Aberdeen in focus: Besuijen, defence improvements, Goodwin's stamp - what we can expect v Peterhead

Last season was a disaster for Aberdeen. Their tenth-place finish was the lowest in 18 years. As for their points tally of 41, the Dons hadn’t recorded fewer since that same 2003/04 season.

Defensively, they managed just six clean sheets in 47 games in all competitions. They were bundled out of both cup competitions early and failed at the last stage of qualifying for the Conference League. Unsurprisingly, the man who started the season in the Pittodrie hotseat – Stephen Glass – was not the man who finished in the position – Jim Goodwin.

For the Aberdeen fans, it was a very, very frustrating year of football from a watching brief. The end of the Derek McInnes era was in part brought about by diminishing performances on the field – five top three placings were followed by three fourth-place finishes – and a difficult style of football to watch. Under Glass it was meant to be more exciting, more entertaining. In turn, it became sterile, predictable and the team were far too easy to play against. They were not a side to get you off your seat.

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As for Goodwin, after making the move from St Mirren he couldn’t steer the club into the top six and as he planned ahead to the next season made big, and what some view as controversial calls, namely allowing Andy Considine to leave.

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Reshaped squad

After a season like that tough decisions were required and the Irishman has spent the summer reshaping the team, getting them into a position where they can play with more intensity and aggression.

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Ylber Ramadani was added from MTK Budapest early on. For supporters progress seemed slow on the recruitment front. Then Calvin Ramsay was sold to Liverpool for a club record sale which in turn saw a raft of new recruits arrive. In total there have been six new additions.

Frustratingly for Goodwin, neither Ramadani or Bojan Miovski, signed for around £500,000 from MTK Budapest, are likely to be involved against Peterhead in the Premier Sports Cup group stage clash on Sunday due to a wait over a visa and passport.

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Jim Goodwin has had a summer to overhaul his squad. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)

The fact the Dons start their campaign by slumming it in the group stage of the League Cup feeds into the disaster that was last season. After eight consecutive years of European qualification they missed out in the one year where a third place finish earned group stage football. A humbling situation but one which should provide inspiration to get back to the upper echelons of the Premiership.

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New look defence

Now, to Sunday. The first televised game of the SPFL season as Aberdeen travel to Balmoor to face Peterhead. The Dons have already won friendlies against Buckie Thistle and Brechin City and spent time in Spain but there is no substitute for the real thing.

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Looking at how the Dons could line up, Goodwin has a big decision early on. Who starts in goals? Club stalwart Joe Lewis or new signing Kelle Roos. You could easily envisage a situation where both goalkeepers play two matches in the group stage in what could be a contest for the No.1 spot.

Vicente Besuijen has impressed during pre-season, in both games and training. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)
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For this encounter, the experience of Lewis in Scottish football should see him start despite not hitting his highest level across the past two seasons.

In front of him will be a new look defence. Jayden Richardson is a stick-on for the right-back position having been brought in as Ramsay's replacement. He is a different profile to the new Liverpool star, bringing pace and power to the flank.

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Liam Scales will be the left-sided centre-back. Goodwin is a big fan of the on-loan Celtic defender who is a very assured presence and can step forward with the ball. His partner will likely be Anthony Stewart rather than David Bates who conceded a penalty during the win over Brechin in midweek.

Another new arrival who has impressed early on, Stewart will bring experience, strength and a steadiness to the defence.

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Anthony Stewart is expected to help improve the Aberdeen defence. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)

As for left-back, Jack MacKenzie is currently out injured, which impacted teenager Mason Hancock whose loan move to Arbroath was called off.

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Midfield questions

The identity of left-back on Sunday could depend on Connor Barron and Lewis Ferguson’s availability. The latter was given extra time off, while both were absent for the recent friendly.

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If one or both are available, it would likely see Jonny Hayes dropping to left-back which could be his role going forward. If not, Hancock could get the nod having looked at ease against Brechin.

With Ramadani, Barron and Ferguson all potentially missing on Sunday, Dante Polvara and Matty Kennedy could be given central roles in a 4-2-3-1, Goodwin’s preferred formation.

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Polvara, the American signed in January, has yet to make an impact but is mobile, strong and keen to progress the game. Similar to Ross McCrorie who is a certainty to start at the base of midfield. That's where the former Rangers player is best, using his athleticism to get around the pitch, engaging opponents and driving the ball forward.

Besuijen’s time to shine

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That will give Aberdeen a strong base. Hayes on one wing with Vicente Besuijen on the other flank. The Dutchman has looked brilliant in pre-season. He's better playing off the left as he showed against Brechin, moving infield, connecting with other forward players and dribbling at opponents. This is going to be a big season for the January signing who could easily hit double figures for both goals and assists.

If it is Hayes and Besuijen wide, Kennedy can operate in his favoured central attacking role. It's not quite worked for him at Pittodrie but he is a player Goodwin likes and is hopefully over a back issue. He can create and score from that position.

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That leaves Christian Ramirez to lead the line. There is still talk over his future, but more mobility around him and players connecting with him will bring out the best in the American.

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