Standing Free – End of Season 3

AFC

In the previous update, we were sitting 3rd in the league. Hearts were absolutely flying and Celtic weren’t far behind them making it a three horse race for the Scottish Premiership title. We’d made our usual good progress in the domestic cup competitions, as we went for a third consecutive League Cup, and aimed to win the Scottish Cup for the 2nd time in three seasons. In Europe, we’ve been majestic. Qualifying for the knockout phase for the 2nd season in a succession.

Competing across four fronts, how would we get on?

Scottish Premiership

A near perfect run of results! There was some real stand out performances as we really stepped up our game compared to the first half of the season. 4 goals scored against Hibs, Ross County, Dundee United and Dundee. 3 goals scored against Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Inverness, Hibs and Partick. Not to mention a few classic narrow 1-0 victories against Partick, Hearts and St Johnstone. You need those if you want to become champions.

Celtic handed Hearts a 1-0 defeat on matchday 19 which signaled the end of Hearts’ challenge for the title and a run of four matches without a win. On matchday 20, Celtic dropped points with a 2-2 draw against Inverness, while we smashed Dundee United 4-0. With a win over Celtic in our next match, we could move to the summit of the table coming into the business end of the season. A 2-2 draw, which was snatched under their noses, couldn’t see us do it but just the following week, Celtic dropped points yet again, as they drew 2-2 for the 3rd time in three games against Falkirk this time. A nervy 1-0 win over Hearts took us top for the 1st time this season on matchday 22.

A shocker of a draw against Hamilton was a slight blip, but we went into the match against Rangers on the 2nd last day of the season knowing a win would bring us Scottish Premiership title. Of course, I took to Twitter…

Remind me not to live-Tweet anymore matches on FM. I’m 0 for 2 now. Rangers beat us 3-2. Captain, Ryan Jack, saw red and we capitulated. Luckily, we had a 2 point cushion still due to Celtic’s defeat, and we just had to match or better their result on the last day of the season to win the league.

A 3-0 win over Thistle and…

T9

We’d done it! Scottish Premiership champions!

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There’s been a season-on-season improvement on goals scored (69), goals conceded (24) and the points total. However, in season 1, we actually hit the 70 points mark and conceded 1 goal less than this season.

Ecstatic. Delighted. Relieved. We’ve finally pipped Celtic after two seasons of 2nd place finishes. A 1st place league finish this season, after Celtic, Hearts and our European exploits of the last couple of seasons, means we go straight into the Champions League group stage next season. Incredible!

Domestic Cups

As I keep saying to FM in the press conferences, it’s not that I favour the cup competitions, we just seem to do very well in them.

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I didn’t for one second expect to win so dominantly against Celtic in the League Cup final. Ryan Fraser dominated on the left as our inside forward, and a goal from Ristic is always welcome. It was one of those games on FM where everything clicks, and Celtic couldn’t handle us.

Things weren’t so straightforward in the Scottish Cup. A tricky away tie at Ibrox against Rangers in the quarter final was just that. Rangers had a man sent off, but equalised late on. Straight to penalties it went, and we managed to claw it back despite missing our 2nd spot kick. Celtic had been put out in the 4th round by Dundee, so all that stood in our way of a domestic treble was Alloa and Stenhousemuir in the final. Two comprehensive 3-0 wins and we’d managed to secure a domestic treble!

Europe

We’d done marvelously to qualify from our Europa League group, how did we fare in the knockouts?

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What a run! Feyenoord were dispatched in the 1st knockout round. An Engvall double downing them at Pittodrie, with a thoroughly professional 0-0 in the Netherlands. What happened in the 2nd knockout round was remarkable. I was actually disappointed to only draw 1-1 at home against Galatasaray as we’d dominated the game and really limited their chances. The away leg was very similar to the Celtic League Cup final match, everything fell perfectly into place.

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Culminating in Jason Cummings’ beauty of a 4th goal. Where he starts and ends the move, following a lovely ball across the goal by Ristic.

