The Derby Telegraph reported yesterday that experienced star John Eustace could be out of action for up to eight weeks.
The 35-year-old underwent surgery on a knee problem last week and his extended absence from the team is arguably more damaging than the return of talented winger Jordon Ibe to Liverpool.
Eustace offers the Rams something that no other Derby player can; experience and consistency in a key position in front of the back four.
Derby have a very talented attack, which can smother and break down many sides in the Championship, but where they are weak is in terms of holding midfielder.
The side can cope without Ibe, because Steve McClaren has different options in wide areas but Eustace’s absence is difficult to compensate for.
His experience in front of the back four isn’t just useful in terms of his playing style, it’s also useful because he’s a leader for the team.
Derby have struggled in certain situations away from home this season, where they have left too much space and have been picked off by their opposition as a result.
He’s a figure that others look to when a match isn’t going well and he’s someone who can help organise the defence as well as spot problems and pockets of space when they open up in front of him, looking up to the attack.
It will be interesting to see if the boss pushes on in the transfer market to try and sign another holding player who improves his midfield options.
There is still time for the team to go after a new signing permanently or on a shorter loan deal to cover the period of Eustace’s absence.
Installing him in front of the defence when he’s returned to fitness will make Derby more difficult to break down and that could be the difference for the Rams, as they look to be promoted into the Premier League.