Derby County manager Phillip Cocu faces a conundrum involving leading player Wayne Rooney for the trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.

The Rams head to Hillsborough having taken two points from four games.

Derby’s form has dipped after a run of five wins in eight games following Rooney’s arrival.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images).

The former Manchester United man has predominantly played as a holding midfielder. His passing range, vision, link-up play and movement remains at such a high standard.

Playing alongside Max Bird, the duo have formed an excellent midfield partnership.

The injury to Duane Holmes, however, has prompted a problem. Derby have lost a key attacking threat, and Cocu has had to reshuffle the pack in his absence.

Holding midfielder Graeme Shinnie has come in alongside Bird. Rooney, meanwhile, has been pushed further forward in a number 10 role.

Shinnie was one of Derby’s best players prior to picking up an injury back in November. The Scot, however, just doesn’t possess the same quality on the ball as Rooney.

 

During Derby’s recent defeat at QPR, Derby often struggled to break the lines. Shinnie posted a team-high 85.7% pass-accuracy rate at the KPF Stadium. However, his impressive feat appeared largely due to his conservative style. Too many sideways and backward passing.

Rooney made Derby tick as a holding midfielder. But as a number 10, he sees less of the ball. He took 71 touches against QPR (less than Curtis Davies) compared to the 112 touches Rooney took in the previous away game at Bristol City.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images).

Could Shinnie play further forward? Or could Jason Knight come back into the team? Adding another striker and playing Martyn Waghorn out wide may also help.

Cocu has a decision to make against an Owls side who like to get on the ball.

Wednesday come into the game with confidence following their late win over Charlton Athletic. Derby, meanwhile, must prioritise what works best for them.

Also see: Derby boss provides positive injury update; returning player an option to start

Also see: ‘He’s an example’: Phillip Cocu raves about Derby player in best form for years

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