Derby v Blackburn: neglecting the youth


Nigel Pearson –

A few years ago, Derby and Blackburn were both clubs that gave youth a chance. Steve McClaren built on Nigel Clough’s good work with Derby’s academy while Gary Bowyer had been an internal appointment at Blackburn. Both teams seemed to benefit from having lots of young, eager players around the squad.

Things have gradually changed. Derby have splashed the cash on older, higher-profile players while Paul Lambert and Owen Coyle spent Blackburn’s small budget on journeymen. This change in approach has coincided with a regression for both clubs.

Derby have looked lifeless this season. They might have had the joint-sixth highest number of shots in the Championship (13.8) according to WhoScored, but just 45% of them have been in the penalty area and 25% have been on target. In essence, they shoot often, but with a sense of desperation and in the absence of other options.

Blackburn have scored five times more goals than Pearson’s side. Marvin Emnes has already bagged two goals and two assists in 132 minutes of football since joining on loan from Swansea while Southampton loanee Sam Gallagher has made a similarly impressive impact. Throw in Craig Conway’s resurgence since being frozen out under Lambert and it is clear the attacking quality is there.

The question is whether they can get those forward players on the pitch, whilst finding some defensive balance. The 4-4-2 Coyle favours usually requires wide midfielders to drop in but Conway and Ben Marshall are naturally attack-minded. In the 4-2 victory over Rotherham, their first of the season, they looked vulnerable in the transitional phases of play, due to the lack of pace and balance. Derby have similar problem when on the attack.

Wide men such as Tom Ince, Johnny Russell and Nick Blackman have talent, but Derby appear to be waiting for one of those players to come up with a moment of magic on their own. Players in the attacking third are not making enough off the ball runs to create space for one another. That is what more youthful teams such as Barnsley and Huddersfield are doing to great effect.

If Coyle and Pearson have learnt anything from a poor first eight games, it is that they should give the kids a chance.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-1

Other Championship Predictions
Preston v Wigan Narrow home win for the Lilywhites. 1-0
Brighton v Barnsley Seagulls to outpower the Tykes. 3-1
Fulham v Bristol City Cottagers seem to have lost attacking spark. 1-2
Leeds v Ipswich Monk’s men finding momentum. 2-1
Norwich v Burton Canaries tend to scrape past the lower sides. 2-1
QPR v Birmingham Rs fans unhappy but Blues without Jutkiewicz. 1-1
Reading v Huddersfield Terriers high-pressing could bring rewards. 1-3
Rotherham v Cardiff Millers shipping goals, Bluebirds dull to watch. 1-1
Sheff Wed v Forest Two attacking teams – potential for goals. 3-2
Wolves v Brentford Wolves buoyed by league win at Newcastle. 2-1
Aston Villa v Newcastle Shelvey to dominate poor Villa midfield. 0-2
Last time (10/9): 5 correct results/12 1 correct result – Derby 0-2 Newcastle