It was Ebbe Skovdahl who coined the saying about statistics being like mini-skirts and it is hard to escape the former Aberdeen manager’s wonderful turn of phrase when assessing the Dons’ season up to now.
On paper, Aberdeen’s Scottish Premiership campaign has been an improvement so far.
The Dons have reached the winter break three points clear in second place with 43 points from 22 matches.
A year ago, they were third, two points behind Rangers with 37 points after 20 games.
But dig a little deeper and it becomes clear the Dons are not yet firing on all cylinders.
Despite playing two games more than at this stage in 2017 they have scored two goals less and conceded five more.
Last year Adam Rooney had 11 goals in all competition by the winter break. So far he has managed just six.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the departure of Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn had a fundamental effect. They are both attackers but what may have gone unnoticed is their importance defensively, too.
McGinn, of course, has returned. For sure, there is unlikely to be anyone at Pittodrie happier to see McGinn’s return than fellow Irishman Rooney, with the former Celtic man’s creative spark from out wide providing a regular source of chances for the Dons striker.
The same used to be true with Hayes on the other flank.
Replacements Gary Mackay-Steven and Greg Stewart are different types of wide players for Aberdeen.
Both like to drift inside. While Hayes and McGinn were happy to do that, too, their pace and guile meant they beat full backs with ease before crossing for Rooney to do what he does best.
But it could be argued that there are another two players who have missed Hayes and McGinn even more – Andy Considine and Shay Logan.
The protection McGinn and Hayes offered the full backs cannot be underestimated.
They tracked back, doubled up with the full backs and had the pace to attack from deep and take the ball 40 yards if need be.
That’s not what Mackay-Steven and Stewart bring to Aberdeen. It’s not a criticism of either player, simply recognition they are different types.
Taking the season to date, the Europa League exit was underwhelming, given Aberdeen know they should have reached the play-off round.
The Betfred Cup loss at Motherwell was also a low point for the Dons on a night when they simply never got going while, in the league, the four defeats by the Old Firm must rankle.
But the 4-1 demolition of Hibernian recently showed a glimpse of what is possible in Derek McInnes’s squad. It was easily the best display of the season so far.
It was a day where Logan and Considine, aided by an excellent Mackay-Steven display, ran Hibs ragged.
It highlighted the fact Aberdeen remain at their most potent when their full backs push forward and push their opponents on to the back foot. It was a highlight of their play last season and hopefully will be again in 2018.
The Dons return to cup duty against St Mirren in the Scottish Cup on Saturday while another trip to Ibrox this month looms in the league. McInnes will see both games as a chance to lay down a marker for the season’s second half.