Upsets are plentiful in the Scottish Premiership. Although the league gets panned for having one…
Around the turn of the year, we ran a series of articles looking at what every Scottish Premiership side needed in the January transfer window. Most teams needed something singular, like a new centre back or a new striker. Ross County’s needs, however, were slightly more difficult to decipher.
They undoubtedly needed something. The Staggies have suffered an utterly dismal run of form of late, slipping to the foot of the Premiership table. While there was something of a new manager bounce when Owen Coyle was appointed in September, that effect has well and truly worn off. County are in trouble.
Looking through the statistics of their season to date, factoring in what we have seen with our own eyes, it became clear that Ross County are desperately lacking in creativity. Everywhere. In terms of strikers, the Staggies are actually reasonably stocked, at least for a team battling near the foot of the table.
But primarily, Coyle needed a creative midfielder, not so much in the mould of a playmaking number 10, but a central midfielder to drive the play forward. That’s why their loan signing of Greg Tansey, who has made the move to Dingwall from Aberdeen until the end of the season, is so significant. It could mark a turning point in their campaign.
Tansey struggled to make an impression at Aberdeen following his move from Inverness CT in the summer, but for County, he is a real coup. With an average of 0.8 key passes per game this season, he is just as productive (in terms of key passes) as County’s most effective midfielder, Michael Gardyne.
A lack of key passes and through balls are a symptom of the problems Ross County have faced in the creative stakes this season. Ross Draper, a former teammate of Tansey’s at Inverness CT, has made seven key passes all season long. Davis Keillor-Dunn, a rare success story of the Staggies’ season, is only averaging 0.7 through balls per game. This is where Tansey will surely have an impact.
For the Dons, Tansey still managed to rack up five assists, averaging 0.9 goalscoring opportunities per game – a high ratio for a midfielder of his type. Injuries disrupted his short time at Pittodrie, but at Ross County he can find some consistency and show why the second best team in the country were so keen to sign him in the first place.
“Sometimes when you target certain players, you don’t get them in the order you would like,” said Coyle after securing the signing of the 29-year-old last week. “To be fair, [he] was the first one I wanted in. Derek McInnes has been very fair to Greg because he has recognised he brought him in to play a big part at Aberdeen.”
Coyle has expressed optimism that, come the end of the season, he might be able to sign Tansey on a permanent basis. He’s hoping that he’ll be able to do that as the manager of a club still in the top flight. County need to move the ball quicker through the lines of midfield and attack, and Tansey, with his average of 6.5 long-range passes per game, should help them do that, even if it means going slightly more direct.
At Aberdeen, Tansey boasted the highest assists per 90 minutes ratio of any Dons player this season (0.3). His Expected Assists rate of 1.696 also ranked him among the most productive attacking players Derek McInnes had at its disposal. These stats back up the notion that only injuries and a lack of consistency prevented Tansey from becoming a key figure at Pittodrie.
There is no doubting that the 29-year-old has the qualities that Ross County desperately need. There is an element of risk to the signing of Tansey, in that Coyle needs the midfielder, who has struggled to find his groove this season, to hit the ground running. But we all said they needed creativity and that’s what they have added.