Plus a Change

Last updated : 31 July 2009 By TheStooge

The Curve“I’ve gone from being a legend to an idiot”. While his honesty and self-awareness is refreshing it doesn’t get Mark McGhee off the hook. One game in and McGhee has recorded our worst ever European result, a crushing, spineless defeat on a par with Jimmy Calderwood’s darkest days.

Lets not give anything to Sigma here. They were not “crack troops” from Eastern Europe. They were not a Dnipro or a Locomotiv Moscow. They were a very average group of journeymen that couldn’t believe their luck. The fact they didn’t realise just how shite we were until the second half was the only thing that stopped this ending in double figures.

One game in and expectations have been dashed. We’re out of Europe for starters. The league opener versus Celtic provides a great opportunity to get things back on track but to avoid carnage massive changes must be implemented.

The overhaul of the squad is the most immediate priority. The systematic penny-pinching has seen five players quit our already threadbare first team squad without replacement.

JDV’s departure in January went largely unnoticed, he was just a fringe player and saving 2k a week would provide the manager more funds in the summer. The promising Vidal returned to Man City, and with him left the last right-sided player on our books. We have no right-back or right-midfielder at the club, unless you count utility players Foster, Duff or Young, but frankly, who knows where any of these guys are meant to play.

The remaining departures of Seve, Smith and Mair have left us so exposed at the back that even the Naked Rambler is embarrassed for us. The wages saved from these five likely approaches 10k a week. Even in the current economic climate we should have funds available for a handful of experienced first-team players and Mark needs to get his recruitment drive cracking.

McGhee has identified four targets in the press and thus far secured none of them. This has to be the first cause for criticism. Hughes was clearly not interested in coming here, he didn’t fancy a move north and we couldn’t afford him. The possibility of securing Paterson and McLean should have been easy enough to assess with a phone call or two but again the lack of urgency caught us short of time when it became clear that again wages were too big an issue. The Reda deal is perhaps the most galling. McGhee made the trip to Paris but returned without the player and valuable time was again wasted. Still, it’s a little harsh to draw too many conclusions from signings that haven’t happened, even if the only one that has also raised eyebrows.

The signing of Nelson, a back up, back up goalie was questionable. Our current number one is arguably the best in the league and we have two other keepers on the books. Why McGhee felt the need to secure a guy on no doubt a reasonable wage to warm our bench, or even reserve bench, remains as yet unclear. McGhee has stated that he hopes Nelson’s wage will be drawn from a contingency fund, rather than his official transfer budget but even with that knowledge his signing seems no more than unnecessary waste and it’s a little worrying that McGhee made the signing without first confirming which pot the players wages would be drawn from anyway.

The assessment of McGhee’s transfer activity thus far is all talk, little action. He now has a fortnight to recruit and induct some of his own players before the season starts, and last night's disaster will certainly give him added impetus to force Milne’s chequebook out.

The second cause for concern is the tactical naivety that was displayed last night. The Motherwell side that were dismantled by Nancy this time last year were simply outclassed. McGhee and his player’s weaknesses were exposed by a superior team.

Last night, this wasn’t the case. Aberdeen were responsible for their own destruction. The players didn’t understand the system, far too many players were shunted about the pitch and yet again our highest earners showed no spine when the chips were down. For all the talk of attacking football that McGhee would provide we were restricted to three shots on goal, all from Mulgrew set pieces. These are complaints all too commonly voiced by Aberdeen fans over the last five years.

The back four on display were without question the worst defensive line ever to represent Aberdeen. McGhee took their selection on the chin in his post match interview but even with Diamond returning to the line up we need at least two new faces to fit into our first choice four. For McGhee’s 4-3-3 to work we will need a tight rear guard to compensate for the over stretch when surging forward.

Whether McGhee could have selected a better starting eleven will be debated at length. I’d speculate that the previous manager would have started with a back four of Duff – Considine – Foster – Mulgrew, a midfield of Mackie – Kerr – MacDonald – Aluko and a front two of Miller and Maguire with simple instructions of “don’t f*cking concede”. That is far more likely to have given a positive outcome, and while that’s speculation at best, most would agree McGhee’s inexperience was cruelly violated and his utter impotence to make any significant change to the flow of the game was a major worry. He clearly doesn’t yet know his players so at least last night provides him with first hand experience of just how limited some of our first teamers are.

The final criticism relates to one of McGhee’s post match comments: he stated that they were much fitter than us. The Dons players are just back from an intensive fitness break where friendlies were forgone to allow more time for McGhee work on instilling his fitness philosophy. A lack of fitness was never much of an issue under JC and to my eyes wasn’t much of an issue last night. A lack of match practice, of time actually playing to McGhee’s demands was far more relevant. Perhaps an additional game or two versus foreign opposition while we were in Austria would have provided McGhee with a more relevant insight than a couple of mountain treks and dips in frozen streams. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but so is foresight and the first month of McGhee’s reign should have been planned a hell of a lot better.

One month in and there are already some serious questions to be answered. McGhee has not so much hit the ground running as fallen right on his arse. How he responds to this immediate setback will provide us with an interesting insight into how we’re likely to develop under his tenure.

Good luck Mark, I hope you won’t need it.


Aberdeen's pre-season and European fixtures 2009
Sat 18th July 0-1 1860 Munich Hofmaninger-Stadion,
Bad Wimsbach, Austria
Wed 22nd July 3-2 Peterhead Balmoor Stadium,
Sat 25th July 1-1 Dundee Dens Park,
Thu 30th July 1-5 SK Sigma Olomouc
Pittodrie Stadium,
Thu 6th August 7:45pm SK Sigma Olomouc
Andruv Stadium,
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Sun 9th August 3:00pm Hull City KC Stadium,

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