One thing I didn’t mention in the introductory post to this save, is that I was writing it while already being at the half way point of the season. The restructure of the Scottish leagues has seen the introduction of a 2 week winter break over the New Year, the perfect time to stop and reflect on how we’ve done so far.
The Premiership wasn’t the first competition we started the season with, but we’ll go through our performance to date in it first here.
All in all, I don’t have too many complaints at all about our first half of the season. It took a 91st minute winner in our first match to get us three points, which I wouldn’t have been best pleased about if we didn’t win considering we led 2-0. The game against Hibs was the more undeserved of the two defeats, we battered them and just couldn’t find a breakthrough, with their winner coming in the 85th minute. We played really poorly in the defeat at home against Inverness. I tried to approach the game by sitting back and allowing them to come onto us, which dramatically backfired, and despite their goals coming from a corner and a penalty, they probably edged it on performance.
Finishing up the first half of the season in style with 10 goals in two games was ideal, with Adam Rooney getting 7 of the 10. That did his goal tally in the league no harm at all.
So the league looks like this after those results. Like I said, no complaints at all. We’re on course to qualify for Europe, and we’re still challenging for the title, the two aims I set out for this season. Celtic are looking strong in the league, undefeated so far, but I expected nothing less with Brendan Rodgers in charge. You’ll have noticed we haven’t played them yet, we’ve got a trip to Celtic Park coming up in the 2nd league match back after the winter break. If we can get something from that game, we’ll continue our march towards the title.
Europa League performance
It was an early start in the Europa League for us, at the 1st qualifying round. The first match was actually on my 2nd day in charge of the club, so as I’m sure you can imagine, fitness was an issue. Despite that though, the players responded really well to my tactical set up I’d imposed on them, and we battered Odd from Norway. So much so, that they won 3-0. Yup. Talk about coming crashing back down to earth. We had the vast majority of the ball, but just couldn’t score. They took their chances, scoring 3 of their 4 shots on target. We had it all to do in the 2nd leg at Pittodrie…
And we bloody did it. Probably one of my favourite wins on FM16 so far. The 3-0 win in 90 minutes meant it went to extra time and the scenes as Ryan Jack fired one in from all of 25 yards were incredible. Red flares going off in my living room. We lived to fight another day in the Europa League, vital if we wanted to have any positive impact on Scotland’s European coefficient.
The dramatic win over Odd was followed up by fairly routine victories in both legs against Debrecen. I was gutted to see us get drawn with Panathinaikos in the 3rd qualifying round, and I really wasn’t confident of our chances after a slim 1-0 loss in Greece. The power of Pittodrie struck again though as we steamrollered them in the 2nd leg. The last hurdle to overcome and get into the elusive group stage was Genk. I was delighted to see their name get drawn against ours, as there was some much bigger fish in the draw that I didn’t want to have to attempt to fry. 4-2 on aggregate, job done!
Ajax, Lille and Southampton. Quite a tricky group but I’d look at it a few years down the line and be quite confident of our chances of qualifying from it. This season though, it was a hope for the best and see what we can do. Wins or draws, that’s all I was looking for here to get some coefficient points on the board. You don’t get anything for a defeat, so I was gutted to say the least about our first three group games. All narrow defeats by a goal margin. We deserved more I felt.
I decided to throw caution to the wind at St Mary’s, and we got absolutely punished for it. Things were looking good as I went 1-0 up! A 6-2 defeat, dominated, move on. That crushing defeat had given us no chance to qualify, but we did manage to get some points on the board as we battled to consecutive draws against Ajax at home, and over in Lille.
Those Europa League results, coupled with Celtic’s results in the Champions League have seen us boost Scotland’s European coefficient for the 2016/17 season to 20.300 from 17.900. Hearts contributed too, reaching the 3rd qualifying round of the Europa League before falling to defeat against AZ, while Hibs couldn’t get past Rijeka in the 2nd qualifying round. Celtic still have the opportunity to add more points, as they finished 3rd in their Champions League group, and face Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League 1st knockout round.
Domestic cup performance
I wouldn’t say I deprioritise cup competitions over the league as other FM players might, I certainly never like going out of cup competitions which means I’m always inclined to play a relatively strong line up. Games against weaker opposition in the newly revamped League Cup did, however, give me the opportunity to give some game time to players that I don’t consider for my strongest first XI. We topped the group and have been drawn against Celtic in the quarter final. Tough one if we want to progress.
The Scottish Cup has been fairly comprehensive too so far. The only potential banana skin was an away trip to Dingwall to face Ross County, but we soared through that. The win against Buckie Thistle just before the winter break sees us drawn against Hamilton in the 5th round. Quite confident of progressing in that one.
The Three Pals doesn’t sound as good as The Three Amigos, but I see these three as not just the present of Aberdeen Football Club, but the future too. They’ll all have a big role to play in the future of this save. If I was the Scotland manager too, I’d be calling all three of them into the squads at the earliest opportunity. As it stands, only Kenny McLean has a cap to his name.
The way my tactic is set up, it’s completely perfect for a wing back to bomb forward and consistently make attacking contributions. Shay Logan has definitely done just that this season so far, with 15 assists in 25 starts. His PPMs certainly help in that respect, plus he’s chipped in with 2 goals as well. I’m telling you, wing backs on attack with inside forwards ahead of them is the way to go!
Adam Rooney reaches the half way mark of the season with 23 goals to his name in 26 starts. Not too bad at all, although the 7 he scored in 2 games before the winter break has certainly helped that tally a bit. The 30 goal barrier in all competitions is surely one to aim for, and I’d love him to be top goalscorer in the league too.
So we’re still fighting to be champions on three domestic fronts. Celtic stand in our way of reaching the League Cup semi final and we’ve got Hamilton next up in the Scottish Cup. The way the league fixtures have panned out, we’ve still got Celtic to play twice in the second half of the season. Both of those matches will have a huge bearing on where the Scottish Premiership trophy ends up.