Wind back to Halloween 2018, and Frank Lampard’s emotional Stamford Bridge homecoming in the Carabao Cup.
You’ll remember the game. Derby lost 3-2, yet fought belly-to-belly with Chelsea, displaying a brand of high-energy, progressive football that saw the club comprehensively rebranded as “FRANK LAMPARD’S DERBY”, with Lampard himself now to be addressed only as “CHELSEA MANAGER IN-WAITING”.
Arguably, Lampard and Derby are still living off the embers of their blistering early-season form.
Read more: Next Chelsea manager: 10 contenders to replace Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge
Recently, Derby have been struggling. Since the turn of the year, they have won only two Championship games (D3, L2) and defeat on Wednesday, at home to Millwall, left the Rams outside the play-off places.
The drop in the quality of play has been pronounced. The speed and energy of early season has been replaced by listlessness, accompanied by a serious loss of confidence.
Here’s what Rams fans have been saying on supporter forum DCFC Fans:
It’s no surprise that we play our best football against either Premier League opposition or Championship teams willing to give us space and have an open game. It’s the same problem we’ve had for years. Frank is clearly trying to find a solution, but when it doesn’t come off, he is criticised for making too many changes. At least we have a manager who is willing and actively trying to set us up differently for different games. Wolfie
I keep thinking back to those superb performances against WBA, United and Chelsea, but we have only performed to that level in 10 per cent of games this season. I admire the way they are trying to play, but for me it’s trying to play Man City style football without the world class talent. hintonsboots
Frank does seem to be a bit of a slow learner. He still hasn’t figured out how to break down teams who defend deep, hence our shocking record against the bottom six. And he doesn’t seem to know his best team after over 40 games. But he is at least trying to impose an identity on the team, and wants us to play the #rightway. Yojimbo
Hate to say it but the number of good performances this season has been massively outweighed by the number of poor ones, especially of late. Really not sure about Frank’s so called ‘exciting and free-flowing football’ the papers seem to think he’s become famous for here at Derby. TamworthRam
I think Frank’s overachieving this season. Slightly concerned about next year and replacing the Chelsea loans with good enough quality. The only thing that has concerned me is the style in the last few games. We seem to be going far more direct than at the start of the season. Not sure why we’ve changed. RamsFan10
Find out what fans of your club have been saying this week below:
Quite a few similarities between us and Stoke this season. Two wins in 12 for them, and a new manager finding it difficult. Can see us being completely overrun in midfield again (a midfield that has been missing since mid-December). Not sure how we’re going to cope without McGinn’s energy. He’s a huge loss. Jimzk5 (Villa Talk)
If Che Adams does leave in the summer we have a ready-made replacement in Isaac Vassell. Beattie and the other coaches have considerably improved Adams and Juke this season. A pre-season for Vassell under Beattie and I reckon he would thrive like Che. @spjonah77
Do we actually have anyone who can play wide left of the three, behind Graham? I know the squad is a bit short in a couple of places, but I genuinely can’t think of anyone whose natural position is wide left. The team is still far too reliant on Dack and Graham. Blue Blood (BRFCS)
Marvin Emnes on trial is utterly pointless. He’s barely played football in 18 months, he won’t be fit, it will be just like Chinedu Obasi last season (which Parky said we wouldn’t do again). Why not give Hall a go, or one of the other younger lads? Would rather develop our own for next season. officer_dibble (The Wanderer)
I think it’s very important that we look to finish in the top 10 at least. It establishes us as a top team with a realistic chance of having a crack at promotion next season. Apart from the prestige, sponsorship money etc, it will help us attract talented new players to the club. We need to demonstrate that we are not Championship strugglers. Stanley (Griffin Park Grapevine)
Personally I feel that Diedhiou does not work hard enough, chase balls or challenge hard enough. I think we are a better team without him. I see him more effective as a second-half substitute if we need to chase a game. He seems able to contribute more during a 30 min spell. wendyredredrobin (OTIB)
Looks as if both Stewart and Batty are out, so they are a big loss in midfield. Henriksen and Irvine again, which does not give us the same bite as when Stewart or Batty are playing. Brentford seem to be in good form, I would take a draw now. John Ex Aberdeen (not606)
I’m genuinely buzzing for next season. The Lambert influence will be in full flow, the connection between the fans and the management will be as good as it has been in years. And Lambert’s just announced that Chambers and Skuse are in his plans, which is good news, providing some much-needed continuity. The_Romford_Blue (TWTD)
