Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Joe Harper: Back four is the way forward for Aberdeen

Dons boss Barry Robson must stick with his formation after a tactical change worked wonders at Ross County.

Aberdeen's Slobodan Rubezic (R) and Ross County's Josh Sims in action. Image: SNS.
Aberdeen's Slobodan Rubezic (R) and Ross County's Josh Sims in action. Image: SNS.

I’m hoping we will see Aberdeen boss Barry Robson stick with a four-man defence in 2024 after starting the new year with a bang at Ross County.

Tuesday’s 3-0 win in Dingwall, which is always a tough place to go, was the perfect response from the team following their shock 3-0 home defeat by St Mirren last weekend.

The fans were not happy and the pressure was on the Dons to get a result, so credit where it is due to the Aberdeen manager for being bold and moving away from the back three he has used all season.

Dons were in control in Dingwall from start to finish

I’ve never been convinced a three-man defence was the best way to go for this Dons team, only because I always felt the players did not look sure of themselves at times.

I don’t know if it was confidence or communication, but the dearth of clean sheets tells the story – and I don’t think it is a coincidence a change brought a rare shutout on Tuesday.

The personnel has changed at the back from last season, but we can all see what worked brilliantly for Barry when he was interim manager at the start of 2023 has not been nearly as successful in this campaign.

Switching to a back four against County gave Aberdeen more control of the game and they were on the front foot from the first minute to the last.

Kelle Roos had one routine save to make, while Slobodan Rubezic and Stefan Gartenmann dominated the County forward line and kept them quiet.

I was curious to see how Rubezic in particular would perform in a back four.

He is a youngster with a lot of potential, but I do think he has been caught ball watching at times this season.

With an experienced partner in defence guiding him, he can go on to become a very good player – time will tell if Gartenmann is the man for the job.

More balanced line-up allowed key players to perform

It’s all about getting the balance right and Aberdeen got it spot-on against Derek Adams’ Staggies side.

There’s been a lot of talk about their counter-attacking play this season, and while it’s important to be able to transition from defence to attack quickly, you need to be able to dictate the tempo in matches, too.

That’s what we saw in Dingwall. Connor Barron was back in the side and along with Graeme Shinnie the two of them controlled the game from midfield and protected their back four.

Barron reminds me of Gordon Strachan in terms of how he can both slow a game down and make space for himself or inject a sense of urgency into proceedings if needed.

Aberdeen midfielder Connor Barron in action against Ross County in Dingwall. Image: Shutterstock.

Shinnie is an all-action player, a guy full of energy who would cover every blade of grass for the cause.

But with someone alongside him, he does not need to do that – and we saw the difference having someone to share the load with him made against the Staggies.

Dante Polvara played well, too, but the big plus-point for me was Leighton Clarkson.

He’s a creative player and someone who can make a killer pass to unlock defences and create chances for his team-mates.

I’ve watched him play deeper in a lot of games this season and for me he is less effective there.

He played as if the shackles had been taken off against Ross County and was the player who Dons fans all loved watching last season.

The Clarkson who was nutmegging players and setting up chances on Tuesday is the one we want to watch playing for Aberdeen.

Given how well his players did in the system, I’m hoping we’ll see it kept in place for the next game against Clyde in the Scottish Cup on January 19.

Can you tell the transfer window is open?

Bojan Miovski (L) and Duk have been linked with moves away from the Dons this month. Image: SNS.

The transfer window is open and already the rumour mill is running wild at Pittodrie.

All the focus has been on whether Bojan Miovski will still be an Aberdeen player at the end of the month.

But we can now add Duk to the list after he was linked with a move to Young Boys.

Reports in Switzerland of the club having a 2.5million euros for Duk rejected have been dismissed by the Dons.

I’m a fan of Duk, but if I had to lose one player from Aberdeen’s forward line between him or Miovski, I’d let the Cape Verde international go.

He’s a talented and exciting player, but he needs to lift his head up and be more of a team player as far as I’m concerned.

In terms of what he can offer a team, I’m tempted to put Ester Sokler ahead of him in my Pittodrie pecking order at this point.

But, of course, I wouldn’t want to lose Duk either – and I hope come February 1 he and Miovski are still Aberdeen players.

Aberdeen will be looking to tweak their squad this month and the news of Rhys Williams returning to Liverpool is a sign that process is under way.

With other players like Or Dadia and Vicente Besuijen well out of the first team picture, it would suit all parties for them to move on, too.

We’re in for an interesting month.

SFA must stand up to Rangers

It’s time Rangers had a reality check following their ongoing row with the SFA about refereeing.

The decision not to award them a penalty against Celtic has dominated the headlines all week and it’s getting out of hand.

The Ibrox club are reportedly demanding Willie Collum not be involved in their games in the future.

I don’t know who they think they are.

If I was the SFA, I’d send out a message they will not be dictated to by a club and put Collum on officiating duties for Rangers’ next game.