The Scottish Premiership season is fast approaching and numerous clubs have been getting back into…
It’s been a historic week for the Dundee. The opening of the V&A Museum of Design represents a new chapter for the City of Discovery that was once known for its jute, jam and journalism. However, at Dens Park life is rather bleak. Neil McCann’s Dundee are winless in the Premiership and are struggling to turn around their fortunes this season.
Individual mistakes meant a loss to fellow strugglers St Mirren on the opening day of this campaign. Defeats to Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Motherwell followed with the Dark Blues playing decent football but finding it hard to make an impact in each game. Throw in comprehensive League Cup losses to Championship sides Ayr United and Dunfermline and you can begin to see why all is not well at Dens Park. You only have to look at our most recent manager power rankings to see that he’s not performing to the level expected of him.
In the past, McCann has been defended by large sections of the support. He had a lot of dross to get rid of after Paul Hartley’s tenure in charge. Conversely, the vast majority of this squad are now players he has signed. He was backed by the club in the transfer window so now there are fewer excuses. He’s had ample time to strengthen his squad and address the areas that proved problematic last term. The issue is, so far at least, that the same problems remain.
This is arguably the main issue Dundee have. During the 2017/18 season, the Dark Blues created a number of chances they were expected to score but only converted a fraction of them. McCann has been vocal about how a striker was the priority in the summer window. Jean Alassane Mendy has been brought in but looks rather lightweight and certainly not the kind of striker that be relied upon up to score ten or more goals a season.
Similarly, the other main recruit up top is Kenny Miller. The jury is out on whether the veteran striker has what it takes to rack up the goals that Dundee need. McCann’s other options lie in Sofien Moussa, who at this stage has become a liability in front of goal, and young Finnish striker Benjamin Kallman.
In the games against St Mirren and Aberdeen, there were chances that were missed. This was a staple of Dundee’s 2017/18 season and something that looks unlikely to change given the attacking options at their disposal. Simply put, McCann hasn’t addressed this problem properly.
Last season only Partick Thistle scored fewer goals than Dundee (36). What was alarming was that the Dens Park side’s expected goals were 53.24. There was a clear problem: chances were being created but not finished off. Fast forward to the new campaign and the same issue remains. McCann hasn’t strengthened his frontline and as a result, his side’s expected goals tally is already double the goals they’ve actually scored.
Unsurprisingly, Dundee’s problems in the final third are only compounded by their issues at the back. Again it’s not as if McCann wasn’t aware of this. Last season they conceded a total of 57 goals. Only three clubs, including Partick and Ross County who were relegated, had a worse record. Fast forward to this term and after just four league games McCann’s side have already conceded seven goals.
Jack Hendry was evidently a huge loss in January and difficult to replace. Steven Caulker made his shock arrival not long after and was in and out of the side. The ex-Premier League defender looked a decent enough replacement for Hendry, but for one reason or another, he didn’t play very often. It then became apparent there were some issues between him and McCann with Caulker leaving the club at the end of August.
In essence, McCann hasn’t sorted the defence that was leaking goals last season. In fact, you could put a strong case forward that without Caulker the blackline is in worse shape. There’s definitely a reason for concern given that Dundee’s first choice centre-back pairing looks to be Genseric Kusunga and Josh Meekins. They need someone of a higher standard or who is at least more solid beside them.
Kusunga, in particular, doesn’t look up to much at Premiership level which is a real worry for the Dark Blues. With a lack of potency in attack, Dundee could really do with having a strong defence to rely on. Look at Hearts last season, they had problems in the final third but got out of jail numerous times due to having a solid backline and an excellent goalkeeper. Dundee don’t have the reassurance that if they miss a couple of chances they can rely on their defence to keep a clean sheet until another goalscoring opportunity arises.
Apart from that, there are issues with McCann himself. There’s no consistency to his team selection or choice of formation. It’s fair to say at this point that the constant chopping and changing is to the detriment of the team. He’s been vocal about how his side are lacking confidence and all they need is to experience going ahead in a game. That may be the case, but you have to the feel the problems are deeper rooted than that.
You only have to look at his last 20 games in charge. McCann has lost 13 of these and won just five. Furthermore, their next two Premiership fixtures are against Rangers and Hibs. It’s hard to see them picking up wins from either of those which then puts both Dundee and their manager in a perilous position.
The few positives are that Glen Kamara is still at the club and Calvin Miller should be an instant upgrade at left-back. However, McCann has his work cut out. His midfield also is far from perfect with them looking lightweight and rather fragile on more than one occasion this season.
Put simply, McCann’s not fixed the problems he had in attack. In fact, scrap that, he’s not fixed the problems Dundee have had up front since Kane Hemmings and Greg Stewart left the club back in 2016. Similarly, rather than resolve any defensive issues Dundee look worse at the back than they were at the end of last season.
For all we know the international break could’ve been the perfect time for McCann to do some work with this team and properly bed in new signings. Conversely, time is ticking and if results don’t pick up Dundee will be in big trouble. Nobody wants to see a manager lose his job, but McCann hasn’t learned from past mistakes.