The Aberdeen players who failed to perform for Derek McInnes at Hampden on Saturday have five games left to try to change their manager’s mind about them.
There’s no hiding from this – the Dons were awful against Motherwell in Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final.
They didn’t get going, were as poor defensively as I can remember, and can have no complaints about the result. Teams lose games but it is the manner of Aberdeen’s exit to Well which will be hurting everyone connected to the club most.
It’s disappointing for all concerned. The Scottish Cup is the SFA’s showpiece competition and we should be watching the best players in the teams on the pitch, not sitting in the stands.
We shouldn’t be watching it at lunchtime either and it’s way past time something was done about the ridiculous kick-off times in Scottish football.
Derek learned a painful lesson on Saturday too. The days of having 13 or 14 core players in a squad are long gone. A manager needs 18 to 20.
The absence of Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Shay Logan due to suspension ripped the heart out of the team. Add in a less than fully fit Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn and you are left with an Aberdeen team which lacked the drive and creativity to win.
It’s hard enough coping with that number of players missing for a league game, but a cup semi-final proved a task beyond the manager and his squad.
It is clear from the manager’s post-match comments that it is time for some soul searching at Pittodrie.
The recruitment policy needs to be looked at, better players sourced, greater depth put in place, and more young players developed.
Knowing what to do and being able to do it, however, are two very different challenges.
Derek was forceful in his comments that he needs to overhaul his squad this summer. He’ll have the scope to do that quite easily of course with the likes of McLean, Chidi Nwakali, Freddie Woodman, Dominic Ball, Ryan Christie and Greg Stewart all due to return to their parent clubs following the end of their loans.
Kari Arnason, Anthony O’Connor, Nicky Maynard and Danny Rogers are all out of contract too so that’s another four spaces in the squad which the manager has to consider.
Some could stay, some will move on.
But Derek didn’t slaughter his players publicly. He did that at Easter Road earlier in the season. Saturday was more measured and with good reason.
The players will be hurting enough after Saturday’s result but Aberdeen have to put it behind them. The fans can be frustrated, furious, fed-up. The players must be focused.
Second place is at stake and Aberdeen have five games to achieve it.