Duffers on Derby County: Better balance between defence and attack will be key for Phillip Cocu

Phillip Cocu looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Huddersfield Town and Derby County. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
Phillip Cocu looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Huddersfield Town and Derby County. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

Phillip Cocu may only have had three competitive games in charge of Derby County but they’ve already produced a useful insight into what might be in store for the rest of them.

There hasn’t been much between the Rams and any of the sides they’ve played so far, the two wins being by a single goal and Saturday’s goalless draw with Swansea seeing both teams disappointed not to win.

Tuesday’s success at Scunthorpe was, of course, a little different in that 11 changes were made to the team that had played the two league games, nevertheless the Rams fans were perhaps a little less comfortable throughout than they might have preferred against a side currently bottom of the Football League, albeit after only two games.

Seeing so many young players get minutes was heartening though and whilst playing against Championship opposition will be a different kettle of fish entirely, they’ve earned their right to be given a chance.

It’s fair to say the games so far haven’t been the most exciting when it comes to the style of football Cocu prefers to play, but when all is said and done any Rams supporter would surely trade excitement for promotion.

Generally flitting between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, Cocu has made good use of the likes of Tom Huddlestone and George Evans in defensive roles, although his change at half-time against Swansea that saw Jamie Paterson replace Evans highlighted the fact that there simply wasn’t enough attacking threat from midfield which is something that needs to be rectified, particularly in home games and matches where the opposition is perceived to be weaker.

Jayden Bogle in action at Huddersfield.

Jayden Bogle in action at Huddersfield.

Defensively there seem to be fewer worries, aside from the fact Jayden Bogle (pictured) is now out injured for an as yet unspecified time. That said, Bogle is often more effective in an attacking sense than a defensive one.

Krystian Bielik will, by all accounts, be a quality addition whether deployed in the defence or just in front of it. Matt Clarke and Richard Keogh have done enough so far to suggest they don’t deserve to be broken up just yet.

The attacking side of things still carries a concern. Kieran Dowell has looked a bit lightweight up to now and Tom Lawrence has drifted in and out of both games he’s played and, aside from his five minute purple patch at Huddersfield where he scored two crackers, again looks like he may frustrate more than he pleases this season.

Martyn Waghorn has looked isolated at times and lacked support against Swansea, although his penalty being well saved didn’t do himself nor the Rams any favours in the context of the match.

Cocu will need time to come up with the right combinations and four points from two games is a decent start, all things considered.

But time is of the essence if Derby are to mount a serious promotion challenge and while being hard to break down will no doubt remain a worthwhile priority for Cocu, balancing that a bit better with flair, firepower and being being more clinical in front of goal could be the difference between joy and despair when the promotion spots are filled in May.

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