With Sam Cosgrove and Curtis Main out for the foreseeable future, this is Bruce Anderson’s time to shine.
The Dons academy product has long been championed by the club’s fanbase as deserving of an opportunity up front. It may not have come in the manner he would have hoped, however, this is his chance to shine.
Manager Derek McInnes rates him as one of the best finishers at the club and he has delivered important goals for Aberdeen in the past. However, these have all come from the substitutes’ bench.
His form for the reserves always gives McInnes a reminder of what he is capable of and being without his two leading strikers heading into the start of the season, Anderson has now got to earn his place.
Given his skill-set – Anderson is a diminutive, sharp, penalty-box presence – it likely necessitates playing someone alongside him in attack. Playing him as a lone striker in a 4-3-3 could easily see him marked out of the game by Rangers’ centre-backs.
Niall McGinn’s intelligence and composure on the ball could see him be a perfect foil for the younger Anderson, as he will be able to drop deeper to collect balls from midfield while his strike partner plots runs in behind the visiting defence.
In these games McInnes tends to prefer a midfield three, which means a shift to a back three as well. The Dons reportedly tried out a back three against Hibernian on Saturday, likely with a view to using it against the Gers.
Jonny Hayes’ versatility and fitness levels mean he is a likely candidate for the left-sided role. His experience playing left-back for Celtic would also let the Dons shift into a back four out of possession if required.
Matty Kennedy on the opposite flank is a willing worker and would likely have to track back and help the right-sided centre-half with dealing with Ryan Kent. Rangers’ full-backs, normally James Tavernier and Borna Barisic, are aggressive in attack and exploit spaces left by the wingers tucking in, so the wide areas could be where the game is won and lost.
Funso Ojo, Craig Bryson and Lewis Ferguson makes sense as a midfield trio, with Ojo able to screen the back four and supply his two more forward-minded partners. Bryson’s experience and calmness will come in handy in a congested area and in a game where Aberdeen could have to weather sustained periods of pressure. Ferguson has shown in these games before that he needs little direction away from his natural game, to press, attack channels of space and make himself a nuisance to opponents.
With little known of how the Dons set up in their bounce games it is hard to gauge what they will look like tomorrow. But if the last few months are anything to go by, not knowing what to expect has become the norm.