Andrew Smith looks back at a Jekyll & Hyde beginning to the campaign for Aberdeen.
Adam Rooney remains one of the most reliable goal sources in the Scottish game. As a result, the Pittodrie club have been, in the main, a potent force going forward once more.
Granted, Rooney, who tends to play on his own through the middle, has had a couple of barren patches. And with nine goals, he is down on his 13 total at this stage last season.
Even on top form, Aberdeen rarely tend to biltz teams. However, across their 20 games this season, they have only failed to net in three.
Meanwhile, the forceful wing play of Johnny Hayes and Niall McGinn that has become somewhat variable is central to Aberdeen regrouping in their pursuit of second place.
The collapse of Aberdeen’s Premiership challenge can be traced to their defensive unit crumbling in pretty shocking fashion.
Across the eight straights wins that gave the club their best ever start to a league season, three goals were conceded. In the three defeats that followed as the the club began to slide on to a longest league winless run in three-and-a-half years, the Pittodrie men shipped in eight goals.
The form of central defensive pivot Ash Taylor appears to have faltered badly, with the - sometimes enforced - chopping and changing between Paul Quinn and Andrew Considine not helping. Mark Reynolds return to fitness should, though. Opponents think they can get at Aberdeen...it wasn’t that way six weeks ago.
A coterie of performers sparkled for Aberdeen in the earlier months of the season. Aberdeen then was a team in form with no passengers. So many of these same players have lost their lustre, with captain Ryan Jack and Taylor coming in for heavy criticism.
One player who has avoided the finger-pointing is Liverpool loanee goalkeeper Danny Ward. The 22-year-old Welshman has retained his confidence even as this has become fragile among those in front of him.
It seemed as if Derek McInnes could walk on water as his team opened the campaign with a sequence that bettered anything from the glorious Alex Ferguson era. It then seemed as if he was powerless to prevent his craft taking in water.
The last-time out defeat of Dundee United that ended a six-game winless sequence comprising five defeats - one of these a League Cup loss away to Hibs - has brought McInnes some breathing space.
However, he still faces the biggest test of his two-and-a-half year reign with Hearts now occupying a second place that the Pittodrie side’s budget ought to make them good for.
Must do better
It is not so much a case of Aberdeen doing things better but doing what they were across before those faultless earlier months. The drop-off from those heady times has been so precipitous that is appears as if the Pittodrie side had endured a monumental brain freeze.
They have certainly lost their way in the centre of the park, where they have failed to control games and build attacks as they were when all was going serenely. All departments of the team need a fillip - and that is where McInnes must earn his corn.