Cummings v Gala

Our reward was a Battle of Britain against Manchester City. We’d come unstuck against Liverpool in last year’s Europa League, and City would hit home England’s dominance this season too. They swept us aside at the Etihad, de Bruyne bossed it in a 3-0 win.

We welcomed them back to Pittodrie and were just playing for pride (and coefficient points!).

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What a result to beat City at home, and send 18,000 Aberdonians home proud of their team’s display against an admittedly much stronger side.

Where does this leave the country in the European coefficient rankings table then? Ahead of the 2017/18 season, we were sitting 11th in the table on 30.675 points, just below Turkey in 10th spot. Celtic overcame Basel in the EL 1st knockout round, but were beaten by Fiorentina in the 2nd, drawing 1-1 at home though to get some coefficient points on the board, at least.

Both of our exploits in Europe this season sees the country ranked 7th in terms of points gained during the season, and our projected total for next season is 38.625. This catapults us into the top 10, in 9th spot overall. No change to Champions League qualifiers for the 2019/20 season, but it does mean that alongside an automatic qualifier into the Europa League group stages, 2 clubs join the 3rd round of qualifying, as opposed to 1 and 1 in the 2nd.

Make sense? Good!

Players of the season

Here’s my top picks for players of the season.

What else can I say about Ristic that I haven’t already said? Probably the best all round player at the club, and the unofficial fans player of the year, as he topped the name on the back of the shirts commercial table. 5 less assists overall compared to last year, and 5 penalties out of the 10 goals he scored skews that figure a bit. He won the Scottish Football Writers young player of the season but to be fair, he could have no goals or assists and I’d still love him. He’s our assister to the assister. The vultures are circling, but we’ve tied him down to a new deal until 2021, doubling his initial wages.

Rotariu was tipped to be an absolute bargain by some when I revealed we’d signed him in the summer for £1.7m, and they weren’t wrong. I felt as though he took a while to settle in, he didn’t have an amazing first half of the season, but he seemed to really come into form in the second half. He finished with 17 goals in all competitions, with 13 of those coming in the league. 9 assists in his 38 starts isn’t amazing, but remember, we don’t rely on our wide forwards to make the assists. He managed to win the Scottish Premiership player of the year award.

What a first season Gustav Engvall had in an Aberdeen shirt. 37 goals in 45 starts. He was the Europa League top scorer with 13 goals, second top scorer in the league with 18 goals. When I look at Engvall, he doesn’t scream out unbelievable quality in terms of his attributes, but he’s still got so much potential I feel. Room to improve even further. The vultures are circling him as well, but I’m not ready to lose my talismanic striker.

Hot prospects

Or that should really say prospect. To date, there’s only be one worthwhile player come through our youth intake that remotely looks like he’ll make the step up to first team football.

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And this season, he did make the step up. Now 17, he’s come on leaps and bounds since he joined the club in our first ever youth intake, and as such, he was registered in our 25 man squad for the league after the January transfer window. He played over 1,500 minutes this season (I’ve started looking more at minutes played, in combination with starts to keep players happier) and contributed 3 assists. Not too bad at all for a 17 year old. I’ll continue to fight off bids though, after Spurs had offered up to £8.5m and Man Utd had offered £5m straight up. I need to keep him at the club, as he’s the only viable option for a homegrown player in the near future.

Club Infrastructure

The league win, coupled with progress in the Europa League means we’ve got just over £20m in the bank now, and just over £12m to spend next season. With Rotariu, Engvall, Tormin and Ristic, we’ve got a special set of foreign players that could, and have, won us championships. This summer, I’ll be looking at a more domestic based recruitment policy to keep our quotas up for league registration rules.

As I alluded to above, I’ve not been happy at all about our youth intakes so far. 1 player with potential out of 3 intakes. I’ll be looking to improve our facilities again, and Brian McClair should hopefully give us a better intake this coming season.

And that’s a wrap on my third season at Aberdeen! Hit me up on Twitter and let me know any thoughts or feedback you’ve got on anything you’ve seen or read. Thanks for reading and getting involved in my save as well so far, it’s been brilliant, really appreciate it.

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