I live in South Australia, in the hills about 50km out of Adelaide in, believe it or not, a little settlement called… Harrogate. For a relatively sparsely populated area, I was surprised to learn that the barber in the nearest town to me (Woodside) is a Leeds United supporter. I popped into his shop, saw his Leeds clock on his wall and he proudly showed me his ‘Leeds United’ tattooed arm. Unfortunately, he’s not as upbeat as I am about our prospects this season, but I’ll keep working on him! Grumpy (LUFC Talk)
Our next 4 games are QPR at home, Wigan away, then Brentford and Preston at home.We have the chance to really kick on and pick up some decent points here. If Pulis goes with the formation and tactics we used against Blackburn, I’ll be quietly convinced we could go on a mini run and secure play-offs. mjsouth (oneboro)
A tough game with Preston bang in form. The big question is whether Harris sticks with a winning side or freshens up as we have another away game on Tuesday. Wallace has to play in that number 10 role again. He is the only player with genuine pace in the starting XI, and we need him running at defenders. Lion-in-exile (Millwall Online)
I think the Preston game was the kick in the proverbial, and we should have our game on now. Bristol will see a point as a good result. They were excellent at Ashton Gate. I was surprised how good they were. They pressed us all over the pitch (something Bolton and Birmingham didn’t do), and are fairly dangerous in attack. sonyc (The Pink Un)
I think I expected a lot more from the change in management. The remit was to propel us towards a genuine play-off challenge and nothing’s really changed. I don’t think performances have been outstanding (nor I think they have been totally dross). It just leaves me with a feeling of frustration why the board didn’t just try everything to keep Karanka. EmmersonForest4 (LTLF)
Preston North End
If it wasn’t for the injuries we’ve had to key players, we would probably be in the top six by now. Davies and Storey have made the big difference, allowing us to pass our way out and free others up in midfield. First 30 mins against Norwich was the best I can recall we’ve played in 40 years. Al Zhiemer (PNE Online)
Eze is a liability. It’s like playing with a man less. His effort is shocking. Surely something must be done about his obvious disinterest. It’s like he is terrified of getting injured. Until he can show that he’s willing to work harder, I would drop him in favour of Bright and/or Hemed. I recognise the occasional flashes of brilliance, but for me that is not enough. DamBoy (We Are The Rangers Boys)
The sale of Bacuna and injuries to Ezatolahi and Rinomhota have left us very vulnerable in midfield. I would go with Yiadom as an emergency option – hopefully they have been working on it all week. He’s mobile, up for a battle, physical and has a good attitude. But please, please, please don’t pass the ball out to him from the back, as he will lose it. Westwood52 (Hob Nob Anyone?)
Reading really should have won at our place in December. They played really well and were robbed by Mattock’s late equaliser. You wonder whether that’ll be in their minds and they’ll be fired up. In fairness, our last 4 games have been pretty good. We’ve gone back to the no nonsense high-pressing which serves us well. Ronners (Duke’s Bar)
In the summer of 1989, Brian Talbot (then West Brom’s manager) was being very critical of us, Dave Bassett and how we played. At Magaluf he had a bet with Harry Redknapp that West Brom would beat us in both games of the 1989-90 season. We won 3-0 and 3-1 so Redknapp won his bet, and at the end of the season Talbot sent a card to Bassett promising to keep his mouth shut in the future. Silent Blade (S24SU)
I don’t see any reason why Bannan and Forestieri can’t play in the same team. They have done in the past. The issue with Bannan is that he wants to be the playmaker on the edge of his own box, rather than taking the opposition on in midfield. Consequently, the whole team ends up deeper and the forward players like Forestieri and Joao are receiving the ball with their back to goal on the halfway line. oldishowl (Owls Talk)
I blame so much of our decline on Gary Rowett. He inherited a bad situation and made it significantly worse. He had the largest budget in the league and completely wasted it on players who either weren’t up to it, or didn’t fit the system he wanted to play. His football was unnecessarily basic and conservative even against the worst teams in the league. The Toxic Avenger (Oatcake Fanzine)
Can’t understand why Dan James would sign. Why would a player who is clearly a high priority target for a club seemingly bound for the Premier League, and perhaps may be a target for existing top tier clubs, commit to a struggling second tier side who are only going to get weaker, when we have £20 million less to play with in the summer? Taliesin (Planet Swans)
I live in Sheffield and know a lot of Bladesmen, they seem to be well up for this as though it’s their cup final. If Barry and Phillips turn up, we have a good chance of controlling the pace and shape of the game, but that doesn’t mean we will win. This will be one hell of a three points if we can get them. hillsm (Westbrom.com)
Without wishing to state the obvious, this has to be classified as a must-win game. Ipswich are a very poor side, and given we’re relying on our home form to carry us through, we simply have to be winning this one. Lose and suddenly we’re under pressure again. Looking at our fixtures, the number of realistically winnable games is rapidly decreasing. Will_Shahane (Latics Speyk)