So it’s time to focus on Derby’s engine room, the midfield, the driving force of the team. Is it strong enough? Lets have a look
Lee Croft is a right winger with good pace and the ability to deliver good crosses. Croft signed for Derby on a free transfer from Norwich in the summer and has given the Rams good balance on the right hand side. Croft posses some nice touches and bits of skill that help him get away from his man and supply the strikers. He does struggle to beat his man on occasions and has tended to drift in and out of games too often. He needs to perform consistently to provide Derby with the wing play they are looking for.
Gary Teale, or Mr Inconsistent as he could also be known, is probably one of the most frustrating in the squad. Whether it is one game to the next, or one minute to the next Teale frustrates fans and coaching staff alike – this is mainly because he has got the talent but he just doesn’t use it enough. He has pace, the skills to beat his man and can deliver pinpoint crosses however if he fails to beat his man early then he tends not to for the whole game. Teale can also struggle to provide support to his fullback, and has been accused of being too one dimensional by trying the same things every time (even if they aren’t working). Amazingly he has been much improved under Clough because his good games now outweigh his bad, but there is still too much inconsistency for him to deserve a starting place when other players within the squad are fully fit.
Steven Davies is a young winger/striker who has shown glimpses of potential in the games he has played for the Rams. He is very skilful on the ball, good in the air and has an eye for goal. Davies is a very promising player who looks comfy in either position, however he seems to be injury prone meaning he isn’t available enough.
Ben Pringle signed for Derby from Ilkeston Town in the summer, the young winger is not considered to be a major part of the first team squad but the few appearances he has made have been encouraging. He’s not afraid to take his man on and has accuracy in his passing. His weaknesses are all related his experience, he is only 19, he has stepped up 5 divisions over the summer and at times he can be a bit naïve. However Pringle is a good option to have, his naivety can also be an advantage as he’s not afraid to run at players.
Giles Barnes, remember him? He was the skilful midfielder who was supposed to heading for big things? Well a loan move to Fulham last season didn’t go too well as Barnes picked up an injury so he returned to Derby for the start of the new season. Sadly Barnes picked up an injury against Stoke in preseason and hasn’t featured since. Once fit Barnes has the potential to be a match winner, before his injury he had bags of talent, a huge amount of flair and pace to burn. Whether that is all still there after 18 months on the treatment table will be seen on his return, here’s hoping that he comes back the same player. The other concern about Barnes is his attitude, and whether he really wants to play for Derby again.
Robbie Savage has been rejuvenated under Nigel Clough, he has found his role within the team and he performs it well. Has got his love for the game back and with energetic players around him he can be Derby’s playmaker from the centre of the park. In the past he has been the pantomime villain at Pride Park but he has turned the fans opinions around and is a fans favourite these days. All Savage must remember is that he cannot charge around the pitch for 90 minutes like he used to otherwise he will just become in midfield – something Derby can’t afford to have.
Stephen Pearson is Derby’s version of marmite, you either love him or you hate him. First thing that needs to be said is that Pearson has improved drastically this season, now fully fit he has shown in bursts what he is capable of. He is very quick, comfortable on the ball and has good energy to get from box-to-box. Sadly he doesn’t show this often enough and he can go missing in games, his final pass can be poor and his finishing is pretty much non-existent.
In my opinion Paul Green is Derby’s best midfielder; he is a good tackler, a good passer, he scores goals, has lots of energy and is very calm in possession. Recently he has been struggling with injuries but once he returns he should be Derby’s first choice central midfielder again.
Jake Livermore is currently on loan from Tottenham; in the games he has played he has shown signs of promise but also signs of his inexperience. Livermore has got good pace to get beyond the striker, however his passing can be a bit light, his finishing lacks power and he can try the fancy flicks instead of the simple things. He is at Derby to learn and he has improved in his time at the club but we cannot expect him to be a world beater from day 1 as he is only 19.
Lee Hendrie is an experienced player who has shown in his brief appearances for the club that he still has a lot of quality, which will be a huge advantage to the Rams. He uses his quality to keep possession well, he has shown that he can be creative around the box and is very calm on the ball. Hendrie’s weakness is his lack of regular first team football in past year at Sheffield United, with regular football he should be pushing Savage for his place alongside Green.
It’s hard to say too much about Bryan Hughes as he’s only played one game for the club, and as he hadn’t played for Hull for a year he’s still too rusty to be considered properly.
The best midfield line-up – Croft, Green, Savage, Davies
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