Scottish Premiership: Aberdeen preview -Transfers | Key player | Can they catch Old Firm? | Prediction

Derek McInnes is set for his seventh full season in charge of Aberdeen. Picture: SNS
Derek McInnes is set for his seventh full season in charge of Aberdeen. Picture: SNS
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In the first of our 12 previews building up to the start of the Scottish Premiership, Joel Sked looks at Aberdeen.

Manager

Derek McInnes goes into his seventh full season as Dons boss and the longest serving manager in the Scottish Premiership.

Last season

Aberdeen dropped out of the top three for the first time since 2013, while in the cups Celtic were their nemesis once more, losing in the final of the Betfred Cup and the semi final of the Scottish Cup.

Transfers

IN: Funso Ojo (Scunthorpe United, £125k), Luc Bollan (Dundee United), Craig Bryson (Derby County), Ryan Hedges (Barnsley), Curtis Main (Motherwell), Michael Ruth (Queen's Park), Ash Taylor (Northampton Town), James Wilson (Manchester United, loan made permanent), Jon Gallagher (Atlanta United, loan), Greg Leigh (NAC Breda, loan)

OUT: Gary Mackay-Steven (New York City), Mark Reynolds (Dundee United, loan made permanent), Graeme Shinnie (Derby County), Dominic Ball (Rotherham United, end of loan), Tommie Hoban (Watford, end of loan), Max Lowe (Derby County, end of loan), Greg Stewart (Birmingham City, end of loan), Greg Halford

Most interesting recruit

While Funso Ojo (for his name and rejecting Hibs), Craig Bryson (reputation) and Ash Taylor (return and reputation) were the big signings in terms of headlines, it is Greg Leigh who has an intriguing role to play. The former Manchester City youngster has the unenviable task of trying to replace Max Lowe.

Lowe was excellent last season, providing width, pace and verve. A completely different full-back to Andrew Considine, he gave the side a different dynamic. Leigh has yet to feature with Considine reprising his full-back role in the three Europa League clashes so far.

If he struggles to adapt as well as Lowe, Aberdeen won't only lose a good centre-back option in Considine but the attacking instinct from full-back.

Key player

Craig Bryson has arrived and may become that central focal point in the way Graeme Shinnie was. However, after an excellent debut season for the club eyes should be on Lewis Ferguson to see how the teenager continues to develop.

Despite special moments in an attacking sense, he was often the player to take up a more responsible role in the midfield. A mixture of tenacity and technique, he plays with a maturity beyond his years.

What do they still need?

McInnes looks well set in defence and the middle of midfield. The Dons have had real joy in the wide areas under the former Rangers midfielder. First it was Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes with Gary Mackay-Steven (NOT Gary Mackay-Stevens) joining at a later date. The latter pair have departed, while McGinn has been inconsistent since returning from South Korea.

Ryan Hedges and Jon Gallagher have arrived and there are reservations over Scott Wright which means a wide-man could be a useful addition. If no one does arrive don't be surprised to see Connor McLennan step up and become the Dons' big game, most consistent winger.

The question: Can Aberdeen keep pace with Rangers?

After two second place finishes with Rangers in the league, the Dons dropped below their rivals. It was nothing to be embarrassed about considering the differences in budgets.

It is going to be a huge ask to get back into that position with the Ibrox side once again recruiting heavily as they look to pull close to Celtic.

The ambition should be there to get as close to the Old Firm as possible but realistically their best hope will come in the cups, while they try to finish best of the rest.

Any other business

Keep an eye out on Shay Logan as he continues to develop into one of those players opposition fans love to hate. Even ScotRail - one of the most disliked companies in Scotland - are not overly keen on the player.

Prediction

3rd

*Transfers courtesy of Narey's Topepoker