Another tough season for Aberdeen is set to get underway this Sunday and this is my review of the potential the Dons have in the upcoming months.
It was a tough summer for Derek McInnes’ men after losing two key attacking figures in Johnny Hayes as well as Niall McGinn, who moved to Asia. However, the signings of Greg Stewart and Gary Mackay-Steven can certainly be argued to have at least lessened the gap at a minimum. It is as yet unclear if they can produce enough quality to make up for the big losses on either side of the main striker but the players are more than good enough to step up into the Dons’ side and these two signings have certainly been impressive on paper after the early summer blow for the Aberdeen fans in losing such influential players.
With Neil Alexander and Aaron Lennox leaving the club, it has gifted Danny Rogers an opportunity to fight for his place alongside experienced shot-stopper Joe Lewis. After two impressive seasons on-loan with Falkirk, I feel Rogers is more than good enough to compete at this level and Aberdeen have lost no quality in that area of the pitch.
Tying Shay Logan down on a longer contract was a great piece of business. However, the loss of Ash Taylor is maybe the hardest thing on Derek McInnes’ shopping list this summer. The signing of Kari Arnason will bring good experience to the Dons ranks and will add competition for the Centre-Back position with Anthony O’Connor, Mark Reynolds and Andrew Considine, however, it is my belief that Aberdeen still require a more natural defender to complete this area of the squad. Of course, they do have youngster Scott McKenna and he may well be the answer – but – he has struggled to get game time over the past few seasons despite being on the periphery of the squad and this may be a big season for the 20-year-old.
I am more intrigued, to be honest, to see the progress of Scott Wright and Daniel Barvie. After making a positive impact at the end of last season, Wright has surely put himself firmly into the first-team plans after fleeting appearances over the past couple of seasons, whereas, Harvie got his first taste of competitive action last season on-loan with Dumbarton and by all accounts done extremely well. The full-back can cover either side of the park and will provide good cover for the Premiership side in the campaign ahead.
Looking at the middle of the park and Ryan Jack is the obvious loss; the former Aberdeen captain will be difficult to replace but with the versatility of O’Connor and Arnason, as well as the addition of Greg Tansey, I feel that area of the park has been strengthened in depth and will be more than capable of now being able to replace the hard-working midfielder.
The return of loanee Ryan Christie will also bolster the ranks and despite the loss of Peter Pawlett to MK Dons, I don’t think the club from the North of Scotland will notice with the former Inverness man possessing more quality and, again, I feel that Aberdeen have improved this area of the field.
Cammy Smith and Lawrence Shankland are the final two to have departed this summer, without being able to force their way into any kind of first-team action over the past campaign and this will not really affect the Dons in any way. To have replaced these players with an experienced and proven striker in Nicky Maynard can only be of the benefit to McInnes’ side with the Englishman set to fight it out with Adam Rooney and Jayden Stockley for a place up front.
Overall, I feel that Aberdeen have strengthened their squad overall and despite some lofty departures over the close-season, the replacements Derek McInnes has brought in over the summer has shown the ambition of the Dons as well as their current attractve proposition. The Pittodrie club will be up there challenging Celtic, I have no doubt, but the consistency of Brendan Rogers’ side over the length of the season will be the ultimate difference. A good start to the season and you never know what can happen, but, I suspect a battle for second is the likely outcome.
In terms of the squad, I feel that the only question mark hangs over the future of Miles Storey. He has been unable to make an impact since joining 12 months ago and McInnes may feel cutting his losses to improve other areas of the squad. I feel from middle to front, the Dons are really strong – I haven’t even mentioned Graeme Shinnie or Kenny McLean before now and that shows the calibre of player available. However, as I have touched on previously, I think the defence is the main area to improve over the last few weeks of the Transfer Window. If funds are available, I would say an experienced Centre-Back and possibly another full-back to take the pressure off Daniel Harvie slightly are the only positions still requiring some movement but, so, far, I don’t think Aberdeen fans can complain with the squad McInnes and his backroom team have been able to comprise with the league opener on the horizon.