Derby County were among the pre-season favourites to earn promotion.
Everything was looking rosy for Paul Clement’s side, and wealthy owner Mel Morris already had plans in place to strengthen the squad over the January transfer window.
But six weeks on and things have fallen apart for the East Midlands side. They went from 1/3 favourites for promotion to 11/8 shots – here are three potential explanations.
1) Contrasting forms. Since Derby beat comfortably beat Fulham 2-0, they’ve since gone six games without a win – picking up just three points from a possible 18.
The Rams have dropped to fourth in the Championship table, whereas four straight wins have taken Hull City to the top – six points clear of Clement’s side having played one game less.
2) A signing to rock the boat. While some could argue it’s too early to judge, there is a growing sense around the iPro Stadium that the club have made big mistakes in the January transfer window.
Derby had a balanced squad brimming with confidence six weeks ago. The addition of Nick Blackman, a left-footed centre-forward pushed out to the left-wing, has seemingly rocked the boat.
Andreas Weimann, a regular out on that left side, has been nowhere to be seen since Blackman’s arrival and the likes of Bradley Johnson, Chris Martin and Jacob Butterfield have subsequently lost form.
While it is unfair to pin Derby’s downfall on Blackman, there is no getting away that his inclusion dismantled a fairly settled side while Weimann and Bent’s absence is utterly baffling.
3) Lack of chances. The team’s negative approach of late has been summed up by the fact that they didn’t manage a single shot on target in the recent 0-0 home draw with Preston North End.
The team currently sits 15 yards deeper than normal, leaving Chris Martin totally isolated upfront and resulting in the popular striker scoring just one in his last 14 Championship matches.
With such little goal threat, Derby no longer look like a dominant team capable of winning games comfortably and that will undoubtedly hinder their chances of earning promotion come next May.