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ANALYSIS: Aberdeen must find form soon or risk derailing European qualification bid

Aberdeen's Christian Ramirez makes it 1-0 during a Cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Aberdeen at Ibrox stadium, on October 26, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Aberdeen's Christian Ramirez makes it 1-0 during a Cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Aberdeen at Ibrox stadium, on October 26, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The real Aberdeen must stand up before it’s too late to salvage European qualification aspirations.

Aberdeen have secured European qualification for eight successive seasons and maintaining that run must be the priority as well as a Scottish Cup bid.

However two wins in the last 15 games in all competitions is not form that delivers top six football – never mind European qualification.

Aberdeen are struggling to deliver on the pre-season hype and investment.

Dundee United’s Ian Harkes (R) makes it 1-0 against Aberdeen.

It all seemed so positive when the Dons were hammering sides in Europe and started the Premiership campaign with back to back wins.

The problem is Aberdeen have blown hot and cold this season.

When they are hot they are capable of beating any team – when they are cold they can lose to the Premiership’s bottom side Dundee.

Mix hot and cold – and it comes out tepid.

Languishing in eighth position in the Premiership the Dons are nine points behind Hearts and Dundee United who occupy third and fourth spot.

Dundee United’s Ian Harkes celebrates making it 1-0 against Aberdeen at Tannadice.

If Aberdeen don’t  halt their inconsistent form to find that winning formula soon they will find themselves cut adrift from the race for Europe.

After just 14 Premiership games it is far too premature to write off any team’s European aspirations – let alone an Aberdeen side that has shown flashes of real quality.

However with eight league games looming in a congested period before the winter shutdown on January 3 Aberdeen better start delivering wins fast.

They cannot afford to let a slump drag on until the 22 game mark when the league goes into a near three week shutdown.

Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes at full time in the 1-0 loss at Dundee United.

It could be too late by then to turn it around even with the potential for reinforcements in the January transfer window.

With just two clean sheets in 21 games this season it’s clear where the main problem lies – Aberdeen’s incessant drops in concentration are costing them dearly.

Various permutations have been deployed in terms of players and formations at the back – but still the problems persist in a back-line that has been ravaged by injury.

Leaking goals is putting an added burden on an attack which is also struggling to convert chances consistently.

Is there a more baffling, and frustrating, team than Aberdeen this season?

Amidst that run of just two wins in 15 games lies an oasis of quality that is a shining light of what the Dons are capable of delivering.

Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass during the Premiership clash with Dundee United.

In the space of a memorable week in mid October Aberdeen beat both Edinburgh sides and drew 2-2 with league leaders Rangers at Ibrox.

Aberdeen displayed the discipline, cohesion and character to beat Hibs 1-0 at Easter Road to end a 10 game run without a win – the worst run of form since 2010.

Then at Ibrox just days later they ran Rangers ragged in a breath-taking first half where they raced into a 2-0 lead.

Defending champions and league leaders Rangers  were rattled and the 50,000 home crowd were stunned and silenced.

Only a shocking penalty decision to Rangers in the 81st minute denied the Dons a deserved victory.

Then in the second half against Hearts, unbeaten in the Premiership until that point, Aberdeen rallied with a superb 45 minutes to take the three points.

It was Aberdeen’s best 45 minutes under manager Stephen Glass to date and as good as half as I have seen from any Premiership club this season.

That week seemed like a turning point and a launch pad for the real Aberdeen to finally emerge and deliver on their potential.

Taking seven points from Hearts, Rangers and Hibs showed all the good of Aberdeen – it was their Dr. Jekyll.

Yet the Dons quickly degenerated into Mr Hyde as bad habits returned with a vengeance.

Aberdeen dominated possession in the subsequent games against Dundee United (1-0) and Motherwell (2-0) but lost both as defensive switch-offs were ruthlessly punished.

The real Aberdeen must stand up, starting at Celtic on Sunday, to deliver the level of performance they are clearly capable of.

Play like they did at Ibrox and the Reds can win at Parkhead. That is the level Aberdeen must consistently deliver this season to secure Europe for a ninth straight season.

Refs should explain big decisions

One thing missing from the Funso Ojo red card controversy at Tannadice is referee Bobby Madden’s side of the story.

Madden has not put forward his rationale for giving Ojo a second yellow card following an incident involving a fan in a 1-0 loss to Dundee United.

There should be a means of communication available to referees via the SFA to explain their decisions.

Referee Bobby Madden brandishes the red card to Aberdeen’s Funso Ojo at Tannadice

You don’t have to agree with Madden but it would certainly help if we could hear an explanation of why he made the call. And if he still thinks it was the right decision.

That there is no mechanism open to rescind the second yellow card shown to Ojo indicates how ridiculously rigid the bureaucracy is within football.

Not only was Ojo sent off against Dundee United he is set to be punished further as there is no route to right that initial wrong.

Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass (L) and referee Bobby Madden during the Dundee United game.

FIFA rules state yellow cards can only be overturned in cases of simulation or mistaken identity and there appears to be no way for the SFA to work around that.

It means Ojo will miss Sunday’s Premiership clash against Celtic at Parkhead on Sunday.

Surely FIFA should look into changing the rule or at least allow a route for common sense to prevail.

No fear in World Cup play-off draw

Scotland can approach the World Cup play-off draw on Friday with no fear.

If anything Steve Clarke’s Scots will be concerning potential opponents.

In defeating group winners Denmark 2-0 at Hampden Scotland secured a seeded spot in the draw and will have home advantage.

Should they win that one off match in Glasgow to progress a draw will determine who has home advantage in the final.

Scotland are just two games, potentially both at Hampden, away from qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1998. It can be done,