Philip Cocu must address the issue of his side’s away form if the Rams are to stand any chance of turning their season around, and making a seemingly unlikely push for a play-off place.
Currently, the Rams are sat in 16th place of the division but are still just six points away from Bristol City who are occupying that last play-off spot in sixth.
Three of Derby’s four league wins have come at Pride Park. Their only win away from home came on the opening day of the 19/20 Championship campaign against Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium. Since then, they have picked up just three points on their travels which has undoubtedly hindered their season.
In all competitions, the side have been on the receiving end of a 3-0 battering to Brentford, Charlton Athletic and – the one that unquestionably hurt the most – east Midland rival’s Nottingham Forest. The latter came in the second round of the Carabao Cup.
Only Bristol City have managed to better Derby on their own stomping ground this season, with impressive draws coming against current league leaders West Bromwich Albion and fourth placed Swansea City.
But their problem doesn’t lie at Pride Park. No, it lies at every other ground in the Championship it would seem. But why are Cocu’s Derby so poor away from home this season?
There are a few possible reasons why Derby have been below par on the road this season.
The first being that they don’t change the way they set up for home and away matches.
They stick with a rigid 4-2-3-1 formation that lacks any sense of attacking threat. Sitting with two holding midfielders in Graeme Shinnie, Tom Huddlestone or Krystian Bielik, as it has so often been this season, has proved to be far too defensive.
The home side are always going to apply more pressure as the onus is on them to attack and Derby – with this formation – have invited way too much pressure game after game.
The last thing their shaky defence needs is constant pressure and that is exactly what they’re subject to as a result of this defensive and deep formation.
In away games, you need quick players to lead counterattacks.
Derby have no such thing. Duane Holmes can be, but Cocu is still yet to settle him in one position.
Florian Jozefzoon is Derby’s quickest player but has lacked any sense of end product so far this season.
Jack Marriott can often be this outlet in away matches too but has only started two away visits all season after suffering from an injury.
Derby’s next away trip is at the City Ground to rivals Forest. This may very well be Derby’s and Cocu’s most important game yet. A repeat of their last trip to the City Ground, and the Rams and Cocu might come under some serious pressure.