Earlier this week, news broke Aberdeen had recalled striker Bruce Anderson and midfielder Miko Virtanen from season-long loan spells in the Championship.
The reason for this could be Derek McInnes sees a first-team role for both players in the second half of the campaign, or the Dons manager and his staff may simply want to assess both players before sending them back out on loan or even moving them on to free up space for January signings. Both are out of contract in the summer.
Anderson, 22, has been at Ayr United since the start of the delayed Championship campaign, having featured five times for Aberdeen this term before that, while Virtanen, 21, has been back at Arbroath, where he was a big hit on loan last term.
How have they fared?
Anderson, who led the line in the Reds’ Premiership opener against Rangers and has 37 first-team appearances to his name, got off to a flyer with the Honest Men, scoring two against Albion Rovers on his debut – a 5-2 Betfred Cup win.
However, despite a knowledge of the Championship from a loan spell at Dunfermline in 2019, where he scored five times, the attacker has struggled this time around in a team which is still trying to put it together at both ends, home and away.
In 601 minutes of league football, starting seven of Ayr’s 11 matches, he had managed just two shots on target.
The Honest Men have been struggling for consistency under Mark Kerr, with only three wins so far. Attacking displays at home, especially, have been hard to come by, although they’ve fared better in front of goal on the road.
Anderson hasn’t played since the loss to Arbroath on December 19, sitting out subsequent games against Hearts, Morton and Queen of the South. The likes of Dario Zanatta and Michael Moffat have both filled the lone striker role for Ayr of late, with Anderson on the bench.
Aberdeen, meanwhile, are currently doing well in terms of racking up points, if not goals and sparkling displays.
Anderson has shown his knack for taking half chances, famously securing a draw for Aberdeen off the bench against Rangers in 2018, and has been labelled the club’s most natural finisher.
However, his form at Ayr hasn’t suggested he’s ready to go straight into Aberdeen’s starting line-up. With his smaller frame, he doesn’t seem to be suited to playing upfront on his own, as the opening day defeat to Rangers showed, and one striker is what McInnes favours.
Similar to Anderson, Virtanen’s second spell in the Championship has been a comedown from his first, but – like Anderson with Ayr – he’s probably been in a team who are playing worse. He’s been part of an Arbroath team who finished fourth in 2019/20, but are bottom of the Championship this season.
The Gayfield outfit have played 10 league matches, with Virtanen starting eight of those and managing three shots from midfield in the process. A positive to take would be: it’s 719 minutes of senior football he didn’t have before, as well as experience of adversity.
Finn Virtanen incurred the wrath of Red Lichties boss Dick Campbell after a loss to Dundee, with the veteran gaffer saying he “could kill” the player for not telling him he’d suffered an injury playing for the Dons reserve side until the last minute.
The loanee was hooked before half-time.
However, it’s clear McInnes rates Virtanen. After he won Arbroath’s Young Player of the Year award last season, the Dons boss said he was “delighted” with his progress.
The defensive midfielder can also play right-back, which means he may be coming to provide cover when Ronald Hernandez’s impending departure in finalised, while he would also be able to fill in should the likes of Belgian midfielder Funso Ojo, who has struggled to break into McInnes’ team, be moved on.
Opta stats for Bruce Anderson and Miko Virtanen in the first half of the 2020/21 campaign
|Scottish Championship 2020/21||Virtanen, Miko||Anderson, Bruce|
|Shots on Target||0||2|