to the Scottish Premiership
For Rangers and Hibernian fans the 2018/19 season began today. Forget your summer holidays, forget…
There’s a weird, paradoxical aspect to the manner in which Aberdeen’s greatest strength under Derek McInnes is often heralded by his critics as the club’s greatest weakness too. That is, that the manager relies on individuals to often make up for the lack of an all-encompassing tactic or system.
That’s perfectly obvious to anyone that has taken a glance at Aberdeen’s team. Joe Lewis, Scott McKenna, Graeme Shinnie, Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn are all outstanding performers for the club but none of these players have any, genuine cover for their positions. And while each may work in tandem to win games for the Dons, they also pose genuine risks to the club’s season if they pick up an injury.
This soft underbelly to McInnes’ squad management has been slightly exposed so far this season, with the squad lacking a genuine goalscorer to replace what was in place last season. That was, of course, until Aberdeen were able to snatch Manchester United youngster James Wilson on loan.
Wilson, who has now started both of Aberdeen’s last two games, not only fills a notable hole up front but may also be forced to carry the same burden of GMS, Shinnie & Co. before too long. He is, essentially, the only goalscorer McInnes has left to pin his hopes on and as such the 22-year-old may now have an obligation to make up the goals that others simply can’t or won’t.
So far this season Stevie May has managed to bag just one goal in nine appearances. Sam Cosgrove has played just as many games, yet the 21-year-old hasn’t managed to score a single goal. Bruce Anderson has a slightly better record with two goals in eight games, but none of these strikers have been able to prove to McInnes that they have what it takes to lead the line for Aberdeen this season.
This undoubtedly transfers through to the team’s poor form this season. Although the club’s expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes has actually improved slightly from 1.35 to 1.36 this season, their average goals over that same period of time has dropped drastically from last season’s 1.49 to 0.7.
Essentially, Aberdeen are still creating the same amount of chances per game as they did last season, but they don’t have the goalscorers to knock them in to the back of the net. Which is where McInnes is hoping Wilson will now come in.
Although the striker didn’t score against Celtic on Saturday, he did look comfortable on the ball and built on the previous game in which he scored the only goal of the match in a 1-0 win over Motherwell. And if he can keep improving whilst scoring at a similar rate then he would make a huge difference to this Aberdeen side.
When we look at the graph below – which shows Aberdeen’s top goalscorers per 90 minutes last season and so far this season – we can see just how big of a miss the likes of Adam Rooney, Kenny McLean and Ryan Christie have been to Derek McInnes’ side
If we exclude Anderson on the fact that he’s only played about 130 minutes of football, we can see that the only positives for this season’s Aberdeen from a goalscoring perspective are that Mackay-Steven is currently averaging an even better record than last season and that Wilson is on par with Rooney.
Of course, that’s not to say the Man Utd talent can or indeed has already matched the former Dons target man, but it shows that his current levels of around one goal every two or three games will have to be maintained if he is to help Aberdeen regain some composure up front.
Indeed, the graph above simply states that even if GMS can maintain his current goalscoring form, Wilson will still effectively have to make up for the loss in goals from Rooney and McLean’s departures. That’s a combined total of 0.65 goals per 90 minutes, which equates to Kris Boyd or Leigh Griffiths’ goal scoring averages for Kilmarnock and Celtic respectively last season.
Whether Wilson can reach such heights remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that McInnes is pinning all hopes on the young striker. If he can start knocking in the goals then the Aberdeen boss will have another superb individual to rely upon, but if he can’t then he may have to go back to the drawing board to find another solution to the goalscoring hole in his side.