What each Scottish Premiership side must do in the transfer window
It is the summer of change at Pittodrie but not as sweeping as many Dons fans first feared. They have lost the services of Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn. In the last two seasons the pair have been involved in 72 goals, scoring or laying on the assist, and played a key role in many more.
In defence, Ash Taylor had his moments of ridicule but he was an effective performer in Scotland. He led the league in aerial-duels success rate last season, winning more than 75 per cent, while he was fourth defensive duel success. Then there is the controlling influence of Ryan Jack from midfield.
Yet, most importantly and most surprisingly, the club have held on to Derek McInnes. The club will be hard-pressed to deliver a more significant coup. McInnes knows he has a tough job on his hands to get his squad to a sufficient level to try and close the gap to Celtic.
Their current starting XI is not bad at all. Ryan Christie and Greg Stewart have been two of the best players at provincial clubs in recent years, while Greg Tansey joins Graeme Shinnie and Kenny McLean in the middle of midfield. Anthony O’Connor was second in the league’s aerial success rate so is a competent replacement for Taylor.
Adam Rooney will be anxiously looking at the papers every day to see which creators the club will be bringing in. Although, McGinn and Hayes’ departures and the arrival of Stewart and Christie could see a change in system and game plan for McInnes, with Rooney not a guaranteed starter.
But to reach the Europa League group stages and compete on three fronts domestically, Aberdeen need more depth in midfield and at centre back. An improvement on Mark Reynolds would be most welcome.
Brendan Rodgers will likely have two contrasting thoughts in his mind: ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ hovering over the one shoulder, with ‘change before you have to’ looms over the other. In the end, it will likely be somewhere in the middle.
Both Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney have been linked with big money moves away but are likely to remain, meaning no key player will depart. At the same time, Eboue Kouassi has had six months to bed in before staking a claim for a midfield position.
While a different sort of wide attacker than Patrick Roberts, Jonny Hayes will be highly effective on the domestic front. Dembele and Leigh Griffiths will be salivating at the thought of Hayes’ constant deliveries.
Question marks remain over the club’s progress in Europe. Due to their improvement under Rodgers the club are in a much better place than last season. He may be looking at centre-back but more realistically another midfielder, someone to perhaps play at the base of the midfield and help Celtic control games in Europe. Rodgers’ side were guilty of giving the ball away too easily in European competition last term.
Dee fans will be hoping their recruitment strategy is nothing like their managerial one.
They’ve already added three players. Lewis Spence is a low-risk signing, while Roarie Deacon comes from the English lower leagues but should add much needed pace and width. The hope is he’ll provide a similar threat as Elliott Frear has at Motherwell.
They are mere footnotes, however, compared to the loan deal for Celtic’s Scott Allan. If he shows anything like his Hibs form he will become a favourite at Dens Park, especially as fans have suffered a whole host of centre midfielders who don’t really do anything.
Dundee had the lowest number of shots (the second lowest on target) and crosses in the league last season, so more excitement will be required. They’re still to replace either Kane Hemmings or Greg Stewart. Marcus Haber does a solid job leading the line but with Allan added they will need a player who is more comfortable on the ground, one who’ll look to run on to the midfielder’s through balls.
Despite Kostadin Gadzhalov signing a contract extension a centre back is also required. There never seemed to be a settled back-line at Dens which hampered their season, conceding the most headed goals in the league.
As ever Accies, for many, will be favourites for the drop. You can only admire their capacity for scrapping, for struggling, for surviving. Those three aspects will likely be back again as Martin Canning fights against bigger budgets and a modest but cantankerous support.
They’ve already seen Alex D’Acol depart, meaning a striker is essential. While the Brazilian scored seven goals his ability to provide a focal point allowed Hamilton to get up the pitch quickly, a key facet of their game.
If they can replace him with someone who can score 10+ goals, even though they know he’ll only be there a season, it would likely be enough to keep Accies in the top flight. Only Dundee and Kilmarnock scored less but Accies are able to share the goals around the squad.
Their midfield is their strongest area, while in Martin Woods they have a dependable goalkeeper. Similar to Dundee their defence is often changing, whether it is system or personnel. A centre-back to play alongside Michael Devlin is a must.
HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN
Where to start? Sam Nicholson and Callum Paterson have departed. Arnaud Djoum and Jamie Walker both see their future away from Tynecastle, while the management will probably look to ship out Perry Kitchen and Bjorn Johnsen.
Christophe Berra is a fine signing, going by his commanding performance against England, while the forgotten Jordan McGhee has returned to the club to join Aaron Hughes and the recovering John Souttar. Centre-back is a position which the club are strong in. Elsewhere, not so much.
Fans are crying out for a new goalkeeper. Jack Hamilton, in a difficult position, continued to make errors which had little to do with experience and more to do with simple bad play.
Both full-back positions still need filled, even if Polish signing Rafal Grezlak can play at left-back. There are suggestions that Ian Cathro may go for a back three, meaning the full-backs need to be versatile, energetic and attacking.
Hearts are strong in attacking midfield areas with Don Cowie, and the aforementioned Djoum and Walker, but a midfield player who is capable of organising play quicker than Alexandros Tziolis would be a welcome addition.
Esmael Goncalves has a burgeoning goalscoring record in maroon but has a tendency to play in the margins, while Cole Stockton has been signed for potential rather than the real deal. A forward is a must, as has been recognised by the club. Kyle Lafferty, personality aside, would excite the fan base who continue to back the club despite recent travails.
A lot has happened in the three years Hibs have been absent from the top-flight. They return with second place a (perhaps fanciful) ambition of Neil Lennon’s. The target was dealt a blow when Jason Cummings left for Nottingham Forest, leaving the club short at both ends of the pitch.
They’ve still to secure the permanent services of Ofir Marciano, a priority for the club. While an attack of Simon Murray, Martin Boyle and David Graham suggests Championship play-off push rather than European spot. At the very least two forwards are required and perhaps one wide player but Boyle and Danny Swanson provide options with other areas of greater urgency.
The club have the best, most solid and balanced set of centre backs outside of Celtic. Any two of Liam Fontaine, Paul Hanlon, Efe Ambrose and Darren McGregor is an impressive backbone. It also allows for a back three.
Lewis Stevenson was competent in his previous spell in the top-flight but on the other side David Gray’s injuries have slowed him down physically. Either side of the centre-backs are primed for improvement if the right player is targeted.
It’s safe to say that this summer will be different for Kilmarnock. The raft of nonentity loanees from England won’t materialise again. But what it has left Lee McCulloch is a young squad lacking depth.
Killie have a good spine with a lot of promising talent to build around: Jamie MacDonald, Gary Dicker, Greg Kiltie, Greg Taylor, Jordan Jones, Adam Frizzell and Iain Wilson. Another promising young Scottish player in Daniel Higgins has been added from Dundee, while Alan Power has arrived from National League champions Lincoln City. He seems to be mostly endeavour.
The club have lost Kristoffer Ajer, a mountain of a player even at a young age, who played alongside Dickier in the centre of defence. Neither Miles Addison or Karleigh Osborne are reliable. McCulloch will need to construct a new defence with at least one centre-back and a right-back required.
The next area which requires a lot of love is the attack. Killie scored the league’s fewest goals with Kris Boyd the top scorer in the league with eight. A forward who is more mobile and can go in behind to open up space for Killie’s impish attacking midfielders should give McCulloch options.
A concern further down the line is the lack of numbers in the squad. One or two injuries could see the team toil unless a number of recruits are made, meaning McCulloch will need to stretch every sinew of his budget.
Stephen Robinson has been quickly putting his own mark on the Steelmen this summer, with only one real loss as Scott McDonald has opted against a one-year extension. Keith Lasley has retired after a trying season, while the team were instantly strengthened following the end of Zak Jules’ loan deal, not to mention Craig Samson and Joe Chalmers’ contracts expiring.
Two goalkeepers have been added as well as a pair of central midfielders, albeit ones who aren’t accompanied with much positivity from Coventry City fans. Craig Tanner has replaced the width lost from Lionel Ainsworth’s departure. Alex Fisher appears a shrewd pick-up from relegated Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
If Well can retain Louis Moult they are in a solid position already. Fisher’s arrival will mean the Fir Park side are not reliant on the Englishman’s goals. But if they are to threaten what will be a competitive race for the top six they need to improve their defensive line.
