Derby County player-coach Wayne Rooney has reportedly dropped out of the squad for the upcoming game against Wycombe Wanderers as he focused on management.
Rooney and Liam Rosenior are currently part of a four-man team in interim charge of the Rams following the dismissal of former manager Phillip Cocu last week.
Back-to-back defeats at Bristol City and Middlesbrough have ensued.
If anything, Derby’s performance at Boro was worse than those during Cocu’s reign this season. It was awful, compounded by a bizarre second-half switch in system.
According to John Percy of the Telegraph, after playing the full 90 minutes on Teesside, Rooney has now decided to drop out the team and look on from the side-lines.
Here we look at three players who may immediately benefit from Rooney’s absence.
Louie Sibley is highly-rated at Derby and burst onto the scene last season.
The 19-year-old scored five and posted two assists in nine games from March onwards. However, he has been a victim of a change in system so far this season.
To help shore up the defence, Cocu switched to a 3-4-3 system with Jason Knight and Graeme Shinnie as the two central midfielders, while the no.10 role was made redundant.
Sibley has barely featured this season. And, even in the aftermath of Cocu’s departure and a return to a back four, he has still been left out with Rooney starting.
Removing the former Manchester United man from the XI opens up a central spot either in a 4-3-3 system or a 4-2-3-1 formation, and Sibley is the outstanding candidate.
Another who may benefit from Rooney’s absence is Martyn Waghorn.
Waghorn is Derby’s leading scorer this season, with two goals. Both came from free-kicks against Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City while Rooney was self-isolating.
But upon Rooney’s return to the XI, he once again took over set-piece duties to no avail.
Moreover, Waghorn was taken off at half-time at Middlesbrough with Rooney momentarily taking up the centre-forward role. It was strange to remove the only natural senior striker.
Waghorn hasn’t been great this season. However, with a quicker tempo and a more senior role in the side, he may stand a better chance of rediscovering his top form.
Many Derby supporters seem to be questioning what has happened to Holmes.
The 2018 bargain signing from Scunthorpe United looks a shadow of his former self. However, a run of games in his natural linking central role may bring out the best in him.
Holmes has suffered from the Bird-Rooney partnership. He has either been thrust out on the wing, similar to Jason Knight, or not involved at all.
A midfield three of Bird, Knight and Holmes has an abundance of energy. And that is what Derby need right now as they look pedestrian, toothless and devoid of ideas.
Derby’s game against Wycombe is a must-win encounter. With Rooney out of the XI, there will be selection options available and that should prompt greater motivation.