The Scottish Premiership season is fast approaching and numerous clubs have been getting back into…
Three wins in four games. By all accounts, you’d say that’s a successful start to the season for Dundee however when you look at the opposition they really should have a 100% record. It’s early days of course but the Dens Park side’s loss to Dunfermline highlighted a number of problems Neil McCann will want to address before the transfer window closes.
Dundee had to battle hard to steer clear of the relegation places last season and you feel it’s likely they’ll have another fight on their hands to maintain their Premiership status. McCann has done a good job to keep the Dark Blues in the top flight, but it doesn’t appear as if the squad has been strengthened much ahead of the new campaign. Does this mean it’s going to be difficult for them to improve upon last season? Let’s take a look.
I recently wrote an article regarding Dundee’s problems in attack. Whilst this is not the sole cause of their struggles it certainly is a significant part. The numbers were pretty damning as Dundee scored just 36 goals in the Premiership; only Partick Thistle managed less. That in itself is poor, but what was more staggering is that the Tayside club’s expected goals (xG) for last season was 53.24. In short, this told us one thing: Dundee were creating numerous chances they were expected to score but instead were squandering them.
So, Dundee’s lack of clinical finishing certainly affected their 2017/2018 Premiership campaign but that wasn’t the only issue. The Dens Park side severely lacked creativity in the final third and really missed someone who could play as an effective attacking midfielder. The other main problem was defence. Steven Caulker arrived and proved to be a decent acquisition but Dundee still leaked 57 goals last season. Simply put, there were a number of areas in McCann’s squad that needed bolstering.
We’ve seen McCann bring in some players but you can’t help but feel his side are still light in many areas. The pick of his signings looks to be Elton N’Gwatala. The attacking midfielder will bring some creativity and much-needed attacking flair to Dundee. He’s the kind of player who could pose a threat to opposition teams and chip in with goals and assists.
Dundee also brought in striker Jean Alassane Mendy who looks fine but doesn’t appear like he’ll solve the Dark Blues’ attacking issues. This is a real problem if Sofien Moussa was to pick up an injury – Dundee are low on forwards. Out of favour Marcus Haber has moved to Falkirk on loan and Craig Wighton and Matthew Henvey can’t be relied upon week in, week out. They need a goalscorer who can finish off all of the chances they squandered last season. If they fail to bring someone like this in then this campaign could be another struggle.
Karl Mandianga was also added to McCann’s midfield. He’s more of a defensively inclined player, however, he’s certainly not on the level of Glen Kamara. The worry is that if Kamara were to get injured, or worse leave, then Mandianga doesn’t appear to have the skills to replace him. Elsewhere, Nathan Ralph was brought in at left-back but has looked relatively uninspiring since arriving in Scotland. The main issue here is that he, and right-back Cammy Kerr, have little to no competition for places. McCann should really be looking for an improvement on Ralph, but if that’s not possible then at least someone to provide competition for places.
There’s also a new face in between the sticks for the Dens Park side as Jack Hamilton made the switch from Hearts. Scott Bain’s replacement has looked decent enough so far and it’ll be interesting to see how he handles regular playing time in the Premiership.
Dundee finished the season with a rather large squad so it was paramount that they got rid of the chaff this summer. Both James Vincent and Faissal El Bakhtaoui joined Dunfermline on loan. And, as previously mentioned, striker Marcus Haber also moved on loan to Falkirk for the rest of the season.
Elsewhere, midfielder Mark O’Hara moved to Peterborough United, Nicky Low swapped Scotland for Ireland and moved to Derry City whilst Kevin Holt made the switch to Cypriot side Pafos FC. Apart from that defenders Jon Aurtenetxe and Julen Etxabeguren both moved to Spain joining SD Amorebieta and Real Union respectively.
Dundee won’t desperately miss any of these players, but it does mean their squad is significantly thinner. You can’t help but feel that they are only a few injuries or departures away from having a serious problem. A number of fans are concerned that Kamara and/or Caulker might leave. That would have serious ramifications given their current squad and the diminishing time left in this transfer window.
It’s going to be an interesting season in all sections of the Premiership table. There will be a number of teams fighting off the looming threat of relegation and at the moment you’d probably say Dundee will be one of them. McCann knows what it takes to keep a team in the Premiership and it appears as if he’ll be tested again this campaign. The main aim for Dundee is simple; avoid relegation.
That said, relegation rivals Hamilton have had a bumpy start to the season and newly-promoted sides St Mirren and Livingston will have it all to do as they attempt to survive in the top flight. The advantage Dundee have is that a number of these players know what it feels like to be in a relegation dogfight. Furthermore, they must have a certain amount of belief in the manager given that he’s steered them to safety in the past. In essence, they have been here before.
The other main aim for the Dark Blues should be to keep hold of Kamara. He is the crown jewel in this Dundee side and without him, they really would be at a loss. They may not have had a great transfer window so far, but there’s still time for McCann to strengthen his squad.