Aberdeen’s Bruce Anderson has been showing Premiership pedigree on loan at Hamilton Accies, with Brian Rice’s system appearing to help the striker get off to a fast start.
Striker Anderson, speaking to the media recently, accepted he is currently playing for his Dons future while he is in Lanarkshire, with his Pittodrie deal set to run out in the summer.
The 22-year-old wants to show he can finally break through and lead the line for his boyhood club, saying: “It would be massive if I could go back to Aberdeen and be one of their main strikers next season.
“Everybody knows how big an Aberdeen fan I am.
“That is my goal and dream – to lead the line for Aberdeen.
“My contract is up, but I am just concentrating on the games and after that my future will take care of itself.
“I want to do my best for Brian Rice (Hamilton manager) and everybody at Accies and at the same time show Aberdeen I can do well in the Premier League.
“I just want to get a regular run to prove that I can play in the Premiership to build my confidence up .
“Then we will see what happens in the summer.”
Anderson’s stats for Accies so far
Anderson, who a large section of the Red Army have always rooted for, given his local roots and support of the club, has certainly been putting a good case forward that he has the ability to score goals in the Premiership in the first weeks of his spell with Accies.
As you’ll see above, Anderson has played more league minutes for Hamilton in his five starts since joining than he has in 17 appearances for the Dons over the last year-and-a-half (a time in which he had a decent Championship loan spell with Dunfermline and, more recently, a disappointing one with Ayr United, where he only netted twice).
In his five games for Accies so far, he has managed more shots, touches in the box and chances created than he did across his 17 often-fleeting periods on the park for the Reds since summer 2019.
The confidence seems to be flowing at the bottom-half side and his shots have been more than 5% more likely to hit the back of the net, according to Opta.
Has Rice found the key to getting best out of Anderson?
The big question around Anderson, while he’s clearly talented (his first Dons goal against Rangers being a case in point), has always been whether he fits the style of football or one-up-top shape which was long favoured by Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes.
In the article linked to above, Anderson references being behind Adam Rooney and Sam Cosgrove in the Pittodrie pecking order in recent seasons.
While both were prolific in spells for the Dons, they are also both much bigger physically than the Macduff-raised striker.
When an injury crisis at the start of the season meant McInnes had no choice but to play Anderson as a lone striker in the opening-day loss to Rangers, it was apparent he isn’t suited to the job of holding up high balls forward, nor is he a player to rough up opposition defences.
He was left isolated and taken off early for Leeds loanee Ryan Edmondson.
However, Hamilton boss Brian Rice appears to have found a way to play to Anderson’s strengths, with the Dons youth academy graduate scoring twice in his last three games for the Premiership’s bottom side.
Here are the goals:
(4 minutes 36 seconds)
Anderson isn’t afraid to get shots away and, although the goal against St Mirren comes with a touch of fortune, he still wasn’t afraid to take the effort on, left-footed from the edge of the area.
The goal against Motherwell was predatory, with the Dons loanee, who has scored for fun at every age group, squeezing his finish home from close range, despite being surrounded in the area.
Rice is playing Anderson in a front two with the more physical Marios Ogkmpoe and they appear to be a good pairing.
Here is Rice’s line-up (in his preferred formation) from Accies’ 4-1 win over Lanarkshire rivals Motherwell recently:
By coincidence, since deadline day, Aberdeen – who had been going through a much-publicised goal drought while Anderson was scoring for Hamilton – have been using a similar shape to accommodate their new-look loan strikers Florian Kamberi, Fraser Hornby and Callum Hendry.
If they are to persist with it and Anderson is to remain at the Dons into next season, he’s showing this is a shape, which, instead of leaving him cast adrift, has allowed him to not only forge a relationship with his strike partner, but Accies other attacking players.
Here are his passing stats (to and from), as well as the players Anderson has linked up with in front of goal:
As you can see, Hamilton’s right wing-back Lee Hodson, number 10 Ross Callachan and Ogkmpoe feature heavily.
As a result of his relationship with his new team-mates, Anderson appears to be getting plenty of the ball in areas where a natural finisher can thrive.
Here are his touchmaps from Accies’ 4-1 win over the Steelmen, as well as their 1-1 draw with St Mirren – the two games in which Anderson has scored:
Plenty of touches in and around the opposition area.
Of course, there’s plenty of football to be played this season, but – if Anderson continues on his current trajectory – it could see him win a contract extension at Aberdeen.
The player says he is at Accies to “prove” himself to “brilliant manager” McInnes and earn the “prolonged run” in the Dons team he is yet to get.
Anderson appears to be showing he can score goals at Premiership level if used in a system which suits him. Will he get the chance at Pittodrie?
Anderson showing he can deliver goals and assists in the Premiership when he gets regular starts. Definitely worthy of a new Dons deal. No senior strikers signed beyond summer. Thoughts? #aberdeenfc @AberdeenFC https://t.co/q1rKBhQ3jc
— Sean Wallace (@EESeanWallace) February 24, 2021