Sky Sports pundit Keith Andrews has told the EFL podcast how Derby County boss Phillip Cocu has been left with a side devoid of top quality following a turbulent summer.
The Rams travel to Elland Road to take on Leeds United this weekend.
The two clubs went toe-to-toe last May, with Derby triumphing in their play semi-final encounter 4-3 on aggregate. Since then, however, a big gap has formed.
Leeds are top of the Championship, while the Rams are down in 19th position. Andrews pins Derby’s struggles down to the absence of last season’s key players.
I just look at them and I see a void of real quality and spark. When you look at what Derby had last year in Harry Wilson, Mason Mount and Tomori, that’s the level of player Derby are missing now. I like what Phillip Cocu is trying to do but there needs to be a level of patience from the hierarchy. They are lacking in certain areas. It’s not a million miles away from what Frank Lampard was trying to do it’s just those key components taken out of the team.
How Derby County have lost their spark:
Derby heavily relied on the loan market last season. Harry Wilson topped the scoring charts, while Fikayo Tomori won the Player of the Year award.
But arguably the biggest miss has been Mason Mount. The England international midfielder is now a regular with Chelsea and started their recent Champions League game.
It’s no exaggeration to suggest Derby have lost around £50 million worth of talent. Their replacements, through no fault of their own, just aren’t on the same level.
Matthew Clarke arrived on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion having featured for Portsmouth last season. Kieran Dowell joined as Mount’s replacement after a season of sitting on Sheffield United’s bench. And Jamie Paterson was granted a loan move from Bristol City.
Add to a lack of pre-season, injuries to Jayden Bogle and Duane Holmes, plus new signing Krystian Bielik’s lack of fitness, Derby’s struggles are understandable.
Cocu has managed just one win in his seven Championship games so far. The Dutchman will know his side must improve, but fans must be realistic and patience given.