There’s no doubt that Derek McInnes has improved a previously under-achieving Aberdeen since taking charge in the Granite City. But Saturday’s defeat to Celtic was an all-too-familiar feeling.
The Dons have now won just one of their last 17 against the Hoops, who were crowned champions at Pittodrie.
Derek McInnes inherited the job from Craig Brown in March 2013 and led Aberdeen to their first trophy in 19 years following a penalty-shootout win over Inverness after a stalemate in the 2014 Scottish League Cup final.
Second for four seasons on the spin prior to this one, they haven’t gone that one step further. That League Cup victory is the only trophy of McInnes’ tenure. The one win in 17 against Celtic came at Parkhead in a game that was largely considered insignificant.
For all the semi-final and final meetings with Celtic, these can be great days out for a loud, proud and loyal fanbase. But they’re fairly meaningless unless they can actually win silverware, something which continues to be out of reach.
It’s probably in attacking areas that Aberdeen’s recent recruitment is both bizarre and somewhat worrying. Sam Cosgrove aside, a trio of attacking players in particular puzzle outsiders looking in. Stevie May and James Wilson can’t step up with vital goals when big Cosgrove is absent.
Then you’ve got the returning Greg Stewart. A flop last season, Stewart was superb earlier on at Killie this season. But why, if he was arguably misused the first time at the Dons, would McInnes look to re-sign him?
Squad sliding away
This summer will probably see Aberdeen lose two of their most influential players in recent seasons. Club captain Graeme Shinnie, a supposed boyhood Red, looks to be on his way down south with Derby rumoured to be interested.
As for where Gary Mackay-Steven ends up remains to be seen. New York was one of the more prominent and interesting rumours in the most recent transfer window. Two key cogs in the Aberdeen machine look to be moving on, should McInnes join them?
So, is Derek done?
McInnes has done superbly in dragging a sleeping giant back up to where it should be, competing at the top end of Scottish football. But that’s all it seems to be, competing and accepting being second, third or potentially this season fourth best.
Should Kilmarnock finish above Aberdeen, given the budgets between the two clubs, perhaps this signals the end of McInnes’ time.
Whilst his spell can be considered better than what the Dons have been used to for so long, maybe somebody else can take them that next step to try and compete with the Old Firm.