Yokerbhoy hints at possibly more than just three points at stake as aberdeen head south for todays league clash.
COULD THIS BE THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR McINNES?
After our our tiring tussle on the Tynecastle quagmire the other night, we now meet a rather lacklustre Aberdeen side that appears to be slithering towards a dreary winter of discontent as they serve up one depressing display after another. There have been frequent angry mutterings reverberating around Pittodrie as attendances continue to dwindle game after game. A couple more disastrous results and fans could soon be calling for Derek’s head on a plate even if he’s been there for nearly 7 years now and under contract until 2022. It’s quite difficult to imagine old smiley getting the push but the ever-increasing panorama of red-coloured empty seats aroung the stadium tells its own story.
The dilemma of whether or not to stick or twist is probably going through the directors’ minds during these turbulent times in the Granite city. Do they avoid what Hearts are going through right now by leaving the Reds in a pair of safe and trusted hands that will continue to steer them to a regular top six finish, the odd cup final and more often than not a place in the Europa League preliminaries or do they show a bit more ambition by trying to entice a more dynamic young coach (possibly from England or even from the continent) to come in with refreshingly new ideas, shake things up, stop the rot setting in and try to take this sizeable club (by Scottish standards anyway) to a higher level? The risk involved would obviously be considerable bearing in mind the entity’s limited financial resources but if the current trend continues, who knows what might happen.
A quick glance at their basic league stats from the last 5 seasons suggests stagnation and even regression if you focus on the last 3 seasons. With practically half their games for this season already played, they’re on course for another 67-68 points and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up with less than that given the current run of things.
Aberdeen FC league positions and total points over the last 5 seasons:
Season 2014-15: Position: 2nd Total points: 75
Season 2015-16: Position: 2nd Total Points: 71
Season 2016-17: Position: 2nd Total points: 76
Season 2017-18: Position: 2nd Total Points: 73
Season 2018-19: Position: 4th Total points: 67
The product on view for the Dandies’ supporters has been loudly and repetitively criticised, several players haven’t shown signs of improvement during the last couple of years and the side has been incapable of making any kind of serious inroads when involved in European competition either. Their performance against Hamilton at home last weekend was dire to say the least as they managed to scrape a win through a flukey Cosgrove goal and they even parked the bus to keep the Accies at bay for the last half hour of play. They were torn to shreds by Hibs at Easter Road the week before and one wonders if their recent fighting draw at home to the huns and their fine 3-0 away win at Fir Park were just flashes in the pan, mere blips on an otherwise downward trajectory. It’ll be interesting to see how the men from the north-east fare as the rest of the season unfolds.
At crunch moments several of their players have looked positively sheepish, while on-loan headless chicken Jon Gallagher has managed to get himself relegated to the bench after a series of amateurish performances. Their goalie Joe Lewis has been passable but no great shakes while their defence has a physical presence but is slow and clumsy. Shane Logan’s level has dropped considerably while Welshman Ash Taylor has only recently taken over a CB role alongside McKenna but has only managed to get 3 games under his belt so far and is looking a bit shaky. Considine may take up the LB mantle and has bags of experience coupled with abundant aggression but his telling lack of pace would mean he simply wouln’t be able to cope with wee Jeremy down that flank. One of their few shining lights Greg Leigh, who is on loan from Breda, has been doing a decent job for the Dons in midfield but might be moved into his more natural LB position in an attempt to deal with the threat posed by Forrest and Frimpong. There is a slight doubt over him being fit for Saturday though.
Another very useful player for them is Belgian defensive midfield dynamo Funso Ojo, who has only recently returned from injury but Ferguson has been rather poor while fellow midfielder Hedges hasn’t been selected maybe as often as he should have despite great things being expercted of him at the beginning of the season. Aberdeen seem to depend too much on McGinn’s creativity and Cosgrove’s goalscoring prowess while a host of other players have been grossly underperforming week in week out. Young striker James Wilson, recently signed on a permanent deal from Man Utd, has notched up a total of 0 goals in 9 games while strength in depth continues to be a huge problem for the Grampian team. As far as back-up strikers go, their only option from the bench is ex-Well bruiser Curtis Main, who is no more than a poor man’s version of Cosgrove. Similar stature and he even looks a bit like him but with very limited overall ability.
