Willie Miller: I’m delighted by Aberdeen form, but tough test awaits
It’s been quite a month for Aberdeen fans. Four wins on the trot have included a 7-2 mauling of Motherwell, and late delight on the road for the Dons’ travelling supporters in Kilmarnock and Dingwall.
Here’s why I think it’s been going so well, but why the players at Pittodrie can’t get complacent, with a deceptively tricky away day on the horizon…
Dons winning run has shown all their attributes…but it’s been no surprise
Aberdeen’s recent four-game winning run hasn’t come as any surprise to me. I’ve been championing them all season. I’ve said all along that they’re comfortably the second-best side in the country, and Derek McInnes has a fine squad at his disposal.
What’s impressed me most in that run has been their forward play. In the 7-2 victory over Motherwell, a lot of Aberdeen’s attacking play was exhilarating to watch.
Their resolve has also been very pleasing. In the game at Rugby Park, they were 1-0 down against a Kilmarnock team who were playing extremely well, but the Dons somehow managed to produce a turnaround and win 2-1.
They’ve got a lot of grit and determination to pull out results, even when they’re not at their best, and the opposition are making it very difficult for them.
Thank Derek for dynamic late shows
Late goals have been a hallmark of that recent form, with five goals beyond the 80-minute mark during those four wins. A large part of that is obviously down to fitness, and also the squad having the right mentality.
But the manager deserves a lot of credit as well. He’s made some absolutely key substitutions. The two goalscorers away at Killie last weekend, Jayden Stockley and Peter Pawlett, both came off the bench. Same in the Partick Thistle game [a 2-0 victory]. Both Dons goals came via subs – so Derek deserves great credit for that.
Aberdeen too good to be pipped for second spot
If you’re looking at it logically, it’s hard to see Aberdeen giving up second spot. Rangers currently find themselves managerless, and struggling for any real form, with just one win in their last six Ladbrokes Premiership games.
If they bring in the right guy to replace Mark Warburton, then I can definitely see them picking up – but I don’t think they have enough to catch Aberdeen. They’ve got the second-best squad in the country. I’ve said that all season, and I think that will be reflected in their position at the end of the campaign.
Classy Christie is already lighting up Pittodrie
Ryan Christie is a young player with tons of enthusiasm. He’s developed physically as well, since joining Celtic in 2015, which I think has given him plenty of confidence. Ryan can create a bit of magic as well – you saw that in the brilliant goal he scored against Motherwell in the 7-2 win.
Of course he’s still learning the game, and there are areas where he can improve, but he’s already made a significant impact in a very short time at Pittodrie, and there’s no doubt he has a bright future ahead.
Aberdeen don’t need to add experience… their youth products are the future
Every outfield player in the Aberdeen squad may be under 30, but I don’t think they need to look at bringing in more experienced players. For me, the young guys currently at Pittodrie are learning on the job and have really impressed me this season.
The other thing is that you’ve got so many players in the squad who’ve come through the youth team and understand the Aberdeen way. Andrew Considine just played his 300th league game for the Dons, and he’s now signed a new contract. You’ve also got Ryan Jack who’s captain, and came through the development setup with the club.
You’ve got guys who are becoming really quite senior pros, even though they’re not yet 30. Ash Taylor, Shay Logan, Niall McGinn etc. So I think the suggestion that they might need to buy a few more experienced guys doesn’t hold much water.
I’m sure Derek McInnes would like to bring in a few new faces in the next transfer window, but I don’t see too many weak areas in the current crop he’s got – and I also don’t think they need to be looking for older pros to add to the squad.
Staggies should be seen off, but Hamilton trip could prove a stumbling block
I think Aberdeen will take the Staggies at Pittodrie. History shows they normally do – they’ve won five of the last six against County at home.
The confidence and belief Aberdeen are playing with now means they must be firm favourites to secure a victory at Pittodrie.
Hamilton away is a tougher test. It’s a midweek game, and the Dons lost 1-0 on a Tuesday night at New Douglas Park back in November. In fact, Aberdeen have got a pretty poor record there, so it would be foolish to suggest they’ll get an easy ride – even with Hamilton struggling for points this term.
If Aberdeen are at their best, I’d still expect them to get the win there, but past history suggests it won’t be easy.
And as for next season…
I think Celtic are too far ahead under Brendan Rodgers for Aberdeen to mount a genuine title challenge next season, but the aim will be on trying to cut this season’s gap – and I think that’s something they can and will do.
The focus will mainly be on the battle for second place next season. I think Rangers and Heart of Midlothian will both be stronger next time out, and it looks like we’ll have Hibernian back in the top-flight. And I think that could be a really exciting tussle to watch.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing