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Season Preview – Part 3 05/08/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Another midfielder.  Lumme.  Meanwhile….

CHARLTON ATHLETIC

INS: George Tucudean (Standard Liége, Undisclosed), Igor Vetokele (Copenhagen, Undisclosed), Zak Ansah (Arsenal, Free), Tal Ben Haim (Standard Liége, Free), André Bikey (Panatolikos, Free), Kurtis Cumberbatch (Watford, Free), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (AZ67 Alkmaar, Free), Stephen Henderson (West Ham United, Free), Franck Moussa (Coventry City, Free), Yoni Buyens (Standard Liége, Season Loan)

OUTS: Diego Poyet (West Ham United, Undisclosed), Richard Wood (Rotherham United, Undisclosed), Ade Azeez (AFC Wimbledon, Free), Jordan Cook (Walsall, Free), Dorian Dervite (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Cedric Evina (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Kevin Feely (Newport County, Free),Danny Green (Franchise FC, Free), Ben Hamer (Leicester City, Free), Danny Hollands (Portsmouth, Free),  Bradley Pritchard (Leyton Orient, Free), Andy Hughes, Harry Lennon (Cambridge United, Six Month Loan), Astrit Ajdarevic (Standard Liége, End of Loan), Anil Koc (Standard Liége, End of Loan), Jonathan Obika (Tottenham Hotspur, End of Loan), Davide Petrucci (Manchester United, End of Loan), Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers, End of Loan), Yohann Thuram-Ulien (Standard Liége, End of Loan)

OUR EX-ADDICKS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Johnnie Jackson

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A portentous 1-1 draw against an unremarkable Addicks side in September and a lamentable 3-1 defeat at the Valley in the dying throes of the season that featured Albert Riera’s rather graceless final contribution in a Watford shirt.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Henderson
Solly              Ben Haim        Morrison               Wiggins
Gudmundsson         Buyens             Jackson              Harriott
Tucudean                 Vetokele

VERDICT: A summer of upheaval at the Valley, with a lot of players moving in and out, another new manager and another influx of players from Standard Liége, one of four European clubs owned by Addicks’ boss Roland Duchâtelet.  It’s natural to draw comparisons with our ownership structure, and will be interesting to see how the Charlton model develops in parallel.  Whilst there are clearly similarities, the scouting network and ethos that underpins the Pozzo model does not seem to be in place here – or rather, it’s difficult to see how Liége, as currently the senior side in the group, could support what is clearly the central plank of “our lot”‘s success.  Where there are clear parallels between ourselves and the Addicks is in the player turnover that we’ve seen in the last couple of seasons.  Gianfranco Zola, of course, got the Hornets a hair’s breadth from promotion after a summer of similar upheaval but even given the quality of the players that were brought in that was a hell of an achievement.  To match that the Addicks would need similar quality, a similarly solid starting point and similar success in blending the components together, each of which would have to be questionable.  Given the unknown nature of many of Charlton’s signings a big margin of error needs to be put around any prediction…  top half isn’t impossible, but with a lot of untested components in key positions (including in the manager’s seat and virtually the entire forward line), and young bucks rather than experienced leaders remaining from last year’s side a relegation scrap is far from beyond the realms of possibility.

DERBY COUNTY

INS: Cyrus Christie (Coventry City, Undisclosed), George Thorne (West Bromwich Albion, Undisclosed), Alefe Santos (Bristol Rovers, Compensation), Alban Bunjaku (Sevilla, Free), Ivan Calero (Atlético Madrid, Free), Shaquille McDonald (York City, Free), Jonathan Mitchell (Newcastle United, Free), Zak Whitbread (Leicester City, Free), Leon Best (Blackburn Rovers, Season Loan)

OUTS:  James Bailey (Barnsley, Free), Callum Ball (St.Mirren, Free), Ben Davies (Sheffield United, Free), Adam Legzdins (Leyton Orient, Free), James O’Connor (Walsall, Free), Ross Atkins, Valentin Gjokaj, Michael Hoganson, Patrick Bamford (Chelsea, End of Loan), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, End of Loan)

