Reflecting on a season, which started at the end of June last year and came to a heart-wrenching head on Saturday afternoon, is no straightforward affair. The emotional impact of a finely contested Scottish Cup final is still raw for supporters but it does not curtail what has ultimately been an impressive campaign for Aberdeen.
There have been highs; a record finish of 76 points, a win at Ibrox for the first time in 26 years and several thrashings of Scottish Premiership opposition. However, with those hypnotic moments of euphoria comes the odd low as well; exiting the Europa League to a beatable Maribor, failing to lay a glove on Celtic in the Scottish League Cup final and lastly coming so close to hurting Brendan Rodgers’ side on the rain-drenched surface of a sold-out Hampden stadium. Some individuals were key protagonists, others were peripheral figures but they all played a part in the story of the 2016/17 season.
Joe Lewis – 8
Few would have anticipated this signing working out so well but it has and thank goodness. Rarely has Lewis made a mistake, securing 14 clean sheets throughout the campaign. The goalkeeper is reliable, confident at taking crosses, a comfortable distributor and capable of making those game-defining saves. His communication skills were evident from day one in his debut against Fola Esch, and Aberdeen’s defence has benefitted from his experience. A contract extension should be a priority.
Neil Alexander – N/A
The understudy has yet to make a single competitive appearance, emphasising just how consistent Lewis has been.
Andy Considine – 6
He had supporters dancing and singing to Sweet Considine (to the tune of ‘Sweet Caroline’) at Dens Park after netting a career first hat-trick the day before his 30th birthday. The left-back has had a relatively consistent season, marred only by occasional blips against the likes of Celtic and Rangers. It’s testament to his own hard work that Derek McInnes no longer sees the position as an area that needs strengthened.
Shay Logan – 7
The self-proclaimed ‘fox in the box’ has enjoyed a good season, solid defensively and plays his part going forward. Partial to a chop or a Cruyff, the defender is remarkably skilled on the ball, and is even capable of popping up with a goal every now and then. Hence the nickname. His most important strike was the late goal against Ross County, which sent Aberdeen on their Scottish Cup run.
Callum Morris – N/A
Why? Just, why?
Anthony O’Connor – 5
Occasionally deployed in defensive midfield, O’Connor seems more of a defender than a midfielder. He can tackle, sometimes. He’s relatively composed on the ball. He gets the odd goal at set plays. But looking at this season’s evidence, it can’t be said concretely that he is a better option than Mark Reynolds or Ash Taylor. Just as the other two, he has his moments and, therefore, the jury is still out.
Mark Reynolds – 5
Gordon Strachan included the centre-back in his latest Scotland squad, suggesting that Gordon Strachan probably doesn’t watch Aberdeen games. Reynolds has been poor for about two years now, contributing to defensive frailties that Derek McInnes has yet to address. His only saving grace is perhaps that this season he was probably marginally less bad than last.
Ash Taylor – 5
Taylor is set to leave Pittodrie and it’s with the vast majority of the Aberdeen support’s blessing. In his first season with the club, he was dominant and looked like a rock that could be built upon. Since then he has gotten progressively worse, producing those Ash Taylor moments in important fixtures that provoke a cacophony of profanity from the stands. Oh well, he’s someone else’s problem now.
Ryan Christie – 7
But Del, can we keep him? Seven goals in 15 appearance, including that exquisite chip against Motherwell and, of course, we can’t forget the header at Ibrox. The midfielder has been a brilliant creative outlet with his ability to carry the ball at pace, completely glued to his boot. He’s also shown the willingness to do something different, as highlighted perfectly by his opportunistic free-kick against Hibs in the Scottish-Cup semi-final. McInnes ought to ask the question of Rodgers, but only time will tell if he will.
Jonny Hayes – 8
Leading the Scottish Premiership assist charts with 15 this season, Hayes has had another fantastic season. He is loved at Pittodrie because he has both the work ethic and the final product, and when he gets going, there is no fullback in the league that can get to grips with him. Whether it’s the blistering pace or the nous to drag defenders inside and then out, he has been one of the strongest performers in the league and was recognised by his peers with a nomination for PFA Scotland Player of the Year.
Ryan Jack – 4
The former captain’s strengths are in his ball retention and neat passing ability but rarely, if at all, throughout the last two seasons, has Jack seemed irreplaceable. While supporters would be disappointed if he signed for Rangers, they recognise that he probably wouldn’t strengthen their side dramatically. Why? Because, there isn’t a great deal to his game. He can’t really tackle or make lung-bursting runs, he doesn’t score goals and when he comes toe-to-toe with Scott Brown, he often goes quiet.
