Toothless in attack and leaking soft goals Aberdeen need to fix both problems rapidly with a tough run of fixtures in October.
Booed by frustrated fans at full-time following a 1-0 loss to St Johnstone, the Reds are now seven games without a win.
Lacking an attacking cutting edge and unable to keep out opponents at the other end is derailing early momentum and positivity.
Aberdeen taken just two points from the last 12 in the Premiership.
The Dons have now failed to register a clean sheet for 10 games – since the opening Premiership game of the season on August 1.
The expected return of play-maker Ryan Hedges from a six-game absence due to a hamstring injury to face St Mirren next weekend could, and must, be the catalyst to kick-start the Dons’ misfiring attack.
It looked like the recent defensive slackness had been fixed with the introduction of former SV Hamburg defender David Bates at centre-half for his first Aberdeen start.
Partnering Ross McCrorie in the heart of defence, Scotland international Bates left the pitch having picked up an injury in the 74th minute with the teams level at 0-0.
It didn’t stay like that.
A team in transition but 13 games in
Aberdeen are a team in transition after a summer rebuild by manager Stephen Glass – but so are the majority of other Premiership sides.
Now 13 games into the new season, Aberdeen need to start gelling now – and must start delivering wins with tough games careering towards them against Rangers, Celtic, Hearts and Hibs in October.
Aberdeen have arguably had the space to click as a team with an opening salvo of Premiership fixtures where they have avoided facing most of the big hitters – a 1-1 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle aside.
Now the real Premiership tests will arrive next month – and both problems, defensively and in attack, that are dogging the Reds must be eradicated.
Aberdeen boss Glass has worked on sharpening both the attack and defence in training in recent weeks, but the problems persist.
In the bid to secure a first shut out in 10 games, Glass fielded a young back four of right-back Calvin Ramsay, 18, centre-backs Ross McCrorie, 22, Bates, 24, and left-back Jack MacKenzie, 21, for an average age of 21.
Manager Glass made a switch of Scotland international centre-backs.
Dropping out was Declan Gallagher, 30, who has eight caps, with recent signing Bates, capped four times, coming in for his first start since arriving on a three-year deal from SV Hamburg in the final week of the summer transfer window.
Solid starting debut from defender Bates
Bates slotted in at left sided centre-back and produced a rock-solid performance to keep the shackles on striker Chris Kane before being substituted, with cramp, for Gallagher in 74 minutes
Bates was vocal at the back, communicated well and orchestrated the young back line.
Confident driving out from the back in possession, he rarely sent a pass astray.
Bates made 53 passes, 45 of them finding a fellow Don for an 84.9% success rate.
Bates also made 21 successful passes in St Johnstone’s half, indicating his willingness and ability to drive forward.
On early indication. Bates’ game seems ideal to Glass’ possession-based football.
Bates won 6 of 8 duels and 4 of 6 aerial battles and left the field with 15 minutes remaining having delivered, up to that point, the Dons’ first clean sheet in 10 games.
Within 10 minutes of Bates’ exit Aberdeen conceded when Stevie May was given too much space to shoot and the striker fired in a right-footed drive from outside the box in the 84th minute.
The centre-back partnership of Bates-McCrorie looks, on early indication, to be more solid than the Gallagher-McCrorie one.
Plenty of possession but no points… again
This was the same story for Aberdeen of enjoying the majority of possession but doing nothing with it.
Aberdeen had 64.6% of of the ball over the 90 minutes against St Johnstone, effectively the same as the 64.1% of the first half.
Glass’ side also registered 10 shots at goal, including blocked efforts, but the outcome was a loss. Saints keeper Zander Clark was rarely troubled.
It was a frustrating case of ‘same again’ for the Dons as there was a clear similarity to the two previous Premiership games against Motherwell (2-0 loss) and Ross County (1-1).
In losing to Motherwell, the Reds had 74.5% possession and 20 shots, including blocked, but slumped to a first league defeat of the season.
Prior to that match, Aberdeen had 75.4% of possession with 23 efforts at goal in a 1-1 draw with Ross County – but had to rely on a late Christian Ramirez goal to salvage a draw.
Aberdeen have dominated possession in the last three games, with 53 shots at goal, but have only one goal and one point to show for it.
Boss Glass had urged his squad to block out the ‘outside noise’ of criticism in the lead up to the St Johnstone game.
It was difficult to ignore the noise of boos from some disgruntled fans at full-time.
At St Mirren next Sunday, Aberdeen must tighten up at the back and sharpen up at the front to stop ‘noise’ getting louder.
ABERDEEN (4-1-2-3): Lewis 6, Ramsay 7, Bates 7 (Gallagher 74), McCrorie 6, MacKenzie 7, Ojo 6, Brown 6, Ferguson 6, Emmanuel-Thomas 5 (McGinn 66), Ramirez 5, Samuels 6 (Hayes 59).
Subs: Ritchie, McGinn, Jenks, Campbell, Longstaff.
ST JOHNSTONE (3-4-2-1): Clark 6, Rooney 7, Ambrose 7, McCart 7, Brown 6, Wotherspoon 6, Davidson 7, Booth 6, Middleton 6 (May 69), Kane 6 (Vertainen 81), O’Halloran 6 (Crawford 60).
Subs: Parish, Muller, Craig, Devine.
Referee: Bobby Madden.
Man of the match: Jack MacKenzie (Aberdeen).