OUR EX-RAMS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: John Eustace, Craig Forsyth, Eric Steele (Goalkeeping Coach), George Thorne

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 3-2 reverse at Vicarage Road in October, the first of the five consecutive home defeats that preceded Gianfranco Zola’s dismissal, and a 4-2 defeat at Pride Park in which Marco Cassetti was dismissed, a damp squib following our stirring performance at Loftus Road.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Grant
Christie         Keogh       Buxton       Forsyth
Hughes      Hendrick      Bryson
Ward         Martin     Russell

VERDICT: For so  much of the season the most assertive, intimidating, impressive side in the division.  A bit of a wobbly start, but once they got going it was only a question of whether they’d quite have enough to take them straight up rather than finishing third.  They didn’t, as it turns out, but were understandably everyone’s favourites going into the play-offs.  Right up until the moment when a late, late goal denied them at Wembley.  Still…  once the initial disappointment was out of the way there was much to look forward to.  The squad still looked excellent, the boardroom stable and intelligent, the signings impressive and the manager amongst the most respected in the division.  What could possibly go wrong….?

The parallels between Derby now and us a year ago only extend so far, of course, but our 2013/14 season should act as a warning for Rams fans not to start counting their chickens just yet.  Teams will be worried about Derby, and will have a better idea of how to stop them… apart from anything else, most clubs will go to Pride Park (or whatever) knowing that a point would be just fine thanks and treat the game as such.  Expectations will be sky high – more so in Derby, whose players have to cope with the Big Club thing to a greater extent than ours ever do.  Most of all… extrapolating is dangerous.  Derby’s form for two thirds of the season was remarkable… extending that form into this campaign would be all the more so.  That said… there’s a lot that’s impressive about this Derby side and it would be a huge surprise if they weren’t at least serious challengers for automatic promotion.  The midfield trio look particularly strong… our apparent pursuit of Jeff Hendrick always felt hopelessly optimistic, even before George Thorne’s horribly unfortunate injury – an excellent signing, that – removed McClaren’s potential conundrum in this area in picking three from an excellent four.  Lee Grant is a top keeper and there’s strength and leadership across the pitch.  Perhaps cover in certain areas is weak – centre-back most obviously, leaving Derby vulnerable to particular injuries or losses of form.  Nonetheless, one would expect them to be there or thereabouts.

FULHAM

INS: Ross McCormack (Leeds United, £11,000,000), Nikolay Bodurov (Litex Lovech, Undisclosed), Thomas Eisfeld (Arsenal, Undisclosed), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets, Undisclosed), Kay Voser (Basel, Undisclosed), Adil Chihi (Cologne, Free), Tim Hoogland (Schalke 04, Free), Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell, Free), Konstantinos Stafylidis (Bayer Leverkusen, Season Loan)

OUTS:  Ashkan Dejagah (Al Arabi, Undisclosed), Pajtim Kasami (Olympiakos, Undisclosed), Sascha Riether (SC Freiburg, Undisclosed), David Stockdale (Brighton and Hove Albion, Undisclosed), Derek Boateng (Rayo Vallecano, Free), Matthew Briggs (Millwall, Free), Damien Duff (Melbourne City, Free), Brede Hangeland (Crystal Palace, Free), John Heitinga (Hertha BSC Berlin, Free), Kieran Richardson (Aston Villa, Free), Steve Sidwell (Stoke City, Free), Mahamadou Diarra, Neil Etheridge, Georgios Karagounis, Darren Bent (Aston Villa, End of Loan), Lewis Holtby (Tottenham Hotspur, End of Loan), William Kvist (VfB Stuttgart, End of Loan)

OUR EX-COTTAGERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Alex Kacaniklic, Marcello Trotta

