Does Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes routinely 'bottle it' against Celtic?

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Derek McInnes has a reputation among Scottish football supporters as routinely "bottling it" in matches against Celtic.

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Derek McInnes at half-time of his side's recent 4-0 defeat to Celtic. Picture: SNS

Derek McInnes at half-time of his side's recent 4-0 defeat to Celtic. Picture: SNS

The perception goes that Aberdeen fail to turn up more often than not with the finger of blame often pointed at their manager for some apparent lack of tactical foresight or adventurousness.

But is this really the case? Put simply, it's rather difficult to win football matches against Celtic, especially over the previous three-and-a-bit seasons.

Aberdeen previously occupied a position as closest challengers to Celtic and are still viewed as one of the biggest tests for the eight-time reigning champions. However, this isn't really all that fair. In reality, Aberdeen are much closer to Hamilton in terms of financial resource than they are to the Parkhead club. More money buys better players and while Aberdeen have routinely been talked up as the side most capable of causing Celtic an upset, they've still entered every match as obvious and deserved underdogs.

Furthermore, McInnes' record against Celtic during his time in charge of Pittodrie isn't all that bad when you look closely at it. Since taking over from Craig Brown in late March, 2013, he's faced the Hoops 30 times in all competitions. Aberdeen have won five of those contests, drawing one and losing 24. It sounds terrible, but let's compare it to some of the other big clubs in Scottish football.

Firstly, here's the winning percentage table since McInnes was sworn in:

Aberdeen - 16.7 per cent

Hibs - 14.3 per cent

Rangers - 11 per cent

Kilmarnock - 9.5 per cent

Hearts - 9.1 per cent

Motherwell - 8 per cent

St Johnstone - 7.7 per cent

Dundee United - 6.3 per cent

(*Draws after 90 minutes in the Scottish Cup were counted as draws)

The sample sizes vary, but every team mentioned above has played them at least 14 times since McInnes was hired and he has the best winning percentage.

On the other hand, when playing Celtic, a draw can almost feel as good as a win. The highs aren't quite at their peak but there's a feeling of satisfaction that can match the type felt when bettering relegation fodder across 90 minutes.

Perhaps it is here where McInnes has earned his 'bottler' reputation against Celtic as he hasn't been able to turn a number of those defeats into draws.

READ MORE - Derek McInnes apologises to Aberdeen fans after Celtic hammering

Here's the percentage of games where teams avoid defeat against the Premiership leaders:

Hibs - 50 per cent

Kilmarnock - 28.6 per cent

Motherwell - 28 per cent

Rangers - 27.8 per cent

Dundee United - 25 per cent

St Johnstone - 23.1 per cent

Aberdeen - 20 per cent

Hearts - 18.2 per cent

Aberdeen, clearly, should be doing better in this regard. However, this table is based on treating victories and draws as equal, when of course they are not.

So, finally, here's a table of the average points accrued per match (including cup games):

Hibs - 0.79

Aberdeen - 0.53

Rangers - 0.5

Kilmarnock - 0.48

Motherwell - 0.44

St Johnstone - 0.385

Dundee United - 0.375

Hearts - 0.36

So what can we conclude from this? (Other than the fact Hearts are utterly horrendous against Celtic.)

It's fair to say that Aberdeen's record could be a little better. For a lot of this time period they were the second best team in the country.

But it should be remembered that McInnes got them to that position in the first place. There is no given right for Aberdeen to sustain that sort of consistency in the league, you just have to look at the club prior to his arrival, or the current struggles at Easter Road and Tynecastle, to see that. His record isn't bad against Celtic, it's just great against almost everyone else.

He and his team also likely suffered from Celtic viewing them as their biggest rivals during the period where Rangers were out of the top flight. The games hyped up by the media would be those involving Aberdeen and either Ronny Deila or Brendan Rodgers' side. As a result, it's fair to assume the champions played with greater intensity than they would in matches against Kilmarnock or St Johnstone, for example.

This isn't a defence of McInnes in light of calls from Aberdeen supporters for him to be relieved of his duties. The football hasn't been great to watch for the past 15 months and it's come to a point where supporters are rightfully calling for someone else to try and build on the foundations the ex-St Johnstone boss has laid out. Even if it would be foolish for them to push the Old Firm any further than they have been, it would not be outside the realm of possibility to finish third with a more attractive style of football. In this regard, Aberdeen fans have this writer's sympathies.

But in terms of criticising the man for failing to routinely match up against the best team in the country for almost an entire decade, a little bit of context is required.

READ MORE - Why Aberdeen fans are right to have concerns about the future under Derek McInnes - is time running out?