What we have learned about the 12 Premiership clubs - title favourites, Rangers priority, St Mirren's defence

The Scottish Premiership returns this weekend after a two-week hiatus which saw Scotland gain the seven points required to win their Nations League group and earn a place in Pot 2 for Euro 2024 qualifying.

Focus turns back to the nitty gritty, the bread and butter, the crazy world of Scottish top-flight football in what is going to be a hectic and intense period of football with clubs playing up to nine games in October alone.

To look forward it requires a period of reflection and to look back. Before Hearts and Rangers get the action underway at Tynecastle Park on Saturday afternoon, here is a brief cheat sheet on all 12 Premiership clubs, from top to bottom, and what we have learned so far this season:


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Don’t let the St Mirren result prior to the international break fool you. Ange Postecoglou's side are the dominant team in the Premiership and are still favourites for the league title. They have more fluidity and energy than rivals Rangers. You can look at how they dominate possession (nearly 70 per cent share), how they are such an attacking threat (xG 17.6, shots on target per match 8.1, big chances created 20, goals per match 3.6) but it’s the 0.4 goals conceded per match which is perhaps most impressive. Their attacking intensity is their best form of defence.


In the Champions League clash with Napoli, the team which started the game featured nine players who were with the club in 2019 and no summer signings. Both Tom Lawrence (injured) and Antonio Colak (second-half substitute) have started positively having been added in the summer but this is a Rangers team in need of regeneration, with need for more vibrancy and pace. Eleven players are out of contract at the end of the campaign but right now they have yet to play anywhere near their best.


Celtic have the upper hand in the title race so far. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Celtic have the upper hand in the title race so far. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Celtic have the upper hand in the title race so far. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Going into the international break in third place having been inconsistent with results and performances and combining domestic duties with Europe is huge, especially when you consider injuries. But what Hearts have now in Lawrence Shankland is a proven goalscorer who, even when he or the team is not playing at their best, can produce. He will be the first Hearts player to hit 20 goals in a season since John Robertson in the early 90s.

St Mirren

The Buddies may just be the hardest team to play against. That is the case when they get ahead in the match as Celtic and Hibs have found out. Stephen Robinson has recruited very shrewdly and developed an identity. They defend deep, often dropping into a back five but they have energy throughout the team and ambition with the ball. In Curtis Main and Jonah Ayunga they have two battering rams up front. Only Celtic have kept more clean sheets.


Hearts' Lawrence Shankland has started the season with six goals.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Hearts' Lawrence Shankland has started the season with six goals.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Hearts' Lawrence Shankland has started the season with six goals. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Beware Livingston's left-hand side (even if they attack more down their right-hand side). In Cristian Montano and Joel Nouble the West Lothian outfit have a duo that can cause absolute havoc. The former is one of the most improved players from last season. Despite playing left-back where he can gallop onto the ball and provide real width, he has scored the winning goal in three games. As for Nouble. A nightmare for defences to play against. He isn’t the quickest but he is one of the strongest and most skilful forwards who carries the ball so well and you can't get it off of him. If he adds goals to his game, be afraid, be very afraid.


It is still difficult to get a read on Lee Johnson and his side. They have proven themselves more than capable of staying in the game and scoring late on, while they have also benefited from opposition getting red cards. However, they are better than last season and a hell of a lot more fun to watch than they were under Shaun Maloney. Johnson has still to get his best XI on the pitch consistently, when he does expect Hibs to put a run together and will have far too much attacking talent for opposing teams to handle.


St Mirren have been one of the surprise packages of the season.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
St Mirren have been one of the surprise packages of the season.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
St Mirren have been one of the surprise packages of the season. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Like Hibs, they have improved from last season. Although that is not saying all that much. The Dons are a much better team on the front foot when teams sit off of them. That was witnessed in their two most convincing victories. Livingston and St Mirren started well at Pittodrie before going to ten men. Aberdeen then dominated and made light work of their opposition when other teams may have struggled. They can score goals but the other side of the game, winning ugly, needs to be developed. No team from first to ninth have conceded more goals.


The Steelmen may be sitting eighth but there is no question Stevie Hammell has made them a much more appealing team to watch. Graham Alexander did a good job in terms of where they were when he took over and where he left them but the football wasn’t good. Hammell has transformed the team and players have spoken of their intention to get on the ball more. The good news is they are creating more chances but the bad news is they are very wasteful. No team has missed more big chances (13).

St Johnstone

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You really feared for St Johnstone coming into the season. They had lost their best and most important players from last season. A season which saw them survive through the play-off. The recruitment was far from inspiring and they failed to get out of the Premier Sports Cup group stage. Yet, there are signs of life. Alex Mitchell has been totemic at the back. While it’s had plenty of doubters and rightly so, at the moment, the back three may be Saints best chance of success and survival. There is a nice balance between Mitchell, Ryan McGowan and Andy Considine. When everyone is fit it could allow Callum Davidson to evolve the team. But baby steps.

Ross County

It appears Malky Mackay is still working out his best blend in the final third of the pitch. Ross Laidlaw, Ross Callachan, Ben Purrington, Jack Baldwin and Alex Iacovitti are all pretty set in the County XI. Beyond that players are rotated and shuffled, partly due to fitness and injury, but with key forwards Regan Charles-Cook and Joseph Hungbo having departed and a number of options arriving they Staggies have a look of a team still figuring one another out, getting the right balance and building up relationships. Best summed up by their averages goals per match dropping from 1.2 to 0.6.


If there is one team who are not going to excite and enthral this season it is the side from Rugby Park. Derek McInnes openly admitted the difficulty of recruitment this campaign with much of the responsibility falling on his shoulders. The club have added Russ Richardson as recruitment manager and Greig Thomson as senior analyst. Both used to work at Aberdeen. The club only have three players contracted beyond the end of the season. A real McInnes Kilmarnock team won't likely be seen until the next campaign. Between now and then it is about consolidation and to do that they will be hard to beat because they lack certain qualities in attack, pace for one. No team has scored fewer. They have the worst conversion rate in the league and average the second fewest shots on target.

Dundee United

A lot of the Tannadice club's summer work was met with approving nods. Jack Ross appeared an upgrade on Tam Courts, while they retained Dylan Levitt, beat off competition for Jamie McGrath and added two Australian internationals, Craig Sibbald and Steven Fletcher. The idea was to evolve stylistically. Yet, the team was too unbalanced to do so. New boss Liam Fox has reverted to the tried and trusted that worked under Courts. United need another transfer window or two to fix the structural issues with no defensive midfielder causing system problems.



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