Opposition View: Injuries mean Cocu’s job should be safe even if Rams lose to Norwich
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Ahead of Norwich City’s clash with Derby we spoke to the co-hosts of the Rams Review Podcast, Jason Straw and Cory Hancock, to see what’s been going wrong for County.
Q Eight defeats and just one win in the last 11 under Phillip Cocu, what has gone so wrong?
Cory: There are a couple of reasons. Currently, there are several key attacking options out with injury (including Tom Lawrence and Martyn Waghorn). Derby have not been able to play their first choice XI yet this season due to these injuries. The second reason is that the form of several players has dipped. Currently Derby have many young players in the side, which is great to see, however the form of these young players has dipped recently and that has also impacted the performances. Jason: There are a few factors that contribute to that I think; the quality of opponents, a dip in individual form, injuries to key players and new players bedding in. We haven’t been able to hit the ground running at all. With injuries and players who have left the club we are without our top three goal-scorers from last season which equates to about 40 goals, that would weaken even the best of teams! Add to that almost a whole new back line and its taking more time to gel then we would like.
Q Is Cocu like to go if it’s another defeat on Saturday - and is Wayne Rooney waiting for that role to open up?
Cory: I would be surprised if Cocu lost his job after Saturday. The manager has been backed this summer in terms of signings and has a long-term deal. Paying off that deal would (probably) cost quite a sum of money, which the club may struggle to find. I would not say that Rooney is waiting for the job to open, however, if he was appointed, I would be very disappointed as I think there are better options available. Jason: I don’t think a poor result on Saturday would mean that. We have been far too trigger happy in the past. Cocu has just nearly finished bringing in a squad of players close to nine or 10 signings and I feel it would be criminal to not give him the opportunity to turn things around. That being said if poor results continue then questions would have to be asked. In terms of Rooney taking over I think it’s viable, but I’m not sure he has all the coaching badges so far, so possibly not something in the immediate future.
Q How much has Rooney contributed on the pitch since his arrival? Has he mainly been playing in midfield?
Cory: Rooney’s arrival in January coincided with a fantastic up-tick in form at the club. However, since lockdown he has been very poor and unfortunately, it is that form that has followed him into this season. He does not look fit and he is starting to give the ball away more often. Derby have been utilising him mainly as a deep lying midfielder, however he has played up front and in attacking midfield. This is for two reasons, either Derby are chasing a game or there is a lack of forward options. In my opinion, at this stage of his career, he’s better in the deeper midfield role. Jason: From January when he came in up until the lockdown he was a key figure in midfield and our performances picked up, as did results. Since the restart he looks unfit, certainly the back end of last season. He missed quite a bit of pre-season with a back injury and while he has returned to the team, he does seem a few steps off the pace. We have mainly used him as a defensive midfielder like a quarterback style role which certainly brought some joy, he has been pushed into the 10 role at times due to injuries or chasing a result.
Q What needs to change to get a good result this weekend?
Cory: Urgency, desire and work rate. All three of those things have been sorely lacking so far this season. Often, Derby are way to slow in their buildup and have limited options to pass to when they get on the ball. There needs to be a bit more application during games as confidence must be fragile. After going down 3-0 to Blackburn last week, there wasn’t much fight put up to try and get back into the game, which is a worry. Jason: We need to learn to do the basics in defence better, going forward has been okay without scoring that many. The defence looks really poor at the moment which is quite a worry as it was a focal point of the transfer window. I’m hopeful with more time on the pitch together it will start to get better, however I think Saturday is probably too early for that.
Q Have you been disappointed with the club’s transfer business so far?
Cory: Not at all. I think there have been plenty of smart signings. It is probably one of the best transfer windows in recent years. The manager had a clear plan on where the club needed to strengthen and has done so bar one position, a target man striker, but signs are positive the club can get one in prior to the deadline. The marquee signing of the summer is Polish winger Kamil Jóźwiak, who was brought in from Lech Poznan. He has pace in abundance, something this team was crying out for. Jason: In all fairness there was a well calculated plan this window and we have for all but one of those positions brought someone in. This has certainly been a better window than others in recent memory. We are crying out for a number nine type, after Chris Martin left, that is the focus of our game. As long as we get one possibly two more bodies in before the window shuts it will have been very positive.
Q The Rams have a couple of former Canaries in David Marshall and Andre Wisdom, are they popular among the fans?
Cory: I think so. Marshall has just come in from Wigan but he’s strengthened the goalkeeper position, something that needed addressing. Wisdom is a solid fans favourite. He has worked his way back in the club’s plans and has become a key player in the defence. Prior to his stabbing incident (when he was robbed at knifepoint), he was probably Derby’s most important defender. Jason: I have always rated Marshall and it was a major issue for Derby last season so I think it will work out to be a very solid signing. He has looked pretty solid so far even if we have shipped goals for fun. You can’t really point the finger at him for any that have been conceded. Wisdom is certainly a crowd favourite, ever since we had him on loan in 2014. When we got him permanently in 2017-18 he was a welcome addition, he didn’t have the strongest of starts and we fully expected him to move on but, under Cocu he has been one of our best players. After his stabbing (in the buttocks) earlier this year fans got behind him even more so.
Q Norwich have made a solid, if unspectacular, start to life after relegation - do you see them as overwhelming favourites for this game?
Cory: I would not say they are overwhelming favourites, but I would say favourites. Derby have had a very poor start to the season against a run of fixtures they probably would have fancied themselves against. Norwich are strong but with a couple of key players rumoured to be leaving it’s a much different team than the one from last season. But they are a very solid side and very capable of cause Derby a lot of trouble. Jason: It’s hard to look past that at the moment knowing where Derby are. It would take something special to get a result in my opinion. There needs to be a reaction after last Saturday’s display and I hope there is one, I’m just not confident enough at the moment.
Q And finally, what is your score prediction?
Cory: Norwich 2-2 Derby Jason: Norwich 3-1 Derby