Over the summer, I produced the following graph, which looked at Derby’s points per game in the 2012/3 Championship, broken down by where the opponent finished in the league table: –
I think the graph demonstrates very clearly why we ended up finishing in 10th place. We were too good for the stragglers, usually much better than the strugglers, duked it out with those around us, but generally lost to the teams who finished above us (See http://www.derbycountyblog.com/points-per-game-2/ for more on last season’s PPG).
While we endure the latest international break, it seemed like a good time to produce an update on last summer’s graph, to see if the pattern for this season so far compares to last: –
Top Six P5 W0 D0 L5 Pts 0 PPG 0
7th – 12th P4 W3 D1 L0 Pts 10 PPG 2.50
13th – 18th P3 W0 D3 L0 Pts 3 PPG 1
Bottom Six P3 W3 D0 L0 Pts 9 PPG 3
I’ve said before that Nigel Clough was, in part, sacked by the fixture computer this season. At the time of his dismissal, we had lost to Leicester, Burnley, Reading and Forest – all of whom remain in the top six, along with QPR, the only side to inflict defeat on us under Steve McClaren. The Burnley result looked hideous at the time – and the goals conceded were dire – but viewed in the context of their incredible start to the season, it is at least now more understandable than it seemed on the day.
When playing those currently in the bottom six, we have been ruthless, scoring 11 goals in three games. However, the pattern is ruined for this season by the fact that we’ve managed only three draws against the teams currently 12th to 18th – Blackburn, Bolton (who will finish top half) and Birmingham.
So far, against the teams in and around us, we have been really good, beating Watford, Leeds and Brighton. Only that bizarre 4-4 draw with Ipswich spoils the otherwise perfect record against the teams currently placed 7th to 12th.
So, the early evidence suggests that, unless the squad is strengthened significantly, our season will probably not be too different from last year. We are easily better than those who are fighting against relegation, highly competitive against the mid-table outfits, but still a yard short of the very top echelon. Although the wins against Brighton and especially Watford suggest that we may have improved, I’d say that five league defeats out of five against the current top six proves beyond doubt that as it stands, we still aren’t quite good enough to challenge them over the whole season.
The question is – how the hell did Burnley break into that group and how do we do it in the future? Hopefully, between them, Rush, Evans, McClaren and his coaching staff have the answer.