This is how they might line up against us on Saturday afternoon:
Logan Taylor McKenna Leigh
Hedges Ojo Ferguson McGinn
In the Celtic camp at least there don’t appear to be any new injury issues after Wednesday night’s game, which is a pleasant surprise when you consider the way Hearts came at us with Madhun’s full backing, especially during the early stages of the game. Crap teams in general probably adapt to crap playing surfaces better than we do so glad to get that one over and done with.
What would be something of a concern though is all of this mystery surrounding Mikey Johnston’s absence. Having been our best player out in Romania the other week, albeit in a more unfamiliar nº 10 role, both he and Ryan Christie were completely left out of the side that faced Hibs last Sunday. Nothing much was announced, with big Ryan returning and firing on all cylinders in Edinburgh but once again the wee man was left out in the cold. Could this be down to a lack of match fitness or, worse still, a reccurrence of his previous injury? Did he simply need to be rested? I doubt very much that it was a tactical decision so it just seems more than a little strange that we’ve all been left in the dark about this one. Perhaps Lenny’s press conference later on will shed some light on the matter but that’ll be the first name I’ll be searching for when the provisional squad is announced. The only other unknown quantity as regards team selection will be who gets the nod to start at LB. There are no fewer than 3 strong options.
We know that Boli has been making a bit of an arse of in his recent appearances but is that because he needs a bit more time to get back to where he was before or is it, as some have suggested, that he simply isn’t good enough? Either way, I think he deserves some more opportunities and he might even feature against the Dons but I’ve a feeling that Lenny trusts Hayes more for the biggest games, which suggests the Irishman could well be his first choice in that position when we face the huns at the end of the month. To be honest, I don’t mind which one of the three is chosen for Saturday so I’ll go with Taylor as I’d like to see more of what he can bring to the team.
Elyounoussi probably won’t feature for us before the winter break while the length of Hatem’s lay-off has been a disappointment as I was hoping to see him back in contention again before now. We haven’t received a lot in the way of updates regarding big Jozo’s condition either. The scorer of that magical 67th header in Paradise against Killie that sewed up the league for us in May last played for us way back in late August and was expected back by January. Supposedly he underwent some surgery on his knee to remove unwanted tissue but his return would certainly give us more strength in depth at the back although he could find himself further down the pecking order if the club were to sign up a quality new CB during the transfer window. Once again the bhoys will be heading out to the expensive setting of Dubai for their winter holiday/training camp – I suppose there’ll be a healthy discount in there somewhere to reward such wonderful customer loyalty.
Returning to Saturday’s big match against the Dandies, it’ll be interesting to see what tactics McInness adopts. He’ll have the usual dilemma of whether to adopt a defensive approach or not but whatever happens, I’m pretty sure he’ll give his players full encouragement to close down spaces, stifle us and knock our players of their stride by whatever means. How Hearts played against us the other night during the first half hour of the game could be used as some sort of blueprint for their strategy but it’ll be difficult for them to maintain an aggressive high press on a much wider pitch with a good playing surface. Our players have to be ready to match them physically all over the park and even outmuscle them if necessary as we’re bound to see some kind of attempt to bully them off the ball. I just hope the referee and other match officials, whoever they might be, keep a grip of things and show some intent to improve the deplorable standards of officiating that we’ve been subjected to of late.
A couple of months ago we cut this Aberdeen side to ribbons at Pittodrie and I don’t see why we can’t do the same again this weekend. Having said that, they can still be dangerous on the counter as well as from set-pieces so they mustn’t be taken lightly. Nevertheless, their defence is not very mobile and notoriously slow to react when under serious pressure. Our midfielders and front runners have such good movement off the ball and such a high ability to pull off lightning quick intricate penetrating passes that we can really punish them, Some of our finishing was a bit off the boil the other night but if Big Ed and Jamesie Forrest hit top form we could be in for a joyous occasion.
Frimpong Jullien Ajer Taylor
Forrest Christie Johnston (if fit)
Subs: Gordon, Bauer, Bitton, Ntcham, Rogic, Hayes, Griffiths
Prediction: Tic 3 Sheep 0