Tom Carroll - The progressive passer who could revolutionise Derby's midfield
SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 06: Tom Carroll of Swansea City celebrates his team's win after the Premier League match between Swansea City and Everton at The Liberty Stadium on May 6, 2017 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Tom Carroll is a name that may be familiar with Derby County fans, as he actually spent 6 months at the club under Nigel Clough back in 2012. Now 29, the midfielder is training with Derby County hoping to secure a deal for the 2021/22 season.

Carroll's career so far

Carroll started his career at Tottenham Hotspur, but despite making 60 appearances for the North London club, the majority of his time was spent out on loan. He featured for Leyton Orient, Derby County, Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City on loan between 2011 and 2015.

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His best form came for Swansea City in 2014/15, starring in the Premier League under Garry Monk. He rejoined the Swans in 2017, and was part of their squad who was relegated from the Premier League, despite being one of their star performers. A brief loan stint at Aston Villa in 2019, after a string of minor injuries halted his progress, preceded his Swansea exit, and he joined Reading in 2020 on a free transfer. At Reading, he suffered torn knee ligaments in January, and was sidelined for much of the second half of the season.

Style of play

The midfielder can play in either holding midfield or central midfield, effective in either position. He will dictate the play in the centre of the park, a role which no current Derby player can play, and has fantastic delivery from set pieces.

Championship ball progression from central midfielders in 2020/2021 | Photo: @11pts1win on Twitter
Championship ball progression from central midfielders in 2020/2021 | Photo: @11pts1win on Twitter

The graphic above from @11pts1win reveals that Tom Carroll was the most progressive passer in the Championship last season, averaging around 10 progressive passes per 90. Progressive passes are described by Wyscout as "forward passes that are 30m long when the pass starts in the team's own half or at least 10m in length in the opponent's half."

It is noticible that the only current Derby player with over 7 progressive passes per 90 was Krystian Bielik, with Jason Knight and Graeme Shinnie in particular averaging 3.5 and 4.5 respectively.

This highlights one of Derby's biggest weaknesses last season, an inability to work the ball higher up the pitch and create chances. As mentioned in a previous article, Derby sat 21st in the table for both xG and chances created last season. Having Tom Carroll in the side would certainly have a positive impact on those stats this season, possibly also having a positive impact on the players around him too.

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Carroll's defensive work also cannot be understated. He works hard for the team, averaging a similar number of tackles and interceptions per 90 to Jason Knight. This balance of defensive work-rate and technical talent makes Carroll a very useful player in the centre of the park.

The Verdict

Despite having a number of bodies in the midfield positions, the centre of midfield was actually one of Derby's weakest areas last season. After an ACL injury ended Krystian Bielik's season, Derby's midfield was horribly exposed, with the two usual starters of Jason Knight and Graeme Shinnie struggling to make an impact in the forward areas.

With Bielik injured until at least October, Tom Carroll would be a fantastic improvement to Derby's midfield. His passing range, vision and progressive mentality can only be a positive in an often negative and lifeless Derby midfield. 

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Carroll's inclusion can only be a positive for forward players such as Kamil Jozwiak and Tom Lawrence, as they will be able to recieve the ball much higher up the pitch than last year. This may help get the best out of the two talented wingers.

What do you think of Tom Carroll? Would you like him at Derby? Let us know in the comments.