Were Aberdeen the strangest team of the 2017/18 Ladbrokes Premiership season?

Let us quickly surmise all of the difficulties faced by Aberdeen in the 2017/18 Scottish Premiership.

Andrew Considine celebrates his winning goal at Celtic Park as Aberdeen confirm second place. Picture: SNS
Andrew Considine celebrates his winning goal at Celtic Park as Aberdeen confirm second place. Picture: SNS

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Goalkeeper Joe Lewis spent three months of the season out through injury and dropped a couple of clangers prior to that.

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Their right-back, Shay Logan, had the worst season of his career north of the border. While the same couldn’t be said of left-back Andrew Considine, he didn’t quite match the performances of last term.

Their best central defender was a 21-year-old who’d played 144 minutes of top flight football prior to being pitched in. One of the other experienced centre-backs was so poor he ended the season as a back-up left-back.

The two replacements for Ryan Jack both endured dreadful first halves of the season, with only one of those recovering after the top-six split.

Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn, two of the most high usage players in the Scottish top flight - registering first and third for total crosses last term - found their slots taken by Gary Mackay-Steven and Greg Stewart, neither of which came close to matching their productivity.

Kenny McLean, such a vital cog of the system, performed below expectations until after the winter break.

And up front, a £500,000 signing scored five goals all season, which was precisely five more than the other summer signing in attack. This would have been fine had Adam Rooney continued doing what he does best, but the Irishman endured his worst campaign in a red shirt, scoring nine times and none after mid-February.

They started the season ridiculously early with another European campaign - the club’s fourth in succession - and had a major distraction with weeks of manager Derek McInnes supposedly on the verge of joining another club.

They never won more than four games on the bounce. They exited both cup competitions to the same bottom-six club. They took only one point off Rangers.

They finished second.

At no point this term were the fans truly content. On one hand it was always going to be difficult to follow up the second half of last term, where they netted at least six goals on three separate occasions. On the other hand, they were a slog to watch at times. In so many games they seemed to be doing just enough to win.

And yet, when it was all said and done, it was Derek McInnes’ side who finished as best of the rest. Not Rangers, not free-flowing Hibs, not Stevie Clarke and his Kilmarnock revolution or the Craigenaccio on show at Tynecastle. It was Aberdeen. And they did so with only three points fewer than last term (a record club total) despite playing in an undeniably tougher top flight.

It was a case of mind over matter. Unless it was against the Old Firm (pre-split) they always seemed to find a way, regardless of performance.

In the end it was their record against the rest of the league which enabled them to do it.

Take out a middling record against the Edinburgh clubs (three wins in eight) and the rest makes for incredible reading. They took 27 points out of 27 against Ross County, Dundee and St Johnstone, and 14 out of 18 against Partick Thistle and Hamilton. The only bottom six team they lost to was Motherwell, and even though the Steelmen gave them probably their biggest embarrassment with elimination in both cups, Aberdeen still won the Premiership series by two games to one.

Then there was the bizarre hex they had on Kilmarnock. Seemingly unbeatable against everyone else, Clarke’s men picked up just one point from four games against the Dons.

So how did this happen? The only logical explanation is a tremendous determination not to be beaten. They are disciplined, impressively hard-working and have squeezed their collective talents for every drop. He may have his detractors, but Derek McInnes deserves a massive amount of credit for this.

The loss of McLean over the summer will present a new challenge, but considering what was facing them this time last year and how they’ve managed to put up the best possible fight that could have been asked of them, you’d be a fool to back against them being right in the hunt for second place again next term.