Despite having rarely been utilised by Derby County so far this season, Wayne Rooney must unleash Patrick Roberts at Pride Park this Saturday.
In truth, the 24-year-old has not particularly impressed when he has been selected by Rooney, having failed to score a single goal, providing just one assist and creating only one big chance over his total of 23 appearances for the Rams.
However, considering he has only averaged 40 minutes per appearance, the argument can easily be made that Roberts has not had ample opportunity to show what he is truly capable of when he is settled within a side.
Such capability was seen during a number of loan spells at Celtic, when the winger scored six goals and provided one assist over 11 Premiership fixtures in the club’s 2015/16 campaign, bagged nine goals and registered 14 assists over 32 league appearances the following season and provided four assists in eight league appearances in 2017/18.
Not only are these returns impressive, the occasions of his goal involvements is an equally important factor. The Manchester City loanee was most profitable in the clashes with Celtic’s Old Firm rivals Rangers, being directly involved in seven goals – one goal and six assists – in derby games during his time in Glasgow.
Indeed, Roberts provided more assists against Gers than against any other side in his time at Parkhead.
As such, it is evident that the 24-year-old, who Brendan Rodgers claimed has “an eye for goal“, is very much a big-game player – and with what is undoubtedly Derby’s biggest game of the season coming up against Sheffield Wednesday this Saturday, Roberts could well make all the difference for the Rams.
Furthermore, with Rooney’s team scoring just eight goals over their last 13 league fixtures, something simply has to change against the Owls, as even a draw – coupled with a Rotherham United win – could see the Rams relegated.
With drastic times calling for drastic measures, Rooney should give Roberts the chance to save the club’s season on Saturday, as he has proven the difference in big games before.