ALL the talk in the car on the way home on Saturday was of formations – and specifically, the choice of 4-5-1 over 4-4-2 for the Rams’ trip to Brighton, writes Gareth Davis.
Nigel Clough has generally opted for a 4-4-2 formation for home games and having played that for most of the campaign at Pride Park, Derby have one of the best home records in the Championship.
But their away form remains a cause for concern and no amount of chopping and changing – and there has been plenty – has so far found a solution.
Derby’s big problems on the road have been a lack of goals scored and too many goals conceded, particularly early in matches.
Playing 4-4-2 gives more options going forward but can leave you susceptible to breaks by the opposition, which are rarer when Derby are at home, whereas playing 4-5-1 should in theory make you more solid in midfield but will most likely leave your main forward isolated.
I could see the logic in going 4-5-1 from the start at Brighton to match up with the hosts, although Gus Poyet’s men are more like a 4-3-3 and get more support to the front man, though the system is fatally flawed when you concede early.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the formation to me was moving John Brayford into midfield to target the Seagulls’ Liam Bridcutt. Disrupting the defensive unit in such a way would not have helped matters.
A switch to 4-4-2 in the second period seemed to pay dividends, leading to fans wondering why Derby didn’t start that way, but it doesn’t always work like that. Take Leicester away – Derby started with 4-4-2, got battered in the first half, switched to 4-5-1 and greatly improved. Their inconsistency is the biggest problem.
Still, come Saturday, I would expect to see a 4-4-2 formation from the start for the season’s second meeting with our old friends Nottingham Forest.
And with that, one thing is abundantly clear – Nigel Clough knows how to guide Derby to results against their biggest rivals.
Given his Rams affinity, I don’t think any other manager could have generated the wins over Forest that he has.
This week’s possibly-forgotten blast from the past is Brian O’Neil, signed in a 2000 swap deal with Wolfsburg for Stefan Schnoor but regularly injured during his Pride Park spell, having played against Derby for Forest in 1997 on loan from Celtic.