Niall McGinn – 7
Another who will leave the club as Aberdeen face a summer of transition, McGinn’s contributions over the last five years can’t go unnoticed. Despite not being the quickest, his capability as a winger has not been hampered. The drop of the shoulder and ability to cross on either foot mean that he’s shown again this season just why he is so important to the team. He has consistently created and scored goals, and therefore needs replaced. It’s an unenviable task for McInnes and one he really needs to get right.
Kenny McLean – 8
It’s been the former St Mirren man’s finest season in a red shirt, as he benefitted from James Maddison’s decision to stay south of the border in January. Traditionally used at the point of the midfield triumvirate, the full range of McLean’s passing became more and more evident as the season developed. His ability to choose the right ball at speed is key to Aberdeen’s direct counter-attacking style. Additionally, he has improved his aggression and tackling, growing from a supporting character to an influential figure in the side.
James Maddison – 7
He will always have a place in the hearts of the support after scoring that goal but the midfielder on-loan from Norwich caused a bit of debate. He showed a natural gift for the game with vision and flair that would get people on their feet but at points it felt as though he was being shoe-horned into a side that didn’t have a space for him. This came at a cost in the League Cup final when he operated on the left, drifting inside time and time again. As a result, Celtic’s attack was afforded the opportunity to double up on Considine and wreak havoc. In a system so focused on performing as a team and not neglecting defensive responsibilities, Maddison was an anomaly and at times it didn’t work.
Peter Pawlett – 5
As Aberdeen have improved season upon season, the team has outgrown certain players and Pawlett is the latest casualty. He is a good player and throughout the campaign, has been useful coming off the bench but he has rightfully made the decision to try his luck elsewhere. He has shown that he can still impact games with his pace but has struggled to break into a midfield that ultimately picks itself.
Frank Ross – 4
Promising stuff in glimpses. McInnes has proven to be cautious in his offering of minutes to young players, so it’s still too early to tell how he will develop.
Graeme Shinnie – 9
Embodies everything football fans want out of a player. Aggressive, fiery, impassioned, tidy in possession and overflowing with drive. Strong in the tackle but equally adept at ball carrying, Shinnie is just a few goals shy of being the complete midfielder. His performance as he wore the captain’s armband in the 2-1 win at Ibrox was simply superb, and for me he has been Aberdeen’s standout performer this season.
Wes Burns – 3
Carried the aura of an individual with a sense of entitlement. A young player who came to Scotland, known to McInnes from his time at Bristol City, confident of running the show. Initially events fed his ego, as he came off the bench to score on his debut against Ventspils in the Europa League. Other than that, he showed a bit of potential against Ayr United but failed to make a lasting impact before leaving.
Adam Rooney – 7
The striker hit 20 goals for a third consecutive season, memorably netting a hat-trick in the 7-2 rout of Mark McGhee. He’s just about useless outside of the penalty area but it doesn’t matter because Rooney’s had another season where he’s sclaffed in his usual bucketload of tap-ins and penalties. That’s what we need him for.
Jayden Stockley – 5
Elbows. It’s his thing. The target man was signed as a different option up top but has worryingly received three red cards, all for roughly the same sort of thing. Scored a delicious lob against Partick Thistle and turned a game at Rugby Park on its head, so it’s not been all bad. But will he stay at the club beyond next season? Probably not.
Miles Storey – 3
Hasn’t played and is potentially overweight. Mutual termination imminent.
Scott Wright – 6
Seems a bit crass to give the youngster a similar or better rating to those who have had significantly more game time but he deserves it. He’s a prospect, who has always looked bright when coming off the bench then he got his second competitive start against Partick Thistle and the rest is history. His display showed that we could have a real player on our hands. Prepared to run at defenders and skillful enough to glide beyond them, Wright was clinical and scored a lovely hat-trick. It was a strange reminder that we do actually have a youth system.
Derek McInnes – 8
He’s not perfect but it’s been another great season for McInnes. He has addressed last season’s failures in the cups, and we have competed in two finals with the second of the two almost going exactly to plan after he got his tactics right. However, the decision to replace Niall McGinn with Anthony O’Connor, as the game entered a crucial stage, was a nod to one of his flaws. McInnes is guilty of making strange substitutions and also making them at the wrong time, as was conveyed by his decision to bring a more attacking player in Scott Wright on when it was too late.
That aside, he has inspired a side to play some breathtaking football, creating some really enjoyable moments for the support throughout the season whether that be the victories over Rangers or the dismantling of certain opposition. He is reportedly being considered to replace David Moyes at Sunderland and it is a worry how heavily Aberdeen’s success may well hinge on the current manager. He won’t be at Pittodrie forever but hopefully he gives us one more season to regroup and make provisional plans for the next chapter in the club’s history.
Written by Jack Thomson