Derby County 2017/18 Season Preview: Strengths, Weaknesses, Key Man and Predictions

The last two months have felt like an eternity, as they seem to do after every season...but finally the Championship is back in action, and is kicking off on Friday night with two sides in the race for promotion to the Premier League.

It's a big year for Gary Rowett's Derby County who look to make amends from a disastrous campaign last season, a total of four managers leading to the Rams placing 9th. 

However, the Rams look to come out the blocks quickly this season, the boss has shown clear intentions during pre-season towards gaining promotion - time to see how the setup's looking for the new season...   

1. Last Season

A very poor campaign saw the Rams struggle throughout. Four different managers took charge during the season which evidently contributed towards muddled performances out on the pitch, with too many differing influences on the squad. 

The club attempted to accommodate too many players and backroom staff into a settled playing style which inevitably didn't pay off.  
One positive did come from the season, and that was Scott Carson's displays in goal. The England veteran completed a clean sweep in the player of the year awards at the club for his ever consistent performances which kept a poor performing Derby side challenging for a play-off position, keeping 16 clean sheets in all competitions.     

2. Transfers In

The Rams have gone about their business rather differently compared to previous summers which have seen big spending on players who have not lived up to the hype. 

The acquisitions of Premier League proven Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone as well as Andre Wisdom for a total amount of £7m is a statement of intent from Rowett by rebuilding the core of Derby's eleven which was left wanting in the disastrous season of last.  

Both Huddlestone and Davies were relegated with Hull last term, and with their moves to Pride Park this surely shows that Derby County have the potential of gaining promotion as both signings pursue more Premier League football.                      

3. Transfers Out

Unfortunately this transfer window has seen two major assets leave the club. The talented Will Hughes, who impressed at the European Under-21 championships, has joined Watford and will be a huge loss at Pride Park. 

Tom Ince has left for Premier League new boys Huddersfield as they look to stay in the Premier League this season, having recorded the most goals and assists last season for Derby, with 15 goals and six assists - more than any other player for the Rams - with Cyrus Christie and Abdoul Camara also leaving.

4. Strengths

Andreas Weimann and Chris Martin are back from their loan spells and have showcased their talents during pre-season. Both are likely to start for Derby and will need to continue their pre-season form into the new Championship campaign to help achieve promotion.  

The rebuild undertaken by Rowett this summer seems to have solidified the Derby squad compared to the that of last season, and a back five of Carson, Wisdom, Davies, Keogh and Forsyth on paper looks to be the strongest defensive lineup in the league.

Squad players Matej Vydra and David Nugent also found form at the end of last season and offer more options for Rowett's selection.    

5. Weaknesses

George Thorne has been a revelation at Derby since his move from West Brom - but the young central defensive midfielder has also picked up another hamstring problem during pre-season which takes him out of action until October. 

Will Hughes is a huge loss to the squad too, his intricate style of play in the defensive half to relieve pressure and in the attacking half to set up many opportunities is something Derby will lack during the 2017/18 season.

6. Key Man

Chris Martin has proven his goalscoring ability at Pride Park with 61 goals to his name for the club, more than any other current player. The Scotsman also scored 10 goals for Fulham last season when out on loan and has continued his goalscoring form throughout pre-season.  

Derby lacked goals last season and if it wasn't for Tom Ince's contributions the Rams would've been struggling in the bottom half of the table - so with Ince's departure it is up to key man Martin to contribute with the goals.

Potential breakout: Mason Bennett  

7. Predictions

For all that last season had its negatives, Rowett and his team look ready to challenge for promotion. The Rams now have Premier League quality players at their disposal and with their determination to help bring the club back to where it belongs and the current squad's capabilities to achieve this the season looks far more positive than last.  

Rowett has claimed that more business may be done before the window shuts and this can only improve the squad.   

Final position: 4th