Derby County start life under Phillip Cocu with a narrow 2-1 victory away to Huddersfield Town.
The first Monday game of the 2019/20 Championship season saw Tom Lawrence score twice for the visitors whilst their hosts struggled at both ends.
This encounter also marked Cocu’s first match since leaving Fenerbahçe last year and it couldn’t have been any more contrasting to his brief Istanbul stay. Derby, who nearly went up via the play-offs in May, will be hoping the Dutch tactician can lead them back to the big time.
As for Huddersfield, being relegated from the Premier League was a humbling experience, and Jan Siewert’s men were again the architects of their own downfall.
Before this weekend’s fixtures, here are five things we learned from the final game of round one.
1. Cocu passes first test
It hasn’t been a successful time of late for high-profile Dutch coaches abroad. Phillip Cocu is among those who saw their reputation being hit. After bringing three Dutch championships to PSV Eindhoven, and being a man in demand, Fenerbahçe appointed him last summer. But that relationship didn’t even have a honeymoon period as it only lasted 15 matches. Derby, who came agonisingly close to becoming a Premier League club under current Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, offered the former Barcelona midfielder an opportunity to dust himself down and get back on his feet.
Cocu’s first official line-up featured only five players from The Rams’ play-off final defeat to Aston Villa – Kelle Roos, Jayden Bogle, Richard Keogh, Tom Huddlestone and Tom Lawrence – with its shape being a typical 4-3-3 formation. And it was a game of two halves. The opening 45 minutes saw Derby dominate possession and the Huddersfield goal, before the roles were reversed, but this only saw their workrate and resoluteness come to the fore. A positive start Cocu knows greater challenges lie ahead.
2. Lawrence on fire
A concern among some heading into this campaign was the source of goals for Derby, between them Cocu’s front three had registered 17 league goals last season, with Martyn Waghorn (9) the most prolific. Well that was answered inside the opening quarter hour when Tom Lawrence scored twice – a third of his total from 2018/19 – the first was essentially handed to him on a silver platter, when Tommy Elphick produced a moment of madness, but the second was a clinical finish of the highest order.
Derby’s faithful will be hoping Lawrence has started as he means to go on. A year ago, he scored three goals across their opening four Championship outings, but the Wrexham-born forward could only produce three more in his next 29 appearances. His efforts this evening aside, the Welsh international was hustling and bustling, which no doubt impressed Cocu who expects his forwards to be the first line of defence.
3. Farewell Mooy?
This summer’s transfer window for English clubs closes on Thursday, meaning a frantic next few hours, someone that could potentially be saying goodbye to his present club is the metronic Aaron Mooy, who has been nothing short of amazing since joining from Manchester City two years ago. The 39-time capped Australian international is playing at the peak of his powers. Having recently tasted Premier League football it will not be a surprise if he wants to (and does) return there.
With his current deal at the Yorkshire club expiring next year, Mooy won’t go cheap, given how much the Aussie means to his current employer. Before this season’s opener Mooy had bagged 11 goals and 15 assists in 119 official appearances for Huddersfield with seven of those strikes coming in England’s top division. By the newfound standards he’s set, this was a game to forget, Mooy was unable to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, if anything he was sloppy in possession as The Terriers ceded midfield to Cocu’s men.
4. Wasteful, thy name is Huddersfield
One goal from the penalty spot was all Huddersfield could muster on their Championship return. It really should have been more considering how often they laid siege to Kelle Roos’ goal. Throughout a frustrating 90 minutes, Siewert’s side would register no fewer than 14 shots on goal, three more than Derby, with eight of those on target.
Naturally, not every shot was the same, some were difficult to execute but the gilt-edged ones – such as Elias Kachunga’s effort 12 minutes from time – needed to be put away. If they harbour any ambitions of returning to the Premier League, which they do, then it’s imperative their efficiency in front of goal increases. It’s too early to panic, however as we’ve seen before, leave things to the last minute and you’ll get burned
5. Old habits die hard
Huddersfield in last season’s Premier League conceded 76 goals (one every 45 minutes). Yes, for a club of their modest standing, this was inevitable, especially considering their promotion was a stunning achievement that many felt came too soon. That being said, in a highly competitive division like the Championship they could soon be in trouble if manager Jan Siewert doesn’t shore things at the back.
It doesn’t help when defenders, who should know better, make inexplicable errors. Worryingly, they were on the backfoot, giving away 10 shots to Derby such lackadaisicalness is only asking for trouble. A home defeat was not what the doctor ordered; next up is a journey south to Queens Park Rangers, who started this season with a 2-1 win at Stoke City.