Derby County crashed out of the playoffs against Fulham.
Derby County’s season ended in disappointing fashion on Monday as they were beaten 2-0 by Fulham at Craven Cottage, resulting in their elimination at the semi-final stage of the Championship playoffs.
The Rams were hopeful of making it third-time lucky following playoff defeats in the 2013/14 and 2015/16 campaigns, but once again they were thwarted when it came to the crunch.
Ultimately, the Rams haven’t been good enough this season despite a brief flirtation with the automatic promotion spots, and now Rowett needs to inject some much-needed quality in the first-team this summer.
Here we look at three positions he must bolster if Derby have serious thoughts of a return to the Premier League.
Left wing back:
Rowett’s new 5-2-3 formation has seen more fluidity in the team, yet at left wing back it has largely been a case of putting square pegs in round holes as there isn’t anyone who is a natural in that role.
Craig Forsyth is their best bet, but he has featured as one of three centre-backs meaning Marcus Olsson, Ikechi Anya and forward Andreas Weimann have all taken on the role at some point over the past six weeks.
None are comfortable unlike Andre Wisdom on the opposite flank, and frankly none are good enough in a role which requires speed, strength, sound defensive work and an ability to join the attack.
Bradley Johnson in central midfield:
Bradley Johnson joined Derby for a record transfer fee back in 2015, but for the past three seasons he has struggled for consistency and his successful Norwich City days are in the distant past now.
The former Leeds United man lacks mobility, an ability to press when necessary and awareness on the ball. Derby must replace him if they wish to really succeed at counterattacking football.
Tom Huddlestone is the safer option due to his ability on the ball, therefore the former academy product needs a mobile ball-winning partner in there with him – the exact sort of player Johnson sadly isn’t.
Weimann is the very definition of a utility man having featured in various roles this season. He’s a great asset to have in the squad, but he isn’t good enough on the ball to warrant a starting place in the final third.
Following Johnny Russell’s exit in January, the Rams have been left with Tom Lawrence, Weimann and Anya as their only attacking wide players, and the latter two are far too impotent at top Championship level.
Derby must buy a player who is more comfortable on the ball, can drive at the opponents and offer a greater goal threat (Weimann has netted only five times this season), and failure to do so will without doubt see them fall short again next season.