Wednesday, August 1, 2018

2018/19 Premiership preview - Dundee


LAST SEASON: Ninth, 39pts

NOTABLE INS: Jack Hamilton (Heart of Midlothian), Karl Madianga (unattached), Jean Alassane Mendy (Lokeren), Elton Ngwatala (Kidderminster Harriers), Nathan Ralph (Woking)

NOTABLE OUTS: Scott Bain (Celtic, loan made permanent), Kostadin Gadzhalov (Botev Vratsa), Kevin Holt (Pafos), Nicky Low (Derry City, loan made permanent), Jeremy Malherbe (Panionios), Mark O'Hara (Peterborough United), Randy Wolters (NEC Nijmegen), Faissal El Bakhtaoui (Dunfermline Athletic, loan), Calum Ferrie (Stirling Albion, loan), Marcus Haber (Falkirk, loan), James Vincent (Dunfermline Athletic, loan), Kerr Waddell (Greenock Morton, loan), A-Jay Leitch-Smith (Shrewsbury Town, end of loan), Simon Murray (Hibernian, end of loan), Jon Aurtenetxe, Julen Etxabeguren, Jordan Piggott

LAST SEASON'S BEST XI (Departed players crossed out): Bain, Kerr, Caulker, Hendry, Aurtenetxe, Deacon, Kamara, McGowan, O'Hara, Leitch-Smith, Murray

Compared to a lot of managers out there, Neil McCann is quite fortunate. Dundee budgeted for a top six finish - again - and came up short - again.  Not only that, but they finished only one place and two points better off than in 2016/17, and were again dependent on some post-split victories to keep their heads above water. McCann has won five post-split matches as a manager (out of nine), compared to only eight (out of thirty) other league matches.

But they're standing by their man rather than canning McCann (apologies to Suzi Quatro there). So the former Sky Sports pundit gets another shot at constructing a team in his own image. Dundee fans worry that, on last season's evidence, his image is 'pass the ball sideways a lot until someone makes a stupid mistake that costs us a goal'.

And it is definitely his team now. He might only have been in charge since May 2017, but there are only five players left who played for the previous manager - Cammy Kerr, Darren O'Dea, Jesse Curran, Paul McGowan and Craig Wighton.

With James Vincent and Faissal El-Bakhtaoui punted out on loan for the final year of their contract, fifteen players have effectively been shown the door this summer. But at the time of writing only five new faces had arrived, though they addressed positions of need. Quality over quantity? Time will tell.

The most pressing issues were in goal, at left-back and up front. Keeper Jack Hamilton has arrived from Hearts looking to relaunch his career after going from Scotland squad member to Tynecastle benchwarmer last summer. He should be better than the mediocre Elliott Parish, though whether he can quite banish memories of Scott Bain - or at least the positive memories from a few years back - is another matter.

Nathan Ralph, who has arrived from Woking, is the latest incumbent at left-back after McCann lost patience with Jon Aurtenetxe's lack of bite and Kevin Holt's lack of defensive awareness. Ralph has spent the last three years kicking around the National League so this could be a bit of a step-up. The rest of the defence should be okay, given McCann has Genseric Kusunga, Josh Meekings and Steven Caulker to choose from at centre-back - along with club captain O'Dea, though he was benched last season - and Kerr will do a job at right-back.

Up top, they need Senegalese forward Jean Alassane Mendy to hit the ground running given that Sofien Moussa is the only senior striker left over from last year. For all his hustle and bustle, Moussa didn't score a league goal from open play till April. Surely McCann will want to bring in another striker before the end of the transfer window.

At least midfield looks like a relative strength, given that Glen Kamara somehow wasn't poached by a bigger club, and Paul McGowan somehow avoided a prison sentence. Another new boy from the National League, Elton Ngwatala, will fill the attacking midfield role vacated by the hot-and-cold Mark O'Hara. It is crucial that Roarie Deacon and Craig Wighton can stay fit for a significant length of time; both widemen look dangerous when available but have spent too much time on the sidelines. In their absence, McCann lacks options on the flanks.

If Dundee have indeed budgeted for top six once again, one would suggest that this squad is not value for money. McCann and his cheerleaders will claim that, with another summer to get accustomed to how he wants them to play, the Dark Blues will be far better this season. Count this writer among the sceptics. It would be a shock if Dundee went down - not least because of the lack of quality amongst others in this league - but if they are in a fight at the bottom yet again McCann will surely get his jotters.

THE SQUAD (players born after 1 January 1997 in italics)
Goalkeepers: Jack Hamilton, Elliott Parish
Defenders: Steven Caulker, Dan Jefferies, Cammy Kerr, Genseric Kusunga, Josh Meekings, Darren O'Dea, Nathan Ralph
Midfielders: Jesse Curran, Roarie Deacon, Glen Kamara, Jack Lambert, Karl Madianga, Paul McGowan, Elton Ngwatala, Lewis Spence, Craig Wighton
Forwards: Matty Henvey, Jean Alassane Mendy, Sofien Moussa, Cedwyn Scott


Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

No comments: