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Aberdeen Women: What are the key priorities for the transfer window?

The SWPL transfer window opens on January 1.

Aberdeen FC Women in a pre-match huddle ahead of a SWPL fixture.
Aberdeen Women in a pre-match huddle ahead of a SWPL fixture. Image: Shutterstock.

There would have been only one thing on Aberdeen Women’s Christmas wishlist – and that is new players to bolster a young squad short on numbers.

The Dons experienced horrid luck this season with two of manager Clint Lancaster’s summer signings ruled out with season-ending injuries after only seven SWPL games.

It was something the squad could not really afford to happen as they started the season already short on bodies following the retirement and exit of a number of last term’s contingent.

Before those setbacks, the season started on a high with the Reds picking up four wins from six games.

However, it has been a difficult spell recently – and some aspects of performances have highlighted the need for new recruits.

Aberdeen have won two and drew one of their last 10 games in the top-flight, but those early wins meant they still went into the festive break sitting in seventh in the table.

But if they are to stay there over the second half of the campaign then it is vital a number of signings are made when the transfer window opens on January 1.

Goalkeeper has to be a priority

The Lancaster era started off with a real coup as Liverpool goalkeeper Faye Kirby, an England under-23 international, signed for the Dons on loan.

Although only 19, Kirby came to Scotland with an impressive CV.

She was Liverpool’s young player of the season in 2022-23 after making five appearances across the FA WSL and League Cup, including a player of the match display against eventual league champions Chelsea.

Kirby would go on to make seven appearances in the SWPL as she returned to her parent club after sustaining an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury.

Goalkeeper Faye Kirby in action for Aberdeen Women.
Goalkeeper Faye Kirby sustained an ACL injury during her loan spell with Aberdeen Women. Image: Shutterstock.

It was a real blow for Aberdeen after Kirby had impressed during her short time with the club, with her composure on the ball and distribution more than evident.

Last season’s number one Annalisa McCann, 18, has started every game since Kirby’s departure.

This is the second season where McCann has found herself in between the sticks due to a similar set of circumstances. She played almost every league game last campaign after Aaliyah-Jay Meach left the club in November.

The other goalkeepers Aberdeen have named in their match-day squad are Zoe MacLean, who has featured once and is also 18, and 17-year-old Marika Bereznaka.

Aberdeen FC Women goalkeeper Annalisa McCann. Image: Shutterstock.

Kirby’s impact was clear, even at a young age, because she came through the ranks in elite environments and had been exposed to the highest levels of the game in England.

The on-loan goalkeeper kept two clean sheets in seven SWPL appearances, conceding 12 goals in total, while McCann has conceded 38 goals in 10 league games so far.

It is understood an experienced goalkeeper has been identified ahead of the January transfer window opening.

Recruits needed in defence and midfield

At the start of the season, there were three Aberdeen players whose preferred position was in the centre of midfield, but now there is only one: Eilidh Shore.

The other two players were club captain Nadine Hanssen, who has not featured since October due to being pregnant with her second child, and summer signing Laura Holden, who sustained an ACL injury in the same game as Kirby.

It means Lancaster has had to play players out of position or hand starts to certain players more regularly than he would like, such as the youngsters from the under-18s.

The Aberdeen boss after his side’s final game of 2023 – a 7-0 defeat to Hibernian – said: “It’s too early for them (the young players) in their development.

Aberdeen Women midfielder Eilidh Shore.
Aberdeen Women midfielder Eilidh Shore. Image: Shutterstock.

“You play the full-time teams and you don’t get much of the ball, so it is really difficult for the younger players.

“Some of the girls should still be playing in the academy where it is more competitive for them and they are getting on the ball more.”

More depth is needed in the midfield to take the pressure away from players such as Shore, but also to ensure youngsters like Phoebe Murray are not run into the ground, physically and mentally, at this early pivotal point in their senior careers.

Aberdeen would also benefit from the addition of defensive players, especially those with experience.

Lancaster has opted to line-up with a back three this season with 24-year-old Chloe Gover – whose natural position is on the wing – being the only player to feature in the defensive line-up in every game.

Gover has played alongside a rotation of teenagers: Madison Finnie, Jess Broadrick, Aimee Black and Keira MacPherson.

Broadrick is the most experienced defender, despite being only 19, and she missed the final two games of the calendar year due to injury.

Jess Broadrick in action for Aberdeen against Motherwell. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

The backline is already young and lacks experience, but taking Broadrick out of the equation, or if Gover was also unavailable – there would be a lack of defensive players with experience to replace them.

Aberdeen play a fast-paced game with a 3-5-2 formation that the young players will benefit from, but it is a system where even small mistakes, especially at the back, can prove costly.

A new addition in defence, who has experience, could help improve things on the pitch, but would also provide the youngsters with another senior player to learn from.