Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Season Summaries So Far

Due to this international break, the most critical one of the year for many countries across Europe (particularly two of the British sides--England and Scotland), we're 11 days away from the next round of games in the Premiership. Teams are roughly a third of the way through the season with either 12 or 13 games played, and I figured it'd be a good time to come out with a brief capsule for each team, starting at the bottom of the table and working my way to the top. I'll have, in parentheses, my preseason prediction as to where I thought these teams would finish at the end of the year. Some, I'm proud to say, are spot-on or pretty close to it; others are pretty far off as I either greatly overestimated or underestimated the talent and coaching that those teams have. The plan is to come out with two a day, which will take us right up to November 24, the next set of games.

Bringing up the rear, we have Derby County:

20. Derby County (My preseason prediction: 20th)

There really isn't too much to say about this team other than the obvious: they are awful. Derby have a -26 goal differential in their 13 games played; in fact, they have yet to score a goal away from Pride Park this season and have been shutout in their last five Premier League games. Their only win of the season came against perennial underachievers Newcastle, and the Rams were eliminated in the second round of the Carling Cup by Blackpool, who currently sit in 19th place in the Coca-Cola Championship. It's a new excuse after every game for manager Billy Davies; it's one thing that your team "deserved" a result in one game or another, it's another thing to actually get a result and Derby simply haven't been on the right end of many games this season.

Benny Feilhaber and Giles Barnes, two promising young players for the Rams (Barnes especially), have combined to make 4 Premier League starts this season. If you're going to go down, which Derby most certainly are, at least play some of the younger players so that they can get some Premier League exposure and experience. The more they play and the better they play, the more money Derby can make when they sell them and that's important for a team that doesn't generate a lot of revenue on their own.

19. Wigan Athletic (My preseason prediction: 18th)

Wigan are another club in desperate straits. Chris Hutchings started the year as the manager who was supposed to guide Wigan into the post-Paul Jewell era but 13 games into the season, he's gone. Jewell has since ruled out a return to Lancashire and it looks like former Everton, Ipswich and Oldham manager Joe Royle has emerged as a favorite for this job.

If Royle takes over, he'll inherit a club in disarray. Jason Koumas was counted on to play a much larger role than he has up to this point; he's looked downright lazy on the field this season and as Wigan's biggest signing this summer, he hasn't lived up to expectations. Antoine Sibierski and Marcus Bent, two retreads if there ever were some, are co-leading this team in scoring with 3 goals apiece. Titus Bramble, of all players, has started every Premiership game this season and he's a detriment to any team's back four. Wigan also were knocked out of the Carling Cup at home to a lower-league side (Hull City-11th in the Championship; the crowd at that game was a meager 5,440). If the Latics are going to stay up, they'll need to do a better job away from home (1 draw and 6 losses at the JJB so far).

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