There’s a suspicion the move for Tansey could signal the end of Ryan Jack’s time with Aberdeen. The captain’s contract expires at the end of the season and, while he normally features in the starting XI alongside Kenny McLean and Graeme Shinnie in the preferred midfield three, it tends to be Jack who drops out if a reshuffling is required. He’s also been linked with bigger clubs in the past, and there’s a suspicion the captaincy was bestowed upon as a bargaining chip, seeing as the announcement came only a month after he signed his last extension.
If that were to be the case, it would be a blow to let a player of such talent walk for nothing, but the midfield could be improved as a unit by plugging the gap with Tansey. One flaw in Aberdeen’s squad, which fans have complained about for the past 18 months, is a lack of strength in the middle of the park. McLean, Jack and Shinnie can mix it up, but neither of them carries much muscle.
Manager Derek McInnes tried to address this last summer by bringing in Jayden Stockley and Anthony O’Connor, giving the side a more physical presence. In the end, O’Connor turned out to be more suited to centre half, while Stockley is a striker, so it left the midfield void unfilled. Craig Storie has often been mooted by those with a preference for seeing young players given opportunity beyond their ability, but he’s not yet ready to be the answer over a 38-game season. Not if Aberdeen want to challenge Rangers again for second place.
Tansey had the physique to fill such a void. He’s not as much of a bruiser as his long-time midfield partner Ross Draper, but he’s big and strong enough to mix it with the opposition. He and Shinnie should complement each other well as the sitting two. Tansey with his presence, Shinnie with his energy, while both are technically sound on the ball.
A problem which has disappeared in recent months, but could come back again, has been the lack of urgency shown by Aberdeen in games at home against lesser opponents. They tend to knock the ball about at the back without doing much in the way of penetration, while the visiting side sit back and keep things tight. In matches such as this, Tansey should be an upgrade on Jack. The latter is more dynamic, but Tansey possesses a great range of passing, and therefore capable of picking the lock when there’s not much room to work with.
At Inverness CT, he’s been at his best finding quicker team-mates running in behind the defence, such as Billy Mckay and Marley Watkins. While Niall McGinn looks certain to leave, Jonny Hayes and Adam Rooney should provide him with enough speedy targets to hit, and expect Aberdeen to be even stronger away from home than they already are.
He can sometimes fall in love with the ‘Hollywood ball’, as evidenced by his sub-par showing in ICT’s Scottish Cup final win over Falkirk, and try to do too much in the centre of the park by himself. No longer one of the bigger fishes in a smaller pond, he’ll need to defer more to him team-mates at Pittodrie.
What he will certainly bring is an added goal threat from midfield. As terrific as Jack, Shinnie and McLean have been this season, they’ve only netted seven goals between them in all competitions. Tansey has five himself, which is a slow year for the 28-year-old. He’s scored nine in each of the previous two campaigns. Unlike Shinnie or Jack, he’s a threat scoring from anywhere inside 30 yards with a thunderous long-range strike.
Since Aberdeen first made their move for Tansey in January 2016, there’s been a noticeable drop off in his performances. Inverness CT fans believe the midfielder lost his heart for the job, having been denied his preferred move. If true, this doesn’t reflect particularly well on Tansey, but Aberdeen supporters should hope this is the case, as it means he’s more likely to return to top form when he pulls on a red shirt.