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 3-3 draw early in 2006/07 in which Ashley Young’s brace wasn’t enough to take the points with Heidar Helguson amongst the visitors’ scorers, and a less eventful 0-0 at Craven Cottage later in the campaign in which Tamas Priskin saw red late on.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Stekelenburg
Hoogland             Hutchinson      Amorebieta       Stafilydis
Kacaniklic      Eisfeld        Parker          David
McCormack    Rodallega

VERDICT: As strategies go, investing in experienced players always felt like a bit of a gamble.  Not really sustainable that, not even in the top flight and certainly not for a smaller top flight club like Fulham who, for all that they’ve done astonishingly well to spend 13 years in the highest tier were always only a bad appointment or an injury crisis away from a relegation scrap.   There were some very good top flight sides at Craven Cottage over the years too, of course, but the side that was relegated featured too many old players, past their best.  Not only does that cost you in terms of industry if not maintained carefully, it leaves you without a leg to stand on if and when you do make the drop.  I like Magath a lot but he’s got his work cut out here, effectively needing to formulate a new team from the debris of their relegation.  It helps somewhat that there are finally some kids emerging from what hasn’t been the most prolific production line in recent years, but whilst Magath has already shifted a lot of older players (Riether, Sidwell, Duff, Hangland, Karagounis, Diarra, Heitinga and Boateng are all the wrong side of 30) it’s interesting that he’s chosen to splash that eyecatching £11m (albeit “only” £7m up front) on Ross McCormack, who will be 28 before the end of the month.  If he gets them promoted it’ll be well worth it however old he is, but whilst he dragged a sorry team in his wake for much of last season he’ll need an awful lot more from his teammates to challenge.  The quality in the squad – including some impressive-looking recruits elsewhere – means that going straight back up is far from impossible, but there are a good number of strong teams in this division with less reinvention to do.  Seventh, after an iffy start.

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

INS: Joe Murphy (Coventry City, Free), Lee Peltier (Leeds United, Free), Radoslaw Majewski (Nottingham Forest, Season Loan)

OUTS: Chris Atkinson (Crewe Alexandra, Free), Peter Clarke (Blackpool, Free), Paul Mullin (Morecambe, Free), Keith Southern (Fleetwood Town, Free), Calum Woods (Preston North End, Free), Ian Bennett, Cristian Lopez, Anton Robinson

OUR EX-TERRIERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Jonathan Hogg, Ross Wilson (Director of Football Operations)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 2-1 win in Yorkshire in October in what was to be Gianfranco Zola’s last win in charge, and the grotesque, miserable capitulation on the final day of the season.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Smithies
Peltier        Gerrard       Lynch
Smith                 Hogg          Clayton            Dixon
Majewski
Vaughan             Wells

VERDICT: Just as it’s dangerous to extrapolate from a good end to a season and assume world domination in the following campaign (helloooo Ipswich), you can read too much into a poor end to a campaign.  For one thing, if an already bad run keeps trundling, changes are likely to be imposed from above with a view to arresting that decline.  Nonetheless, There’s cause to be a little concerned for Town fans on the back of 5 wins in their last 22 (including against our ghastly shambles).  Wells and Vaughan looks like a forward line that’s got enough about it to guarantee survival if nothing else, but the notoriously injury-prone target man has only once, by the age of 26, managed 30 appearances in a season and without him Wells has looked isolated in front of a pedestrian midfield whilst the defence is vulnerable to pace. There are a few kids coming through, but it’s significant that the Huddersfield messageboards are already nervously looking around for three weaker teams.  A tough season in store for the Terriers.

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Comments»

1. @popsider - 05/08/2014

Very fair & astute summary of Derby’s prospects this season.

To be fair, we had plenty of teams trying to shut up shop at home against us last season & McClaren has given some thought about how the deal with this better – Leon Best as cover/an alternative to Chris Martin up front & a more attacking right back in Cyrus Christie. Possibly even a change of formation to 442. We’ll see.
Your thoughts about centre back cover are quite prescient. Due to injury, a certain Craig Forsyth played there in the friendly against Rangers on Saturday.


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