Derby County 2 : Norwich City 2 – 20th December 2014

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Not for the first time I’m writing a blog post a few days after a game not really knowing what to think about it or what to say. We were minutes away from pulling off a great result against a very good team. We’re still three points off the top in a league that no one is dominating. Yet, there are fault lines all over the team & we’re lacking confidence, on the pitch & in the stands. We should have been striking out at the top at this stage but were in the mix like everyone else. Some random musings then..

The highlight of the game was undoubtedly a great never say die performance from Johnny Russell. He’s been absolutely outstanding in the past couple of months. If only we could get the same amount of guts & endeavour from Hendrick. Or Forsyth. Or Shotton. And a great goal from a central position too, following some excellent set up play by Martin (and from a long ball from Grant, would you believe). Most fans I know would like to see them playing together in a front two. But, of course, that would mean a change of formation. We all know that’s not going to happen. McClaren’s wedded to 433. Religiously.

Talking of formations.. Is it too much to expect something a bit more flexible than a rigid adherence to 433? Yes, McClaren’s changed things around with his substitutions a few times but why not try a more solid formation from the start away from home against physical opposition. Wouldn’t 442 actually be more of an attacking formation at home? 433 was the foundation of our success last season but if teams know how to play against it now, why not change it?

Norwich are the best team I’ve seen play against us this season. They were physically strong, pacy & confident on the ball. Bradley Johnson was a powerhouse in midfield. Gary Hooper & Cameron Jerome up front with Grabban, Hoolahan & Redmond  to come on as subs? My dad said it was like a Wild West Stampede when they came on. They just ran at us until we gave way. A side packed full of Premier League experience & up and coming talent. Compare that to our squad at the moment. We could barely cope with them at the end.

People say we have a midfield conundrum. Can Hendrick, Hughes & Bryson play in the same team? Should we stick with Mascarell rather than Eustace? Perhaps the problem is deeper than that. Where’s Hendrick’s form gone? Is Omar too lightweight? Can he pass the ball forward more than three times in a game? Is Bryson going to regain his form of last season? I’m not sure the answers to these questions are particularly positive. With injuries to Bryson & Hendrick, perhaps we’ll see Eustace & Coutts in the side against Brum. I think we definitely need the old warrior back to give us a bit of stability & experience.

What about the defence? Shotton’s performance was alarming. Lacking confidence in possession, error prone & far too one paced & casual. By all accounts his loan deal will be made permanent in January. Unless he improves dramatically, that’ll prove to be a colossal error of judgement by our much vaunted recruitment team.

So, what’s the solution? Are we going to have the raft of new signings we all have been speculating about? I think we could do with a few additions, definitely a Wes Morgan type centre half, maybe a full back to give Christie & Forsyth some competition. Will it happen? I’m not so sure. January is a difficult time to add to your squad & McClaren’s been pretty clear that we won’t be doing much business. Time will tell.

So there we go. It’s a going to be a hard slog for the next few months & it’ll be the biggest test of McClaren’s tenure. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him on that touchline, make no mistake.

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