It’s all looking positive for Stephen Glass’ Aberdeen at the moment.
The Premiership-opening 2-0 win over Dundee United was a good all-round performance in a game they totally dominated early on.
Despite the visitors’ attempts to get themselves into the game, the Reds scored two good goals either side of half-time via Jonny Hayes and Christian Ramirez and generally dealt with anything Tam Courts’ team managed to throw at them.
I don’t remember Joe Lewis in the Aberdeen goal having a save to make.
I’m not saying the Dons are as good as they can be yet, but when you consider the first European performance against Hacken, which basically ended that tie despite a subsequent 2-0 away loss, and then the ease with which they won the league opener, things are ticking along quite nicely at this point.
There could be dips along the way, but the signs at the moment for Glass and his side are extremely positive. They are attempting to play expansive front-foot football, where they take the game to the opposition.
The new Pittodrie manager certainly has a good mix of experience and youth to achieve these aims, and clearly isn’t afraid to give academy prospects the chance to shine.
Dons’ young guns making strong impression
Young full-backs Calvin Ramsay and Jack Mackenzie both impressed on Sunday, with the defence, which also included 23-year-old Ross McCrorie, very youthful. The trio only had old head Andy Considine alongside them to keep them right.
For the home side’s second, Ramsay left an experienced defender, in former Pittodrie player Mark Reynolds, for dead with a wonderful piece of skill, before putting in a marvellous delivery – Ramirez couldn’t miss!
The quality of the piece of build-up play from youth academy product Ramsay really stood out as the moment of the game and was a great way for the now-18-year-old to celebrate his big birthday over the weekend.
He’s a player Aberdeen will be desperate to keep for a number of years, but chances are – if he keeps playing like he has been – there will be a lot of interest from elsewhere.
In terms of the McCrorie-Considine centre-half partnership, you do wonder how long Scotland international Declan Gallagher – one of Glass’ biggest summer signings – will sit on the bench.
The more likely of the pairing to make way, McCrorie, who was previously deployed as a midfielder under Derek McInnes, can do is help deliver clean sheets like Sunday. If you’re composed with the ball and limit the opposition’s opportunities without it, you make it really difficult for the manager to do anything other than constantly pick you.
McCrorie is still young, and it will be hard to keep a player like Gallagher out – but he can give Glass one of those nice headaches by performing on the pitch.
I thought the centre-backs played better together against Dundee United than they did against Hacken in Sweden, where mistakes were made in the build-up to the two goals.
US striker has scoring knack
Meanwhile, both Ramirez’s Pittodrie goals – his close-range finish against Hacken, and then Sunday’s header – have shown the new Dons striker has the handy knack of getting himself away from his marker in the right areas.
The way he seems to really come alive in the penalty box is the sign of a good striker.
Most of the United States international’s activity against United was comprised of the runs he made to try to create space for himself – running across the face of the defence and into the channels. He was constantly on the move, which was another encouraging sign.
That movement, and desire to get in behind, from your striker is what you want to see as a defender or midfielder when you look up.
Trip to Iceland next up
The Dons next outing is in Iceland on Thursday, where they will take on Breidablik in the Europa Conference League third qualifying round first leg.
On paper, it looks like a favourable tie for Aberdeen and a real chance to set up a play-off round clash against AEL Limassol of Cyprus or Qarabag of Azerbaijan – the final tie they’d have to get through before the group stage.
You’d imagine Glass and his team will be reasonably happy with both their draw for the third round and the play-off round, however, they can’t afford to take their eye off the ball in the next couple of Euro games and underestimate their Icelandic rivals – who beat Austria Vienna in the second round.
Despite not being too well known, Breidablik’s win against the Austrians should ring alarm bells.
I expect Glass to keep a very similar team to the one deployed in the last three matches – because I don’t think he feels at the moment the game-time is too much for his current first 11. He’ll be desperate to take what appears to be a serious opportunity to secure European group stage football in his first season as gaffer.
Dundee United could be in trouble on basis of Pittodrie showing
Both Dundee United and Aberdeen were going into Sunday’s Premiership opener with what many would view as two “rookie” managers.
However, the afternoon went very differently for the men in the home and away dugouts.
Dons boss Stephen Glass and United manager Tam Courts are both trying to put their stamp on the teams they’ve been entrusted with. Just look at the defences – Glass has moved the Dons from a back three to a back four after replacing Derek McInnes, while Courts has done the opposite since taking Micky Mellon’s role at Tannadice.
I don’t know what Dundee United were thinking about for the first 35 minutes at Pittodrie against Aberdeen. They were basically spectators and I wasn’t sure what the tactic was, apart from to stop the Reds playing.
Looking back to the 3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final win they pulled off in the Granite City under Mellon last year, where they attacked and pressed, it was a totally different approach.
It’s unsustainable for United to be going trying to effectively play for a draw and they should have set out to engage Aberdeen more.
They were a bit better after the opening part of the game, but never really put the Dons in any real danger with their performance, and the only time I can remember them threatening to score a goal was Ian Harkes’ header wide on the stroke of half-time from Liam Smith’s cross. They’ve not had a shot on goal and barely created an opportunity.
It was also strange to see skipper Mark Reynolds and main striker Lawrence Shankland go off.
If the same approach and level of performance continues, it’s going to be a tough season for United and I imagine the fans won’t be enamoured having witnessed it.
Courts is a young manager and he needs to find his feet, but he’ll have to do it quickly like Glass appears to have done with Aberdeen at the start of this term.