A look at every team in the Ladbrokes Premiership and the areas of potential weaknesses that remained unattended on transfer deadline day.
Aberdeen - An outstanding centre-back
The one blot on Aberdeen’s summer window was the inability to undoubtedly improve their starting centre-back duo. Kari Arnason was heralded as such a recuit, but he hasn’t been seen since a hair-raising performance against Hamilton. As for deadline day pick-up Dominic Ball, the ex-Rangers man adds cover in defence and can operate at defensive midfield. However, unless he’s really improved in the last two years, we’re still talking about a player who failed to break up the Rob Kiernan-Danny Wilson partnership at Rangers. Ball improves the squad as a whole, but fans were hoping for a player in central defence of similar pedigree as some of those they’ve recruited in attack - Greg Stewart, Stevie May, Ryan Christie etc.
Celtic - Cover at centre-back
Celtic look set to go into their opening Champions League group match with PSG - the team boasting a possible attacking three of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani - with Nir Bitton at centre-back. Brendan Rodgers may spin such a reality as bad luck due to injury, but all three of Celtic’s starting centre-backs have had injury issues within their time at the club. Ultimately he went out and recruited another striker due to Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths being similarly prone to picking up knocks and strains, so it was a surprise there was no contingency plan in place when the deal for Rivaldo Coetzee fell through.
Dundee - Cover at left-midfield
Scott Allan has been filling in at the position with Randy Wolters out through injury. And while the situation could be sorted by the Dutchman’s return, Dundee fans are already sceptical he’ll manage to live up to the hype which greeted his transfer from Go Ahead Eagles, judging by his early showings. If he can’t improve his level of performance then Neil McCann will have a problem on his hands, as sitting on the left of a midfield four may not be the best way to utilise Allan’s strengths as a talismanic central playmaker.
Hamilton - A target man
Botti Biabi and Antonio Rojano filled Hamilton’s glaring need for a striker or two, but they’ve still not replaced like-for-like following the departure of Alex D’Acol. The Brazilian was one of the best players in the Scottish Premiership for holding up play and linking with the midfield, which was key in utilising the goalscoring threat of Ali Crawford from midfield. It remains a skill still to be mastered by Rakish Bingham, Steven Boyd or Botti Biabi, while new signing Antonio Rojano has been described as a “poacher” by boss Martin Canning.
Hearts - A natural winger
Manuel Milinkovic has arrived on loan from Genoa. The 23-year-old has been described as a winger, which does fill the glaring need on paper. However, like Jamie Walker, the Serbian naturally likes to drift inside to attack. While such a tendency certainly has its upside, this is a Hearts team badly lacking in natural width. Sometimes you need a wide player to hug the touchline so things don’t become congested in the centre.
Hibs - Left-back competition
This was the hardest one in the list. At present, the Hibs squad seems perfectly balanced. There are four fine centre-backs, plenty of variety in midfield, and forwards who each bring something to the table. Even at full-back they have Steven Whittaker, who has operated on both the left and right side across his career. The only reason this writer has gone for left-back is because, in the past, fans have mistrusted Lewis Stevenson at the position, with many believing he’s a natural midfielder who’s been shoehorned into defence because he’s left-footer. Even then, he’s the club’s reigning Player of the Year, so it’s difficult to be harsh and insist Hibs seek an upgrade.
Kilmarnock - A quality centre midfielder
It’s been a problem position for Kilmarnock so far this season. Summer signing Alan Power has yet to show himself capable of performing in the Scottish top flight, while injury issues have robbed Lee McCulloch of star performers Greg Kiltie and Gary Dicker. Starting midfield combinations including the likes of Chris Burke, Rory McKenzie and Adam Frizzell have been overrun, and while Steven Smith’s return eased the issue last week, the 32-year-old former full-back does have a history of injury issues himself. Though Dicker and Kiltie’s return would ease McCulloch’s woes, it’s a gamble to expect them both to hit the ground running after a lengthy spell out. Also, Kiltie may be needed to cover out wide if Jordan Jones or Dom Thomas suffer a loss of form or injury misfortune themselves.
Motherwell - Left-sided cover
For the meantime Motherwell seem pretty set at all positions and, behind Hibs, this “need” was the second biggest stretch. That doesn’t mean it isn’t without some merit, though. Alex Fisher and Craig Tanner have both featured at left midfield so far this season in a deputising role for Elliott Fear, but neither looked particularly comfortable. Further back, Charles Dunne appears at his best as a left-sided centre-half in a back three rather than a left-back, while 35-year-old Steven Hammell is coming to the end of his career.
Partick Thistle - Left-back cover
Thistle’s signing of Paul McGinn on deadline day was rather strange. The 26-year-old is a fine player at this level, which he proved at Dundee, but his addition means Thistle take their right-back tally to four players (along with Christie Elliott, Mustapha Dumbuya and Milan Nitriansky) while there remains only one senior left-back (Callum Booth). As McGinn is an attacking full-back who likes to get forward, it’s hard to imagine him starting from the left.
Rangers - Another option up front
Rangers have three senior strikers, which is a bit of an issue because Pedro Caixinha has favoured two-man strikeforces so far this campaign, leaving them a little light on depth. Ironically, even though a switch to a one-striker formation would negate such a problem, it’s unclear whether any of those three would suit playing on their own. Alfredo Morelos has thrived alongside another striker to run off, scoring five goals in his last four games after failing to impress against Progres Niederkorn as the lone striker. Elsewhere in the ranks, fellow new signing Eduardo Herrera may not have the pace for the role, and it’s a lot to ask of 37-year-old Kenny Miller. They could also have done with another option at left-midfield.
Ross County - A left winger
The only senior wide midfielders in the County squad are Michael Gardyne and Ryan Dow, with Jim O’Brien seemingly having been converted into a centre midfielder since his days on the Fir Park flank. Even then, both of Dow and Gardyne aren’t your typical chalk-on-the-boots, terrorise-the-full-back kind of wingers. Gardyne likes to get his crosses in early, while Dow tends to drift inside to support through the centre. A Jordan Jones type, someone quick capable of taking on defenders, would have given County a dimension that they currently lack.
St Johnstone - Experienced centre-back cover
If Steven Anderson or Joe Shaughnessy suffer a short-term injury then Saints can plug in one of their promising young centre-backs Liam Gordon or Ally Gilchrist for the odd game or two. A long-term injury, or both players been absent, and Tommy Wright’s side would really have a problem. The departure of Tam Scobbie left them needing to fill back-up slots at both left-back and centre-half. The left has been sorted in the form of Scott Tanser’s arrival as deputy to Brian Easton, but the youngsters have been left to plug the gaps in the centre. This has been done deliberately by Wright, who wants the young lads to step up to the mark, but it’s a big gamble nonetheless.