1. Westwood and Gardner need to do more to win their places
Many Aston Villa fans greeted the sight of Ashley Westwood and Gary Gardner as the defensive midfield duo in a 4-2-3-1 instead of Mile Jedinak and Aaron Tshibola with dismay, the latter two ruled out by paperwork and injury issues.
For the first-half Westwood and Gardner seemed determined to prove their doubters wrong. Westwood was unusually aggressive, in particular hounding Derby's star midfielder Will Hughes high up the field. Gardner showed his eye for goal with a long range drive which crashed against the post. They helped drive Villa's dominance of the half.
Then everything changed in the second-half. Derby's midfield pushed forward and Westwood and Gardner struggled to cope. Both committed fouls which led to dangerous free-kicks around the box, Westwood's particularly bad as it was his poor control which gave away possession. Neither was calm enough in possession to re-establish Villa's control of the game and Gardner's poor pass killed a counter-attack.
Both players have potential to shine but the competition is fierce.
2. Aly Cissokho is a liability
Most Villa fans accept the need to upgrade from Alan Hutton at right-back, but the jury is out for many on Cissokho. An assist for Rudy Gestede last week suggested he might be able to improve his attacking qualities and he often looks defensively solid.
But he almost threw away this match by practically ripping the shirt off a Derby striker when defending a free-kick and was enormously lucky the assistant referee didn't spot it. It was needless but even worse was how obvious it was.
Cissokho made a series of similar fouls last season and the only reason it was less noticeable was the terrible performance of the rest of the backline. Now Villa have made big upgrades in the centre with Tommy Elphick and James Chester, they should look at left-back as well. Jordan Amavi and Joe Bennett are both better in the attack and should battle for the position.
3. Villa still can't play well for 90 minutes - but they don't collapse as easily
Were the season played out over a series of 45 minute halves you'd bet Villa will be promotion contenders. They were well on top in the first-half but didn't convert their advantage and were lucky to weather the second-half.
However whereas last season this probably would have ended 2 or 3-0 to Derby as Villa collapsed in the second-half, there was resilience, with Elphick, Chester and Jordan Ayew keeping the Claret and Blues in contention. Apart from Cissokho's shirt-pull and the free-kicks given away there was no meltdown or head-banging errors.
The lack of options on the bench was a worry. After Libor Kozak replaced the injured Gestede, the only attacking sub to be made was André Green - who duly replaced Kozak, still well off the pace and unlikely to ever regain it at Villa. Green didn't make much impact and the absence of Adama Traoré, Jordan Veretout or even Carles Gil was a stark reminder that Villa need to bring players as well as offload.