We got the lowdown on Southampton's Emirates FA Cup third round opponents from BBC Radio Derby presenter Chris Coles...
After coming through three tough league fixtures against Sheffield United, Norwich and Middlesbrough in sixth place, what’s the current mood like at the club?
Content, is probably the best way to describe it. Four points from those games was a decent return considering they began it with defeat at Bramall Lane. Most fans would have taken a top six position come the turn of the year given it’s Frank Lampard first managerial position, coupled with nine new signings over the summer.
Derby have been exhilarating at times this season, beating Manchester United on penalties and giving Chelsea a real run for their money in the Carabao Cup, but inconsistency has plagued them – they followed that victory at Old Trafford with an abject performance away at Bolton.
Some of the goals against have been sloppy in the extreme. When they’re good, they’re very good. When they’re bad….you get the idea!
How have Derby been setting up so far this season tactically and has Lampard established a defined style of play?
Frank Lampard came with a plan of playing a possession based game, and he’s stuck religiously to his guns. He’s used a 4-3-3 formation in every game so far, although the personnel has changed regularly. Goalkeeper Scott Carson will look to play it out from the back whenever he can, not always successfully.
Chelsea loanee Mason Mount is a key cog in the midfield, he’s got a great eye for a pass and is very comfortable on the ball. Some of Derby’s poorer performances have come when he’s not on song. They’ll look to move the ball forward quickly when they have the chance, and will often look to pop the ball off to one another on the edge of the penalty area. It’s great to watch at times, although they’ve noticeable struggled against the more physical teams – who press them high and “rough ‘em up a bit”.
With Leeds next up in the league, how much importance is being placed on the FA Cup?
Good question. Based on how Frank Lampard treated the Carabao Cup, I’d say he’d like a run in the FA Cup. The squad is more than capable of handling the extra games, and the manager has often made changes in the league – so I fully expect tweaks against Southampton – but it wouldn’t necessarily be a weaker team.
Lampard has always maintained he doesn’t have a “best eleven”. You mention Leeds which is obviously a huge game on the Friday night, but I think the Rams want to build on the momentum gained from that incredible win at Norwich and a draw against Middlesbrough, so I still reckon it’ll be a strong starting line-up. And as a four time winner of the competition, it’s a competition close to Lampard’s heart.
Who have been the key men for the Rams so far this season?
Three stand out. Mason Mount, Harry Wilson and Jack Marriott. Mount, as mentioned, has been an essential member of the midfield. He was outstanding in the first months of the season since joining on loan from Chelsea, his form rewarded with a call-up to the England squad.
He’s a fluent passer, has wonderful grace on the ball and has goals in him. It’s no surprise he’s been compared to his manager’s style of play. Harry Wilson – I guarantee you’ve seen his free-kicks on social media this season! His ball-striking technique is unbelievable, and on more than one occasion he’s rescued the Rams with his phenomenal goals. And Jack Marriott. Mr Fox in the Box. A natural finisher whose desire, work rate and pace make him a nightmare to defend against. Between the three of them they have 25 goals and 8 assists this season.
How do you see the game going?
More competitive than the pre-season game at Pride Park in the summer, that’s for sure! I think this is extremely difficult to call, with both sides priorities clearly elsewhere this season. Derby have drawn their last three games at home – and have only won one of the last five – so they’re not exactly in scintillating form at the moment.
That said, they’ve done very well against the ‘better’ sides in the Championship and will fancy their chances against a Premier League outfit given the way they play. If Southampton allow them to play, Derby are capable of ripping any team apart. Get in their faces and press their clever midfielders immediately, it’s a different story. A replay wouldn’t sound very attractive to Frank Lampard, so a draw is one result he’ll be looking to avoid!