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Who replaces Sam Cosgrove? The potential Aberdeen starters to step in for the Dons’ injured talisman

Curtis Main, Bruce Anderson and Niall McGinn
Curtis Main, Bruce Anderson and Niall McGinn

On the eve of a new season, losing your star striker for four months is a hammer blow now club wants to suffer.

Sam Cosgrove’s growth at Aberdeen over the last two years has been significant, not just in his goals return but his importance in the way Derek McInnes wants to play.

His 44 goals over the last two seasons are far superior to any other in the Dons squad and last season, Niall McGinn was the closest to his mark of 23 with seven.

However, Cosgrove’s ability to get Aberdeen up the field in games where they are expected to lose the possession battle is one of the facets of his game McInnes really likes. His quickness is also deceptive and it was evidenced by his goal against Hearts at the start of last season, tearing away from Christophe Berra to score.

The Dons do not have anyone who can match his tally and it could result in a change of system.

We take a look at the other options available to McInnes ahead of the season opener against Rangers on Saturday.

Curtis Main

Curtis Main after scoring against Hamilton

The likely choice to start at Pittodrie. A raging boulder of a striker, Main is a nuisance to opposing defenders while also being integral to bringing his team-mates into play.

His work-rate is exceptional – vital for the lone-striker role preferred by McInnes – but the knock on him has been his goal return.

Seven league starts by February yielded just one goal, with the reliance on Cosgrove’s early-season form providing him with limited chances to impress.

However he started the last five games before lockdown and scored three times, amid Cosgrove’s struggle for form, and impressed with his all-round contribution to the side.

If McInnes wishes to play a 4-3-3 against the Gers then Main up top by himself may well be the most sensible option.

 

Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson with Andy Considine against Hibernian

Anderson is one that Dons fans have regularly clamoured to be given more opportunities in first-team games.

His goalscoring record at reserve team level is exceptional, particularly when he drops back down for game-time, but his time to make a consistent impact in the senior setup is now.

He is credited by McInnes as being one of the best natural finishers at the club and he has chipped in with big goals, the ones against Rangers and Kilmarnock in the 2018-19 campaign spring to mind.

Again starts have been an issue for the academy product, with just one last season coming alongside Main in a 1-1 draw at Tynecastle.

Should he get the nod against Rangers then you would expect it to be with a strike partner, given his strengths come into the penalty area rather than acting as a link-up man.

 

Niall McGinn

Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn in action

His best goalscoring return in an Aberdeen shirt came as a central forward option and as he moves into the later stages of his career, it may be a sensible move to make the most of his abilities.

McInnes has an abundance of wide options available to him, with Ryan Hedges, Jonny Hayes, Matty Kennedy, Scott Wright and Connor MacLennan all vying for game-time. While McGinn does not possess the pace of those players, his game-intelligence and decision-making on the ball are still as sharp as ever.

Playing him as a support striker, along with another mobile forward, could see McGinn flourish again in a central role. Again, it would prompt a change in system for the Dons, into either a 4-4-2 or three at the back to accommodate two forwards but Cosgrove’s injury may force McInnes’ hand on this front.

Six goals in nine assists in the 2019-20 season show McGinn is still a productive attacking force for the Dons. It just may require a change of role for him now.

There are more unlikely options, such as MacLennan – a striker in his youth – or Wright being deployed in a forward role. But given Wright’s recent long-term injury absence, a return to regular first-team action is likely to be a phased one for him.

McInnes’ choices are likely to be between Main, Anderson and McGinn to spearhead his side’s attacking threat for the foreseeable future.

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