After a more than disappointing start to the season, Derby County lie only three points above the Royals going into Saturday afternoon’s game. Having not won in their previous five games, the Rams are on a bad run of form, something compounded by their away form one which stretches back even longer.
With five defeats in their last five on the road and no goals scored, Derby’s main problem seems to be scoring goals. A frontline of Chris Martin, Tom Lawrence and Martyn Waghorn - who have all scored goals in this division before - have contributed to 15 of Derby’s 21 goals so far this season, but bar that, no other player has more than one goal for the Rams this season.
Strangely, Derby’s key strengths seem to lie in attack, with their first game of the season at Huddersfield Town highlighting their attacking options and defensive shortcomings especially.
Derby like to line up in a 4-2-3-1, with Duane Holmes the number 10 and surrounded by the three frontmen earlier mentioned. The trickery of Holmes and the ability of the three men behind Martin to rotate offers Derby a versatility in attack, with the security of former Royal George Evans and Jason Knight in behind.
Standout player Jadon Bogle, tipped for a shock move to AC Milan, takes up the right back role alongside a defence of Curtis Davies, Craig Forsyth and Max Lowe. The young full back can even play on the wing, lining up on the right in a 4-3-3 against Blackburn, with Andre Wisdom able to fill in for him at the back. With Richard Keogh being sacked from the club and Matt Clarke out injured, the returning Davies and left back Forsyth haven’t done a bad job in the centre of defence, with 28 goals conceded this season for the Rams, despite a clear lack of pace in the backline.
Loanee Kieron Dowell has not quite made a splash with Derby this term having impressed last season at Sheffield United. Record signing Krystian Bielik has featured at both centre back and in central midfield this season, impressing more often in the middle of the park. A man able to play with the ball, he allows others ahead of him more freedom but has not been a constant fixture in the Derby team due to Phillip Cocu’s midfield rotation and general formation changes.
Cocu has even opted to play a 3-5-2 on occasion this season, with Bogle and Scott Malone at wing back vs QPR in November, but ditching it soon after. A side who like to play the ball out from the back, men like Bielik and Evans are important to Derby’s style of play and gameplan.
Derby are a side who are yet to find their feet this season, so Mark Bowen’s men should see no reason not to opt for their default 3-5-2 formation (depending on the fitness of Miazga and Swift). With the Royals struggling to create chances in recent weeks and Derby finding issue with scoring themselves, Reading should be taking the game to the Rams, with it the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways at home.