Why it might work
The motivation is fairly clear: Aberdeen have not yet given up on winning the Scottish Premiership crown and are looking to reinforce their squad for the run-in.
Using the benefit of 20/20 hindsight they could have done with this signing 12 days ago when Jonny Hayes was forced off against Celtic. The midfielder was giving Efe Ambrose a torrid time and the central defender (playing out of position at full-back) looked like he had no answer for dealing with the Irishman. Then the injury happened, Kenny McLean went out wide and they lost that threat. Had Andy Driver been able to come on he would have continued in the same vein.
That’s why Driver will give Aberdeen that they don’t really have another than Hayes. He’s a winger who likes to take the full-back on the outside and hit the byline. It’s what McInnes hoped Jeffrey Monakana would be. (For those who just went ‘oh yeah, him!’ we can inform you he returned to Brighton in January and now plays for Mansfield.)
Unlike the Englishman Driver arrives with a pedigree at this level and therefore represents less of a gamble. He’ll play back-up to Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes at the left-midfield spot. McGinn can be used across the attacking four positions in Aberdeen’s trusted 4-2-3-1 and Hayes is a little injury prone, so it might not require too much to occur for Driver to get a spot in the starting XI.
His main attributes are pace and directness, which will help him fit seamlessly into Aberdeen’s blistering counter-attack game and be a useful tool when team’s sit in against the Dons. In his prime with Hearts he could accelerate around defenders and get to the byline even when presented with only 15 or so yards to work with.
For the player it represents a great chance to showcase his talents before the deal expires in the summer. It’s unlikely Aberdeen will look to sign him to a longer deal considering the amount of talent already in the squad, and even more unlikely that Driver would be willing to pen a two or three year deal in a situation where he’s not the guaranteed starter (both Hayes and McGinn have long-term deals). If he gets the time to play he’ll be walking into a positive situation, playing with good players which can only make him look better by association.
Where it could go wrong
Andy Driver in his prime was a great player at this level. The major issue with this signing is that Driver is not in his prime and, realistically, hasn’t been for the past five years.
Driver, even in Scottish football terms, is a winger of average skill. His best attribute is his pace, but that pace was diminished somewhat by the numerous injury problems he suffered as a young player in the Hearts team. To give you an idea of the problems he had it is worth mentioning this statistic: the most he ever played in one season with Hearts was 31 games in all competitions. His appearance totals for Houston Dynamo the last two years would indicate those problems are behind him, but they robbed him of that half yard which isn’t coming back.
What Hearts had in Driver’s last season-and-a-half was a peripheral player who would sparingly come alive and show flashes of his old self. Fans will fondly remember a terrific performance in the 2012 Scottish Cup Final. What they won’t remember is the half season he played after it. That’s because his performances were exactly that – forgettable. There’s a possibility his form picked up in Houston, since we don’t get to watch many Dynamo games, though the fact the franchise refused to take him the option to keep him for another year does not bode well.
You have to wonder if this signing is all that necessary? Aberdeen’s bench against Celtic included David Goodwillie, Barry Robson, Peter Pawlett and Cammy Smith. They four give Aberdeen more than enough depth in the attacking positions compared with any other team in the league, particularly when you consider that Hayes, McLean, Pawlett, McGinn and Rooney can all play multiple positions.
They declined trying to keep Monakana past January because he was just a body doing little other than taking up space in the dressing room. There’s a real chance Driver could become just that, especially when you consider he’s joining a team very late in the season, potentially causing adjustment issues, and might not see many opportunities to get himself up to speed in a match situation.
That’s why it could also be a poor move from Driver. There are plenty of teams in the Scottish Premiership who are crying out for some talent just to get them through until the end of the season with their top six/Premiership status in tact. He perhaps could have been better suited picking a scenario where he had a greater chance of starting games. Because even if he does look poor at Aberdeen it might not actually mean he’s finished, just that he never got a fair whack, but that’s not how other managers might perceive it come the summer.
WRITTEN BY CRAIG FOWLER
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