After a disappointing 3-2 loss at Charlton in mid-week, a few alterations could be made to the Derby County team as they face a Fulham team without a win, or point, at the iPro Stadium. Derby’s formation that served them so well last season has been the catalyst of much debate on social media this week. With the long term injury to George Thorne, Derby are without their key player in arguably their most important position. Will Hughes has been deployed as the ‘Anchor Man’ over the first few weeks of the season but fans and pundits alike are of the opinion that this stifles both Hughes and the team’s creativity. The ideal role for Hughes is as an Advanced Playmaker in central midfield. Saturday’s game could see Hughes make this move forwards.
John Eustace and Omar Mascarell are the men that are vying for a place in the team. Both have not started a match this season but after Derby suffered their first loss of the season at the Valley in the week, it seems as though Steve McClaren will alter his formula. Eustace is a canny and solid old pro, who despite not being the most creative in the defensive midfield position, provided a firm base to the team to allow the flair players up front to do their thing.
There could also be change in the wide areas after Simon Dawkins has failed to impress this season. With Jamie Ward scoring twice in midweek, it would seem as though his place is all but assured against Fulham but on the other flank it seems as though Johnny Russell might get the nod after returning to full fitness. Russell is a lot more direct and powerful than Dawkins and this is something the fans have been crying out for. With the loan signing of Liverpool’s young star Jordan Ibe seemingly imminent, it is a time for Derby’s wingers to show the world what they are all about.
At the back, captain Richard Keogh has been heavily criticised after argubaly being at fault for all 3 Charlton goals at the Valley. It is heavily unlikely that Steve McClaren will drop his captain so it is more likely that the other centre back position will see a change in personnel. Jake Buxton has been playing through the pain barrier since Day 1 this season with a hip flexor problem and this may be one game too far for the no-nonsense centre back. Zak Whitbread will be the man to deputise for Buxton should he need a rest on Saturday and the American is certainly more than capable at this level. Ryan Shotton is being heavily linked with Derby at the moment so this will also keep Derby’s under-fire back 4 on their toes.