Aberdeen’s away form in the Premiership in 2020 has been outstanding. If the team are to have a successful campaign, it looks as if that might be their bedrock.
They have not tasted defeat away from Pittodrie since losing at Celtic Park on December 21 last year, putting together an eight-match unbeaten sequence since that 2-1 reversal.
No side has breached the Dons rearguard on their travels this season, and only champions Celtic have a better away record in the calendar year.
In the same time frame Rangers have lost twice and won only four out of nine.
It should be no surprise, as Derek McInnes has made a habit of impressive runs on the road.
From November 2014 until January 2015, Aberdeen went eight without defeat; there was a seven-game unbeaten sequence from December 2018 to the end of March 2019, which included a win at Ibrox and a draw at Parkhead; and there was his best-ever run with what was probably his best team, 12 without loss throughout much of 2017, encompassing the 7-0 at Dens Park and a 6-0 victory at Firhill.
Back then, playing away from home certainly suited Derek’s side. With Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn running riot on the wings, Graeme Shinnie, Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean orchestrating midfield, and Ryan Christie supporting Adam Rooney, he had the best counter-attacking team in the country.
With the players at his disposal this season, the manager has the potential to emulate that squad’s achievements.
There are clear benefits in an attacking sense to the back-three formation Derek currently favours. If the centre-halves operate as an effective unit it frees up the rest of the team to push up the field. Pace is essential, and right now the manager has an abundance of options in that respect.
Hayes and McGinn have of course returned, and when you throw in the likes of Scott Wright, Connor McLennan, Ryan Hedges and, when fit again, Matty Kennedy, the side is ideally equipped to play the thrilling football we would all love to see.
The main problem in recent seasons has been home form, and the team has all too often failed to sparkle against stubborn defensive resistance.
You have to go all the way back to that 2016-17 side to find our last period of sustained dominance at Pittodrie, a 10-match unbeaten run that included nine wins.
In the past couple of years it has frequently been heavy going on our home turf. The year began with four straight defeats and, 12 months before, there was a six-match sequence without success.
The Dons’ frailties at Pittodrie have been exposed already this season.
If Derek can find a way to get the team playing as consistently at home as they do away, the third-place finish we all expect will be guaranteed.
Defensive questions for Steve Clarke and Scotland
It’s a massive week for the national team.
The September double-header produced a decent enough start to the Nations League campaign, but also threw up more questions than answers about Steve Clarke’s defensive set-up.
Given how he approached those matches, we have to assume he plans on going with three at the back, and that Scott McKenna will be one of the trio. Who will be with him is anyone’s guess.
Liam Cooper and Kieran Tierney got a game apiece and are both clearly in the mix, but most interest will be in Scott McTominay. After announcing his squad, Clarke defended his choice of the Manchester United midfielder, but will he persevere, or go with a more natural defender?
There should be no doubts about the other end of the pitch. Lyndon Dykes has made an excellent start at QPR, scoring twice, and he’ll lead the line against Israel on Thursday.