Promotion through the playoffs is never ideal for teams.Firstly,they are about a fortnight behind the automaticly promoted teams in terms of squad strengthening.The semi knockout nature of the playoffs also means that the strongest team from season long campaign is far from guaranteed to progress.60% of previous playoff winners had failed to breach the 40 point barrier usually considered the benchmark for EPL survival.
Derby at least ensured that the Championship's third best side followed Sunderland and Birmingham into the top flight,but their squad strengthening was restriced to two forwards,Rob Earnshaw during the close season and Kenny Miller a month into their EPL career and a defender,Claud Davis.The combined cost,just over £9 million.
The Rams,fielding 8 players from the playoff win over WBA led 1-0 five minutes into their opening EPL match against Portsmouth.Pompey had finished top ten the previous year and as such presented a good benchmark for where the East Midlands team stood.The fans could be forgiven for thinking that "things don't get much better than this". Unfortunately,things were going to quickly get worse......alot worse.
That first game ended 2-2,was followed by a narrow defeat at Manchester City and a much more comprehensive one at Spurs.By the time Liverpool's six goals inflicted their 4th defeat in five games,Paddy Power's marketing department had smelt blood and promptly paid out on Derby's relegation.
A solitary win came 16 days later,by a single goal over Newcastle.The game was played on a Monday,meaning that Derby went the entire season without winning on a Saturday.Davies was sacked in mid November,followed rapidly by the departure of a fair proportion of the board.His replacement was Paul Jewel,battle hardened at Wigan,but incapable of pulling Derby out of a death spiral that became steadily steeper as 2007 progressed into 2008.
Every undesirable record was etched into the Rams' record books.Least EPL points,11;least wins,1;least goals scored,20;most defeats,29,worst goal difference,-69;first team to be officially relegated before April and they only escaped conceeding the most goals because Ipswich's 94/95 side played a 42 game season.
To help understand why Derby failed so abysmally to cope with their brief Premership existence I've charted their Expected Points tally for a point during each of their EPL games that season.I've chosen the scoring of the first goal as the reference points and calculated the expected number of points Derby on average should have gained from that position.As a reminder,Expected Points for any game situation are derived from the win and draw probability associated with each team at that particular moment in the game.
Expected Points where Derby Opened the Scoring in 2007/2008.
|Home Team.||Away Team.||Time of Goal.||Derby's EP |
Derby opened the scoring in just 9 of their 38 league games that season.An average team,scoring first will avoid defeat in around 80% of those games,Derby did so just 66% of the time.Only once did the actual points they gained from the match exceed the EP the opening goal had taken them to.Evaluating Derby from their Championship results and increasingly their EPL results as the season progressed,they should have been able to gain about 15 points when leading in those 9 games,instead they got only 8.Not a season defining difference,but an indication of how Derby just kept on deteriorating with time.They rarely scored first and they almost never used the advantage that scoring first imparts to a team to kick on.Only Newcastle failed to retrieve at least a point when they fell behind to an opening goal scored by Derby.
Expected Points When Derby Conceded the Opening Goal. 2007/08.
|Home Team.||Away Team.||Time of Goal.||Derby's EP |
If Derby's record when scoring first was below par,their record when conceding was dreadful.They fell behind on 27 occasions,allowing opening goals ranging from the first to the last minute,but they managed to peg back just one team,namely Birmingham.Yet again their decline was so precipitous that historical results couldn't factor their true awfulness with any degree of accuracy.They should,on average have claimed a feeble 5 points once they fell behind from a possible 81.They got only 1.
Derby's horror year saw them produce a goal difference of -69 or -1.8 per game.A Championship team usually sees it's goal difference decline by around a goal a game when making the jump in class to the Premiership.So Derby's goal difference from their previous Championship season of +0.35 should have only declined to -0.65 indicating a likely points haul of about 40 points.They should have been likely relegation candidates,but they shouldn't have slumped as badly as they did.
Their only win also gives a hint at where they failed to give themselves the best possible chance to survive or at least avoid humiliation.Any Derby victory in 2007/08 would have been considered an upset and if you're going to see an upset it's most likely to occur in a low scoring game.Over the last 5 EPL seasons in games where only one goal was scored,the average Expected Points for the winning team at kickoff was 1.6.By contrast the average starting EP for winning teams where 5 or more goals were scored was 1.9.In short,poorer teams are more likely to win low scoring games than they are higher scoring ones.If Derby wanted to give themselves the best possible chance in the EPL they should have spent more of their limited funds on defenders and less on strikers.
To summarise,the Rams made poor use of their admittedly limited finances before making their squad strengthening purchases.They should have bought defenders instead of forwards,both for immediate results and for better resale value.But ultimately their poor Expected Points record after a game's opening goal and their large average goal difference per game disparity compared to the previous season,indicates that they were one of the few professional teams to throw in the towel,both during games and over the season as a whole.