Gonzalez, McArdle, Arnason, Considine, Foster, Pawlett (Paton, 72), Osbourne, Milsom, Magennis (Megginson, 82), Mackie (Low, 87), Vernon
The stats do not make comfortable reading for Aberdeen. Three matches played, no wins, no goals and just a single point, gained in an opening day draw hosting St. Johnstone. At this point last year the Dons had two wins out of three, and were buoyed by the impact of new captain Paul Hartley, who scored a hat trick of penalties on his debut.
There is significantly less to be optimistic about this time around. While Aberdeen's performance on Sunday was solid, showing the grit and defensive solidarity that was at times absent last season, they need to start getting points on the board soon. The dons managed just 3 shots on target, and more worryingly just 38% of the possession. While they were largely able to limit Celtic to long range shots and were unlucky to lose, there was a worrying tendency to squander possession. Robert Milsom impressed after signing a temporary deal last season, but looks to have stagnated. He has decent technique and can pass the ball but lacks the creative spark sorely needed following Chris Maguire's departure, and often requires more space and time on the ball than can be afforded against the top teams. Darren Mackie has added plenty of endeavor since his return from injury, but lacks the vision and skill of Maguire - who is still yet to be adequately replaced.
Of course there are hopeful signs for Aberdeen - most obviously the defence. Parallels with the 9-0 humbling against Celtic last season are obvious, and while a defeat is not an ideal result Aberdeen rarely looked like conceding on Sunday and were, on the whole very well organized. Kari Arnason, only playing at centre back due to Youl Mawene's injury looked a class above, and helped Andrew Considine to one of his better performances in recent memory. Craig Brown has stated that he sees Arnason as playing in midfield for the Dons, but on the strength of yesterday's fine performance he could easily slot in at the back when required. Rory McArdle was also out of position at right back but had a good game, managing to keep Joe Ledley very quiet and rarely looking exposed.
It seems unfair to blame new captain Ricky Foster for the defeat on the back of one error, but it was his dallying on the ball that handed Celtic their best chance of the match, one that was ultimately converted. Foster looked uncomfortable at left back, often going missing and leaving Kris Commons unmarked. His pace is a valuable asset but he simply isn't enough without being coupled with an able footballing brain. His distribution has improved, and now needs to be allied with a greater positional sense.
Improvement is clearly needed, but with an away clash at Hearts looming it will need to be more rapid than Craig Brown may have anticipated. The defence, for now is adequate. Creativity though is sorely needed, and unless the likes of Pawlett, Milsom and Vernon hit top form, it is looking like a barren few weeks for the Dons.