Date: 14th June 2015 at 7:24pm
Written by:

Can you believe it? It’s “half time” already in our shortened break and the Europa League is only 3 weeks away!

So much about last season was good: record ever points total, great consistency, much improved home record, ability to win tight games, taking the title race to 4 games out, 21 points from 21 in Highland ‘derbies’, a record breaking defensive effort from November to January, our main striker just short of 30 goals, the signings of Taylor, McLean & Shinnie. We were relatively free of injuries (was this the result of our new fitness regime or just luck?) And, probably best of all, the achievement of winning the Development League- we now have a bunch of young prospects that not just have talent but know how to win.

And the icing on the cake was provided just this week with the news of contract extensions signed by the boss and the Doc.
However, despite all of this:

We still finished 17 points behind Celtic- due almost totally to the head to heads. The Dons had good spells in all of these games yet couldn’t push home our advantage while on top

· We were lauded for comfortably being ‘the best of the rest’ but in the same way as Celtic did to us, taking 12 points from ICT was the key factor in this. The fact that Caley finished ten points behind us actually means they took more points from ‘other teams’ than we did.

· Our Cup efforts were disappointing. Despite one of our best displays of the year, we contrived to lose to Dundee and find ourselves out of the Scottish Cup before December (surely the SFA has to review the timings?)

· Yet again, we didn’t really “turn up” in a semi-final. Yes, you could argue that Dundee Utd were lucky to win but Aberdeen didn’t really do enough. There still seems to be an apprehension about us on these occasions- and our recent record in semis reads 7 defeats from 8.

· These previous two points highlight that Tayside was a real bogey region for us in the season just gone and results (P:14 W:4 D:4 L:6) in these ‘derbies’ need to improve
What then, are our potential areas for improvement; those marginal things that, taken together, could make the difference between a good and a great season?

· Firstly, we must add a goalkeeper with the ability to dominate their area and take the pressure off the defence.

· Do we make it too easy for the opposition to ‘crowd’ our ‘keeper and defenders at corners and free kicks? Surely with the pace we possess and our counter-attacking abilities we should look to keep at least one (or more) players up field with the dual effect of unblocking our penalty area and being able to initiate attacks from initial clearances instead of the ball coming straight back in.

· Mark Reynolds is a top defender but not a natural leader. (Is it a coincidence that his form, although good, was not as outstanding as in 2013-14?). Should Shinnie be appointed as Captain? Linked to this?

· We suffered an incredible amount of poor refereeing decisions, some of which cost us in key games but do we make it easy for officials not to give things our way? Led by the captain, the team collectively needs to be ‘in the faces’ of the referee and assistants to consistently keep them under pressure. This rarely happened last season. [Contrast this to 2013-14. Specifically I reference the New Year’s Day game at Tannadice. Despite being the better side in the first 50 minutes, we conceded a soft goal from a corner. All of a sudden, the home team and crowd were ‘up’. Previous Dons sides might have crumbled. However, our senior players took control, influenced the indecisive referee, won some 40:60 decisions and took the three points]

· Although it is to be applauded winning tight games, we need to take the pressure off by winning more matches more comfortably. With this in mind…

· Our set pieces lack imagination and execution. This has to be a key training priority.

· And from open play, there were far too many instances of shots being snatched or mishit and headers poorly timed. Do we have anyone on the backroom team skilled in working with our attacking players to improve this? (Could Eric Black be asked to provide a masterclass in heading for goal?)

· Although he still managed 7 goals, Peter Pawlett had much less influence on games than in the previous season. His body shape seemed to have changed and he had lost some of his pace off the mark. He needs to get this back.

· The long awaited new training facilities should also provide a significant advantage once in use- hopefully mid-season?….

And let’s hope that we can keep all of the current squad motivated and happy at the Club for at least a couple more years (following the example of the manager) to see if we can really realise our ambition and potential. Specifically, Shay Logan who has been an excellent signing but may be unsettled living away from his family.

COYR/ HERE WE GO……..

Written by Russell Borthwick.

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