017/18 and 2018/19, Grosicki scored 18 goals and registered 17 assists in the Championship. The beginning of last season saw him chalk up 11 goal involvements before West Brom came knocking.
A further goal and three assists followed at the Hawthorns, with the experienced Championship winger helping the Baggies to promotion, eventually.
Should a move to Derby come around, it’s a very different battle he would be fighting in the Championship. There’s little chance of Derby sparking a run towards the upper echelons of the table and their aim right now is just pulling themselves up and out of the bottom-three.
To do that, goals are required. Rooney is addressing other areas at the minute: turning defeats into draws and producing clean sheets. However, goals win games and that’s what Derby are struggling to do right now.
The job isn’t Rooney’s on more than an interim basis and things have gone quiet when it comes to replacing Cocu permanently. The former Man United striker has done his chances of landing the gig no harm recently. He’s coming across impressive and results are starting to come.
Yet, his biggest challenge awaits if things carry on like this. January needs to be nailed and a prolific Polish winger could be the missing cog to get Derby motoring upwards.