In the last two seasons they have conceded 132 goals in the league alone and retain the same back line as last season. Ben Heneghan struggled without Stephen McManus and they had the second worst success rate in aerial duels. Richard Tait returns, while, as ever, a left-back to put pressure on Steven Hammell would be welcome.
However, younger players did gain experience last season so Jack McMillan or Luke Watt could feasibly make the step up.
CENTRE-BACKS! Liam Lindsay’s sale and the expiration of Niall Keown’s loan deal means the only out-and-out centre-back remaining is Danny Devine, although there is of course the impressive and versatile Adam Barton.
With Gray Fraser and Stuart Bannigan returning from injury, the Jags are well-stocked in the centre of midfield, allowing Barton to drop back into defence, but Alan Archibald will likely be looking for two fellow centre-backs, especially as the team often switch between a back three and back four.
Blair Spittal is a more reliable option out wide than David Amoo, although that says more about the latter. Another winger is only necessary if Archibald feels that 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 will be the set system.
As ever a possible forward addition could be looked at. Maybe Archibald just does it to provoke another double figure season from Kris Doolan. It won’t be required if Ade Azeez has spent his summer practicing one-v-ones.
Pedro Caixinha has wasted little time in ripping up Mark Warburton’s blueprint, proving that there is a ruthless side to the jovial character witnessed in interviews. Eight players have been added, but only one with previous experience in Scotland.
Caixinha has already spoke about the stable balance Ryan Jack will provide in midfield - much to the annoyance of Derek McInnes. It was something which was missing according to the Portuguese, clearly not rating Andy Halliday. Bruno Alves is a younger and more worldly centre-back than Clint Hill, with the potential for box office moments.
The Scotsman has looked at the other arrivals, a mixture of players from Portugal and Mexico, as well as one from the Finnish league. But, as ever, with a glut of signings from abroad, it will likely be hit and miss. One thing is for sure, though: this is now Caixinha’s team.
The rest of the window will likely focus on the departures. However, Caixinha is clearly still wanting an attacking midfielder who can play across the midfield, while Jordan Rossiter and Niko Kranjcar will add extra quality to the midfield. There’ll be no team more interesting than Rangers this campaign.
For the second summer in a row the Staggies have lost a key player. Jackson Irvine has been followed to Burton Albion by Liam Boyce. If County have similar performances to last season, as well as the continued tactical and personnel confusion they will struggle. Boyce’s goals accounted for 22 points.
Craig Curran and Alex Schalk are good strikers but neither have that goal getting ability, or the space appreciation within the box that Boyce does. County don’t get too many goals from midfield either. Another striker should be high up Jim McIntyre’s wishlist.
Although McIntyre could reshape his team’s style. Much of their game plan was getting the ball wide and then crossing it in for Boyce. He was a canny striker at ghosting between full-back and centre-back, notching eight goals with his head.
If the manager continues in this vein another wide man will be essential, especially if Tony Dingwall and Chris Burke move on. Elsewhere, Jim O’Brien came on to a game in the centre of midfield but there is still something missing.
It doesn’t really matter what St Johnstone need or do in this transfer window, as long as they hold on to Tommy Wright they will continue to compete, putting other teams to shame with the way they use their budget, as well as their on field organisation and structure.
Danny Swanson is, of course, a big loss, but Wright was quick to replace him with the shrewd pick-up of Stefan Scougall. Otherwise, they have retained the majority of last season’s squad.
Tam Scobbie’s departure to Dundee United provoked a bit of back and forth in the media between the player, Wright and St Johnstone chairman Steve Brown. One thing for sure is that he is a great signing for United and a big loss for Saints. He was the perfect St Johnstone player, able to cover left-back and centre-back with ease. Now Saints are having to pitch in a young centre-back into European competition after Steven Anderson’s injury.
A Scobbie replacement is a priority. If Wright can also add Michael O’Halloran the Saintess are well set for their expected top-six finish.