Joel Sked breaks down the season thus far for every team in our series of Ladbrokes Premiership mid-term report cards.
The Dons are well placed for a third successive second-place finish after a run of three wins going into the winter break. The high of the season so far has been a dramatic late-win over Rangers at a raucous Pittodrie with starlet James Maddison netting a fantastic free-kick. There was a familiar hard-luck story in Europe as Aberdeen fell to Maribor despite being the better side over two-legs.
While the Europa League campaign was good, a defeat to opposition from Lichtenstein is never acceptable. A 1-0 reverse at Fola Esch saw the Dons hanging on to qualification. An early season 4-1 loss at Celtic Park was an early signal that there would be no title challenge from the north. Derek McInnes’ position came under scrutiny following an inert Betfred Cup final defeat to Celtic, followed by a 2-1 loss to Rangers at Ibrox.
Jonny Hayes has been excellent wherever he has been fielded. His flying wing-play has excited Dons fans, while striking the fear of God into a number of full-backs. His delivery is getting better with age and his pace shows no sign of waning. Further back Joe Lewis is the goalkeeper Aberdeen have been crying out for. Presence, experience, reliability and capable of the spectacular.
McInnes has tried to make better use of his squad, using Jayden Stockley and Wes Burns, while chopping and changing personnel elsewhere. Eventually, however, he reverted to his tried and trusted. Players who are not in the first XI need to deliver when given the chance.
Aberdeen are currently where budgets suggests they should be, although the break has arrived at the wrong time with three straight wins and McInnes finally deciding on his best XI. Win their game in hand and they go above Rangers. A second place finish would be an excellent return.