Derby County squad review 2016/7: The attack

Tom Ince (25)

INCE
Thank God for Ince.  He was head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of attacking contribution and without him, this disappointing season would have been even worse.  He got my vote as Player of the Year ahead of Scott Carson and is the only attacker on the books who could reasonably be expected to flush out a bid from a parachute payment-toting relegated club.  That said, he’s unlikely to want to go back to Hull – and who the hell would want to go to Sunderland? Perhaps one of his dad’s old clubs, Boro, will come calling.  If he does stay, Ince will be an integral part of Rowett’s team.

David Nugent (32)

NUGENT
A player who turned out to be McClaren’s parting gift to Rowett.  That Brighton were interested in signing him (albeit on loan) attested to his enduring qualities and he has been a breath of gobby, cheeky fresh air, with his hat-trick against Fulham through sheer chutzpah, leading the line with spiky directness and acting as a much-needed focal point.  I seriously question the wisdom of giving long contracts to players over 30 – and don’t expect Rowett to do so in future – but there’s no doubt that this pest of a striker has another season in him yet.

Chris Martin (28)

MARTIN

Martin’s loan move to Fulham – for whom he has scored ten league goals, so far – helped to scupper both Pearson and McClaren at Derby.  However, with Nugent around and Vydra as a second striker option, the Rams will no longer be wholly reliant on Martin to function as a team, as they were under McClaren.  I’ve heard it suggested that the Wardrobe may not be in Rowett’s plans – at the time of writing, it seems unlikely that Fulham will trigger their option to buy him, but there’s no doubt that many other Championship clubs would be interested, should he be available.

Darren Bent (33)

BENT

Bent will continue to do what has always done, which is poach goals – lurking around in the peripheral vision of defenders, darting left and right, but contributing almost nothing outside of the penalty area – as the radar clearly demonstrates.  He is 33 now and I don’t think there’s the slightest chance that Rowett would have chosen to retain him, had his contract extension not been confirmed during McClaren’s brief return.  Assuming efforts aren’t being made to offload him, Bent is far more likely to be used as an option from the bench than a regular starter next season.

Johnny Russell (27)

RUSSELL
By any standards, Russell has had a poor season.  I ask myself what he adds to the team – is it goals?  Pace to penetrate behind?  Guile?  Rowett has professed his enthusiasm for a player he wanted to sign for Birmingham, but surely that’s the point.  Russell would probably be regarded a star player for a mid-table Championship team – and I often notice fans of other clubs suggesting him as a signing – but is he really good enough for a club with the professed aim of promotion?  Sentiment aside, I’m not sure he is.  Russell is a player who may just have been at the club for too long and be in need of a fresh start elsewhere. 

Matej Vydra (24)

VYDRA
McClaren’s inability to use Pearson’s marquee signing was a major problem, which became obvious towards the end of Mac’s ill-fated return.  Rowett on the other hand, gave Vydra a chance in his favoured number ten role and made a point of saying that he had watched back all of the Czech’s action from the Watford days, when he was one of the most feared forwards in the Championship…

VYDRA 2014-5

Remember the partnership he struck up with Troy Deeney for the Hornets?  If he can do something similar with Martin (or another tall striker) next season, the Rams could be a real force – and Popsider might even come back to us.  However, there’s no denying that this was a season for Vydra to forget.

Andreas Weimann 
(25)

WEIMANN WOLVES
If there’s the possibility of pocketing a fee for Weimann from Wolves – £1.5m, if you believe reports from the Black Country –  then that would probably be for the best all round.  While there has always been a lot of good will towards the Austrian from Derby supporters, he has failed to make much of an impression under multiple managers now and his output in old gold this year, judging from the radar at least, has been pretty limited.  Nevertheless, Wolves boss Paul Lambert wants to keep Weimann and he will probably get more opportunities to play at Molineux next season than he would at Pride Park.

WEIMANN 2015-6

Nick Blackman (27)

Blackman’s move from Reading has turned out to be a nightmare for everybody except the Royals, who pocketed an outsized cheque for his services after his short-lived goal flood in 2015/6.  

BLACKMAN 2015-6

At this stage, it seems unlikely that he will still be with the club in August, as long as somebody is prepared to give him a fresh start, after another disappointing, injury-ravaged season.  What chance a return to Sheffield United?

For an explanation of the ‘radar’ graphs, see here.  Any questions, comments, or to request a radar for a different player, get in touch @derbycountyblog.

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