|Front Row View: The Italian Job|
Thu 06th Sep 2012 10:46 by Paul Mortimer
The Vicarage Road “Italian Job” had some early-season teething troubles on Saturday. Despite a rash of signings and loans, Watford collapsed at Pride Park Stadium as Derby hit them for five.
Disappointment in Derby’s lack of activity at the transfer deadline was abruptly washed away - ambitious Watford were swept aside in a 5-1 mauling as the Rams clicked - and the Hornets didn’t buzz. Times are changing down at Vicarage Road; the wealthy Italian Pozzo family took over the Hertfordshire club in June and engaged a high-profile manager in their famous compatriot, ex-Chelsea star Gianfranco Zola soon afterwards.
The Pozzos also own Italian side Udinese and have exploited a loophole in the UK transfer and loan system of behalf of the Hornets, drafting in no less than five Udinese players on loan on transfer deadline day - making it 10 loanees so far from their Italian cohorts since the takeover.
That loophole may be viewed as an unfair advantage over other clubs and should be examined by the authorities. Clubs such as Watford, with owners having other clubs in their portfolio, can currently loan in any number of players from their ‘partner’ clubs - because loans from Europe do not count as part of a Football League side’s ‘emergency loan’ entitlement for the season.
If Watford and Derby were competitors in businesses, (say) in electronics or manufacturing, there would be nothing stopping one of those ‘companies’ drafting in skilled personnel from their other European divisions to work on a project or in a specific market, it’s true - but is it to be deemed just the same in football? Discuss!
With no transfer window deadline day activity at Pride Park Stadium, cagey Derby boss Nigel Clough may be lying in wait for the loan window opens during September to add any new flavours to his squad. Other managers also failed to show sufficient interest in Derby’s marginal players (such as Ben Davies and Tom Naylor) to sign ‘em up.
In contrast, Watford boss Zola vigorously concocted a spicy Italian menu with five signings in a day. Zola left Derby with a nasty taste however as he watched his awful team ship five goals in the space of an hour, and Derby lifted themselves up the Championship table.
To borrow Michael Caine’s famous utterance in “The Italian Job” demolition scene: “You’re only supposed to blow the bl00dy doors off!” Nigel Clough’s men set off multiple explosions around the Watford defence once they got going - and ultimately reduced it to rubble.
Zola’s mass recruitment drive didn’t give Watford any advantage on the day - probably quite the opposite! It might well have been the best time for Derby to play the Hornets; Zola has so many players at his disposal that he has yet to find the right permutations.
Zola’s new players involved didn’t generally seem to be on first-name terms with each other yet, because they certainly didn’t communicate well on the pitch and looked a shapeless, disorganised outfit. There are so many newcomers at Vicarage Road who have yet to acclimatise in the Championship and the Rams’ persistence and teamwork was too much for Watford to cope with.
Derby unhinged the Watford defence (such as it was) readily - and the Hornets disintegrated in what turned out to be a welcome goal-fest for the Rams. The Rams have scored 5 twice already this season - though of course the 10 goals have only mustered one win.
Against Watford, it was all about work-rate, a strong team ethic and (for once) clinical finishing. There were strong performances all around the team and goals were scored by 5 different players.
Conor Sammon had a storming home debut, all bustle and physicality, providing an edge often missing from Derby’s attack. His emphatic strike to make it 3-0 just before half-time was probably the clincher. He burst onto the ball and charged past two defenders before lashing it past ex-Gunners’ custodian Almunia. On this showing, he has much more power and purpose than either Tyson or Robinson, though Clough now has some interesting permutations to try out.
Bryson covered every blade of grass; O’Connor did a ‘Jake Buxton’ and simply got on with the job of defending strongly and effectively. Ward buzzed around and deserved his goal; the wiry, wily Will Hughes continued to delight in midfield and John Brayford was back to his best. The delivery into the opposition box was incisive and Paul Coutts is proving an effective supply-line.
Keogh started the goal-fest (it appears that our defenders will weigh in with plenty of goals this season!) then Hendrick nodded home, before Sammon slammed in the pick of the bunch. Will Hughes tickled in the fourth goal soon after half-time to become one of Derby’s youngest-ever goalscorers at 17, and Ward obligingly tapped home with the Watford rearguard again opened up.
As with the first hour against Sheffield Wednesday, it all seemed too easy, and the late shocks delivered in the Owls’ game and the Scunthorpe League Cup tie inhibited watching fans from getting too carried away, just in case there was a sudden turnaround again with the seemingly beaten opposition getting back into the match.
It was a little disappointing to see Derby fail to secure a clean sheet, given their utter dominance. Watford mustered just a couple of goal attempts in the first hour but Czech Under-21 striker Vydra snuck a goal back for the Hornets on 74 minutes. Most odd that it wasn’t an Italian that scored for them; they certainly had enough of ‘em to choose from!
Prior to that consolation goal, I was going to suggest that Clough should make an urgent signing, named Kindle. That’s an electronic book for our goalkeeper Frank Fielding to take out onto the pitch with him - so that he has something with which to occupy himself on a Saturday afternoon.
It will be interesting to watch Zola’s progress. He and Paulo di Canio (on an upward trajectory at Swindon Town) are bound to attract plenty of media attention given their illustrious and colourful careers and with it will come pressure to succeed from owners and expectant supporters.
An attendance of less than 21, 000 on Saturday will have disappointed the Rams’ administration somewhat, as the ‘Silver’ match did not draw a large ‘walk-up’ attendance - but I was surprised to see even that relatively low Pride Park Stadium attendance had beaten the Trees’ gate of fewer than 20,000 for their 2-1 win over promoted Charlton Athletic.
Achieving that first win of the season was an important marker, going into the international break. The Rams have travelled well so far this season and can score goals. Clough and his men will draw confidence on a reasonable start to the season for the visit to Huddersfield on Saturday week.
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