The seventh season of the Premiership kicks-off today and Aberdeen look to be in good shape for another strong challenge – despite an early spate of injuries.
Pittodrie manager Derek McInnes did the bulk of his business promptly this summer.
The new players have had time to settle in and they have serious competitive action under their belts thanks to the Europa League.
Thursday night’s hugely impressive 5-0 home victory over Chikhura for a 6-1 aggregate win – and the previous home performance against RoPS – suggest the Dons have got over their Pittodrie problem of 2018-19 and that the crowds will continue to flock back if Aberdeen are playing that exciting, high-intensity brand of football.
It reminded me of 2016-17 when Hayes and McGinn were flying, Rooney was clinical and the goals flowed.
They are certainly flowing right now for big Sam Cosgrove, who is the Europa League’s top scorer. This time last year Cosgrove was a raw prospect who simply didn’t look like finding the net.
As the campaign progressed, he improved and developed, gained confidence and became a first-choice pick for the manager.
Despite complaints from one or two of my friends, I had no problem naming him in my Premiership team of the season.
Sam has hit the ground running, looks to have the self-belief a striker needs and is going to be a major figure for the Dons in the coming months. He will miss chances, as he did against Rovaniemi, but he will continue to get into the right positions and will surely comfortably beat last year’s total of 21 goals.
Most of the new faces have got off to a flyer. Greg Leigh caught the eye on his debut and will become a fans’ favourite.
Jon Gallagher was again outstanding and Ryan Hedges will be exciting to watch.
All will contribute, but Funso Ojo could well be the most important addition. I thought he ran the game on Thursday, linking with those ahead of him while also stepping in to help out the central defenders, who I know have been impressed by his ability and organisational qualities.
If there is one area of concern it is at the back and that might be about to become more pressing should the bidding war for Scott McKenna intensify and come to a conclusion.
With Ash Taylor and Mikey Devlin already on the treatment table, big Scott’s departure would leave a gaping hole in the back four. Should he go, I would expect the manager to move rapidly to fill the gap.
We can be assured that Derek has a list of alternatives and will be ready to tie-up something quickly.
Even if Scott stays for now, the Dons may be a bit light defensively and it would be no surprise to see someone else being brought in.
On the whole, Aberdeen look to have good options and the experience and confidence gained in recent years will have a big part to play in the season ahead.
I fully expect Celtic to go on to clinch nine-in-a-row and, given Rangers’ budget, anything less than second will be a failure for them.
But with better fortune on the injury front, the Dons certainly have the squad to push them all the way.
I wouldn’t anticipate anything less than third and they might just have a few surprises for the two Glasgow clubs.