We’re at the stage of the Championship season where we’ve seen Derby and Cardiff square off at least five times.
Actually, they haven’t – so don’t even check.
What you can check, though, is the league table. You might not want to, however, if you’re a fan of either of these clubs. Perhaps two sides that thought they’d be in contention for playoff spots now find themselves just a bad result away from being in the relegation discussion.
This also means they try to force things, which is ideal for two sides that should be willing to abandon identities. But only one of them will – the side with the more progressive manager. Warnock will never change, and the reason for that is because he gauges his level of success throughout his career as timeless. What worked then will still work now.
Except it won’t. The tide will turn for Phillip Cocu.
If Derby click, they’re not clicking to score one or two. It’ll come in spates. They’re well below their xG at this point of the season, as the metric suggests they should be averaging 1.78 goals per game, despite returning less than half of that figure.
Cardiff are fairly close to hitting their xG totals, while their opponents have collectively underachieved. These average out over the course of the season, and those kinks usually arrive in the form of one team playing a more expansive style of football than the other, while at home.
This suits that logic perfectly.
There are two adjustments that Cocu must make. He must stop dropping in Waghorn to link up play so much and he needs to ensure the players crosses the ball more than he currently does.
Derby are at their best when they put the ball in the box from wide areas, based on chance creation data, and Waghorn is superb at picking up scraps. It’s how he scored so many goals at Rangers and Ipswich.
A quick adjustment here will see the Sunderland youth product find his form again.
Cardiff certainly won’t be doing anything other than punting it into channels for Josh Murphy when they’re away from home against a side who keep the ball.
But I think they’re in for a shock when Derby go a small bit more gung-ho and put the ball in dangerous areas more. So, booting the ball long will lead to relentless pressure from the Rams and they haven’t the ability to play out in those situations to avoid that scenario.
This means Derby will eventually score first, but they’ll get sloppier with the ball in midfield and give away possession more than usual in advanced areas. Given the central overload that Cocu likes to deploy, don’t be surprised if they get picked off too.
If you’ve read to this point, you’ll know I see both of these teams crossing the ball an above average amount of times. For this to come in, each team needs to get just a single corner every fifteen minutes or so.
I would genuinely be surprised if this doesn’t come off, especially as Warnock’s no-nonsense approach to danger is to just boot it into touch.
Can you feel it? I can.