With the international breaks done for now and the League Cup semi-finals having taken place last weekend, for the most part clubs can now fully concentrate on what will be a hectic end to the year.
It promises to be a crucial period, one that will place huge demands on squads, and go a long way towards shaping how season 21-22 will pan out for all the clubs in the Premiership.
It certainly looks like being a defining spell for Aberdeen.
Fourteen games in, half of them lost, and the Dons are as close to the bottom of the table as they are to a potential European place. They have kept just two clean sheets all season, and worryingly, the failures at the other end of the pitch, which looked as if they might have been addressed, have resurfaced in the last two matches.
The statistics are worrying, it has clearly not been good enough, and with seven fixtures to be fulfilled before Hogmanay, there is going to have to be a marked improvement if they are going to have any chance of meeting their previously stated ambitions.
After tomorrow’s trip to Celtic Park, the next five fixtures are against teams in or around the bottom half of the table. On the face of it, that looks like an ideal opportunity to add significantly to the points total, but the Dons have already lost to two of those clubs – St Mirren and Dundee – and two of the other games involve visits to McDiarmid Park and Easter Road.
The year then ends with a home match against Rangers.
There is no doubt that luck has not been on the Dons’ side at times and some big decisions have gone against them. The injury list has been crippling on occasion with key players posted missing, but every side has to deal with those issues, and Aberdeen simply haven’t coped.
The time has arrived for the management and players to step up. If they fail to do so, an even more tortuous few months lie ahead.
Stephen Glass is by no means the only boss surveying the conclusion to the first half of the campaign with a degree of concern.
Hibernian might have a cup final to look forward to, but their league form is alarming, and, having matched the Dons’ horrendous run of five straight defeats, they too are having to reassess the season’s objectives.
St Johnstone have also struggled – just three wins in thirteen Premiership outings – and they too need a major upturn in their fortunes if they are to move away from any potential relegation worries.
It would have been unthinkable at the start of the campaign to imagine that trio of clubs anywhere near the basement battle, but that is the reality right now, and – if Dundee and Ross County pick up – the situation could become even more serious.
The head-to-head between Saints and Hibs this afternoon offers each the chance to earn some breathing space and, if either wins, they can perhaps start looking up the table with some degree of optimism.
But this season has been so unpredictable nothing can be taken for granted.
The Dons will already know the outcome when they take to the pitch tomorrow lunchtime, but cannot afford to let their minds wander. It will take total concentration if they are to blunt Celtic’s attacking threat and avoid a third straight loss.
Dundee United statement should have included a ‘sorry’ to Ojo
With charges having been brought, I am limited in what I can say about events off the pitch at Tannadice last weekend.
Suffice to say, Funso Ojo was incredibly harshly dealt with by referee Bobby Madden, and the fact the Dons are unable to challenge the second booking adds to the injustice brought upon the player. It has been suggested it was the stand-side assistant who recommended the yellow card, but either way, the officials got that horribly wrong.
The midfielder’s absence tomorrow also adds to the selection problems Stephen Glass is currently having to conjure with.
Two days after the alleged incident, Dundee United released a statement outlining that an individual had been banned from the stadium and had their season ticket cancelled. That move should be welcomed, but it would have been nice for the club to include an apology to Funso.