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Derby’s summer rebuild has so far been about quality rather than quantity, with Gary Rowett swapping Cyrus Christie for Andre Wisdom and also bringing in Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone from Hull City.
Nothing too much has changed yet in forward areas, aside from the sale of Tom Ince to Premier League new boys Huddersfield Town and it is in this particular position they need to act. Ince was their most influential player last season, starting games on the right-hand side and cutting in onto his left foot with great regularity and to very good effect.
Like-for-like replacements aren’t always possible. Hhowever, with little else changing in the squad, it seems like a similar line-up will be employed by Rowett. So a direct replacement for Ince would be a priority. With that in mind, the name of Matt Phillips springs to mind once again.
In the surreal and rich world that the English Premier League is, Phillips went slightly under the radar last season in playing his 27 games for West Brom, though his stats are pretty encouraging. According to Squawka, Phillips created 32 chances in his 27 games and that, against PL defenders.
His shot accuracy of 29% is not bad at all for a wide player, though it must be remembered that his statistics would take a climb by going down to the Championship which is slightly lower in grade. His average pass length of 17 metres, bearing in mind that he’s entitled to put crosses in from deep, is short enough, meaning he is happy to play as part of a passing game and that is what Derby are looking for.
Phillips is just 26 years old now and is just about reaching his peak, so to do that and take a step down the football ladder at the same time means he may now explode onto the scene. The player may not have an issue going down a level so long as it means playing every week and going for promotion – two things that will not be an issue upon joining the Rams.
Phillips is slightly more versatile than Ince who always preferred to start on the right and be able to cut in onto his left foot, while Phillips started 12 games on the left last season for West Brom and 14 on the right. So it’s fair to say that he can slot in over on Ince’s side and make an impact from there.