Sunday, 25 September 2011

What Is The Answer? Does Brown Even Know The Question?

Another Saturday, another desperately uninspired performance from Aberdeen, with a result to match. The Dons 1-0 defeat against Motherwell was so devoid of confidence, verve and flair that it is difficult to see how Craig Brown can turn their fortunes around. Brown is a much respected figure in Scottish football but patience is starting to run out among Aberdeen's supporters, a group who are becoming depressingly accustomed to seeing their team languishing in the lower depths of the SPL table. Sacking Brown is clearly not the answer, at least at this juncture. There is little chance of notoriously tight fisted Stuart Milne shelling out for yet another compensation payment, and even if money was no object there are few obvious candidates to replace the beleaguered Dons boss. There does exist the possibility of Brown walking, but were his tenure at the club to end now it leave a proud career effectively tarnished.

So without the option of a change in management, how can Aberdeen's fortunes change? Even ignoring Tuesday nights embarassing cup reverse against East Fife their start to the season has been utterly dismal. Statistics tell part of the story - eleven goals conceded from 9 matches is hardly shocking, but just four goals scored in the same period (none away from home) clearly is. Bizarrely Aberdeen's defence was a laughing stock last season, epitomized in the 9-0 defeat to Celtic. Brown and Knox seemed to have stabilised it, while sacrificing any attacking thrust in the process. Part of the problem is personnel - Aberdeen's two main creators in Chris Maguire and Sone Aluko have departed without being replaced by players of a similar ilk. When Richard Foster is your most potent attacking threat it becomes clear that something must be done.

A good start would be utilizing the talent at his disposal. Aberdeen are rich in centre backs and central midfielders, yet desperately bare in wide areas - a caveat that has seen the aforementioned Foster playing as a makeshift left winger. A switch to three central defenders may seem an obvious solution. Andrew Considine and Rory McArdle have proved to be an able partnership in the past and the addition of Youl Mawene's experience and reading of the play would compliment them well, and also allow Kari Arnason to move into midfield, where his composure and creativity could be taken full advantage of. In Ryan Jack, Ricky Foster and Chris Clark, Brown also possesses three versatile widemen who are equally capable of playing at full back or in midfield. They would slot easily into a system featuring wing backs. With the likes of Osbourne, Fyvie, Milsom, Arnason and the soon to return Folly Brown has a number of central midfielders to call upon, all possessing relatively different qualities.

The main problem would remain up front. Rory Fallon netted his first goal for the club in midweek but looked ineffective against Motherwell. Scott Vernon had a fantastic first season at the club but has been desperately starved of service this season. Darren Mackie's merits and faults are widely publicised and Brown seems oddly reluctant to use new signing Mohamed Chalali. Unfortunately he is stuck with what he has, but I for one am convinced that with the right service from midfield Vernon is capable of scoring enough goals.

It may seem churlish to advise an experienced football manager on how to set up his team, but something must be done. While Brown's dalliances with 3 man backlines have ended disastrously in the past, the teams increased solidarity this season would make such a change in system easier to implement. The addition of an extra central midfielder would constitute an increase in creativity, theoretically at least.

Friday's televised match against Dunfermline is seen by many as a must win match for Brown. While it would be a risk to experiment, something has clearly got to change if Aberdeen are to return to winning (and scoring) ways.

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