Derby County’s transfer window has, in many ways, been a great success, although there is still a great deal of work to be done if the Rams want to have a genuine hope of gaining promotion this campaign.
Thus far, Gary Rowett’s men have bolstered their squad with three impressive additions after an extremely turbulent season last year, during which four different managers were at the helm. Curtis Davies and former Ram Tom Huddlestone have joined for cut-price deals from Hull City, following the Tigers’ relegation from the Premier League last campaign. Meanwhile, right-back Andre Wisdom signed from Liverpool, having undergone a loan spell at Pride Park in the 2013-14 season.
In terms of players leaving the club, Rowett has moved a number of players on, as he attempts to decrease the size of Derby’s playing squad, which, by his own admission, was too large. Academy graduate Will Hughes was a disappointing loss, although it has to be admitted that the time was right for his departure to the Premier League, so that he can fulfil his undoubted potential. Winger Tom Ince also departed for the top division, joining newly promoted Huddersfield Town for a decent profit. Nevertheless, as Derby’s top scorer with 15 goals last season, his match-winning ability will be sorely missed.
Meanwhile, right-back Cyrus Christie has joined Middlesbrough in a deal that seemed to benefit all parties, whilst Abdoul Camara returned to France after his disappointing spell with the Rams.
Whilst strengthened considerably at the back, and having the quality of pass-master Huddlestone in the centre of the park, the Rams certainly possess some extremely talented players, many of whom could hold their own a division higher. Yet even the most optimistic of Derby fans have to admit that they look short of genuine creative quality going forward.
The wing areas are the main areas for concern. The side who finished 9th in the Championship last season have a strong arsenal of strikers and No. 10s to call upon, including Chris Martin, David Nugent, Darren Bent and Matej Vydra, who all know how to score at this level, although they can’t even dream of having a successful season in front of goal if they aren’t provided with chances.
In my opinion, Andi Weimann, Johnny Russell, Mason Bennett and Nick Blackman are not good enough. They may make decent squad players, and would be effective coming off the bench to wear down tired opponents, but are certainly not talented enough to be starting week in, week out.
Last season, Russell played 36 league games, scoring only twice and providing just four assists. Weimann, who spent a period on loan at Wolves, played a total of 30 games last season in the league for both clubs, scoring twice and assisting twice, none of them for Derby. Bennett played just twice in the league last season for the Rams, spending most of his time in the youth squads, and whilst I am a big fan of Bennett, one gets the feeling that it is now or never for him to succeed at Pride Park. Finally, as a Derby fan myself, I would rather we didn’t talk about Nick Blackman.
Rowett’s men have been linked with a plethora of talented wingers over the course of the last couple of months, yet none of them have been snapped up. A bid of £7 million for Leicester City winger Tom Lawrence, who shone for an uninspiring Ipswich Town side in the Championship last season, has been rejected by the Foxes, and it remains to be seen whether the Rams will go any higher. Rowett himself admitted recently that “it’s hard to talk about other team’s players, but we do like Tom Lawrence”, so it is entirely possible.
Meanwhile, there is a great deal of speculation surrounding young Callum Robinson of Preston, and Che Adams of Birmingham, who played for Rowett during his successful stint as manager at St Andrews. This speculation follows rumours that Derby were interested in signing Jon Toral of Arsenal (another former Rowett player) or Ademola Lookman on loan from Premier League outfit Everton.
None of them have signed for the Rams.
Admittedly, there are still three weeks remaining of the transfer window, but it is imperative that Derby bring in one or two high-quality additions that Rowett has previously suggested will come in to replace Tom Ince.
The Pride Park faithful have every reason to be optimistic about this season, although bringing in some quality on the wings certainly wouldn’t go amiss.