Where Aberdeen need to strengthen to provide European challenge - up to 12 players could be needed

If you were to ask a group of Aberdeen fans where the club need to strengthen to get back to competing for a position in the top three, there would likely be one of two responses.

There would be those who’d simply laugh and reply along the lines of ‘how long have you got’ or ‘it’d be easier to say which areas don’t need strengthening’.

The other response may well be an anguished expression accompanied by some sort of groan.

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Work is already well under way as Jim Goodwin looks to reshape the Dons squad in tandem with director of football Steven Gunn and Darren Mowbray, the head of recruitment.

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A lot of work has to be done, with just 17 first-team players contracted for next season and some of those will likely move on between now and the start of the new season.

With Goodwin keen to play either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, we look at how well stocked Aberdeen are in each area of the pitch:

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Goalkeeper

Having been by far one of the best goalkeepers in the league for four seasons running, Joe Lewis’ form has stagnated and regressed somewhat across the past couple of campaigns. He has recorded minus figures in both for prevented goals. Yet, on his day, he is still more than capable of producing spectacular stops. It is just that he's not been as consistent as Dons fans have come to expect from their No 1. Both he and Gary Woods are contracted for next season but with Goodwin wanting to play an aggressive, energetic style, he may look to bring in a goalkeeper more at ease with playing as a sweeper to challenge. At the same time, it wouldn’t be all that of a surprise to see Lewis rebound and produce a stellar campaign.

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Aberdeen boss Jim Goodwin will have a busy summer. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Defence

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Goodwin recently confirmed Aberdeen are nearing the signing of a left-footed centre-back. That ticks one very important box with the Irishman wary of the lack of balance the team had last season with regards to right and left footers. It would allow either David Bates or Declan Gallagher to play in their more comfortable right centre-back role. With Calvin Ramsay the only right-back and likely to leave, that position will need filled. But there also needs to be greater depth to the defensive options. It will be interesting if Jonny Hayes is seen as left-back going forward but running with three centre-backs, two left-backs and a right-back is too light. Realistically, on top of the left-sided centre-back, the Dons may well need another three defenders.

Central midfield

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Like Ramsay, it would be a surprise if Lewis Ferguson is wearing an Aberdeen top by the time September and the close of the transfer window comes around. His goals and versatility will need replacing. It is area of the pitch which needs significant work. Dean Campbell has been linked with Rochdale, while Goodwin has spoken of wanting to give Connor Barron competition in the middle of the pitch, including a player who will drive the ball and commit opponents. Add in the fact he wants to play a midfield three and you are looking at another three or four options having allowed Dylan McGeouch and Funso Ojo to move on.

Lewis Ferguson and Calvin Ramsay could leave with Connor Barron and Vicente Besuijen set to be key assets. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
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A defensive midfielder with a physical presence is required at the base of the midfield with Albanian international Ylber Ramadani strongly linked. The Dons have still yet found a long-term Ryan Jack replacement. Such a player profile would blend well with and bring out the most from the more forward-thinking and progressive Baron. Then there is the No 10 issue. Dons fans could easily look to Tynecastle Park and the impact Barrie McKay has had and come to the conclusion that a similar player would be most welcome at Pittodrie.

A big issue for the Dons over the past couple of seasons is that Lewis Ferguson has been asked to do so much, filling in at the base of the midfield, as a No 10, as No 8. No player at a club with the budget of Aberdeen should be asked to cover so much. It can be argued that the full range of Ferguson's potential has not truly been witnessed due to his flexibility and the way he has been shifted around.

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Wings

This was another area Goodwin pinpointed in a conversation on RedTV. Vicente Besuijen has added that directness and confidence with the ball, a willingness to take on the full-back. He was one of the few positives in the second half of the season. Connor McLennan has struggled to hold down a regular starting spot, while Matty Kennedy has been hampered with injuries. Playing a front three requires a balance. Therefore another direct winger is required and also a player who would be willing to come off the flank, moving centrally whether to create or look to score.

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There are question marks over Christian Ramirez's future. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Striker

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Question marks still remain over Christian Ramirez. If the American was to leave, two strikers will be needed, one of which will need to be a focal point. Marley Watkins is a mobile attacker who could play wide as the aforementioned inverted forward. He could play in a striker partnership or as a second striker. Another striking option to provide depth would be welcome with that being an issue throughout last season.

Conclusion

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Aberdeen could be entering a transfer window where up to a dozen players are needed. That requirement may be decreased if the likes of Liam Harvey, Ryan Duncan and Kieran Ngwenya are promoted with the academy a key tenet of the club going forward. The good news for Dons fans is that work commenced on scouting and unearthing players from around Europe and further afield at the start of the season. It is set to be a much-changed and new look Aberdeen which will start the league season at the end of July.

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