Scottish Premiership So Far

With the exception of just two matches, all clubs in the Scottish Premiership have played each other so far this season, so it is fair to say the battle lines for the season have been drawn up and developed.  Some teams are faring better than expected, whilst some aren’t meeting expectations.  Here’s a run through the sides, and how they are matching up to pre-season predictions.

For reference, here’s how I foresaw the final league table before the start of the season:

  1. Celtic
  2. Motherwell
  3. St. Johnstone
  4. Aberdeen
  5. Dundee United
  6. Ross County
  7. Inverness Caledonian Thistle
  8. Partick Thistle
  9. Hibernian
  10. Kilmarnock
  11. St. Mirren
  12. Hearts

Celtic                       Current Position: 1st               Pre-Season Prediction: 1st

Being such massive favourites to win the league can be overwhelming, I’m sure, for the Celtic squad and management, but this season they have been emphatic in proving why they are a class above the rest of the Premiership sides.  No defeats, and only two draws so far for the Hoops in the league, as well as good results in Europe.  The only blemish on their record is their home defeat in the League Cup to Morton. This season looks like it could be just as good, if not better, than last year’s.

Motherwell                Current Position: 4th               Pre-Season Prediction: 2nd

The best of the rest last season, Motherwell have had to contend with a few more challengers to their prince’s throne this campaign.  Well aren’t setting the world alight up front, with John Sutton providing almost half of the team’s goals so far, which will be something Stuart McCall will be looking to improve upon in the next round of matches.  Disappointing defeats to Hibs and St. Mirren will be looked upon with regret at the end of the season if the club finish where they are at the moment.

St. Johnstone            Current Position: 8th               Pre-Season Prediction: 3rd

After clinching the final European slot on the last day of last season and performing well in their two Europa League qualifying ties, I thought St. Johnstone would be a strong suit this campaign as well.  However, apart from two 4-0 wins over the Highland clubs; the team haven’t performed to a high standard at all.  No away wins so far either.  The Saints do have the squad to push on in the league, and perhaps last weekend’s win against Motherwell and qualifying for the League Cup semi-finals will spur them on towards better results.

Aberdeen                   Current Position: 2nd              Pre-Season Prediction: 4th

The Dons have come flying out of the traps and showed everyone that they are a force to be reckoned with once again.  New manager Derek McInnes has recreated belief at Pittodrie, where the club have only lost to Celtic since February. The club boast the best defence in the league, shipping only 8 goals in total so far with Shaughnessy, Reynolds and Hector proving a formidable force against attacking threats.  Certainly one of the teams to watch this season.

Dundee United            Current Position: 5th               Pre-Season Prediction: 5th

It’s been a mixed start to the season for the Terrors.  The club have been scoring for fun at times, netting four times on three occasions already, with new signing Nadir Ciftci proving his worth already, although it seems as though he’ll be in for a lengthy suspension after his sending off in Tuesday’s League Cup tie in Inverness.  They’ve also narrowly lost to the league’s top performing sides Aberdeen, Celtic and Caley Thistle.  If Dundee United want to climb higher in the table this year, they are going to have to find new attacking avenues against the better sides, even if they work so well against those lower down the table.

Ross County               Current Position: 9th              Pre-Season Prediction: 6th

The Staggies are suffering from second season syndrome, with a new-look side not quite coming together in the way that Derek Adams had wanted.  Poor defensive performances have seen them lose almost two goals per game on average, and some heavy defeats see them hovering near the bottom of the table.  If the squad can play to their strengths, perhaps a late rally into the top six like last season could still be on the cards.

Inverness CT               Current Position: 3rd               Pre-Season Prediction: 7th

Caley have once again proved a shock outfit this season, maintaining their heady form of last season to remain strong top-six contenders.  Top of the league until a recent run of two defeats on the bounce; Terry Butcher’s men have kept up their fine goal scoring performances, counting largely on frontman Billy MacKay.  Having lost key players like Andrew Shinnie, Owain Tudor-Jones and Antonio Reguero, many observers, myself included, believed that ICT would struggle, but they’ve proved us all wrong.  It’ll be interesting to see where the side go from here, bouncing back from a current off-spell or falling further down the table in what is a tight Premiership again.

Hibernian                    Current Position: 7th              Pre-Season Prediction: 8th

The doom-mongers were scalding Hibs before the season even began after their abject humiliation against Malmo in the Europa League, and yesterday Pat Fenlon succumbed to growing pressure on him by resigning in the wake of the club’s second defeat of the season to their struggling Edinburgh rivals, Hearts. Hibs’ results see them just off the top six, with a chance of being there for the first time in three seasons. Losing David Wotherspoon was another argument against Hibs’ prospects this year, but Fenlon’s signings such as Liam Craig and Rowan Vine from St. Johnstone and Paul Heffernan from Kilmarnock have been enough for the club to continue.  This season could go either way for Hibs, yet, especially with a new manager at the helm.

Partick Thistle            Current Position: 8th               Pre-Season Prediction: 9th

Partick have more than proven their ability to compete in the Premiership in their first season back in the top flight.  Jackie McNamara’s side has been characteristically strong at the back, with the exception of the home defeat to Aberdeen, but also exciting and quick in going forward, particularly when they beat Ross County 3-1.  However, four draws already have cost the Jags a place higher in the table, and they’ll need to take their chances a bit better to continue their fine start.

Kilmarnock                 Current Position: 10th             Pre-Season Prediction: 10th

Once again, Kilmarnock are the hosts of the Kris Boyd show, as the prolific frontman has been all the Killie fans can really be proud of after a difficult start to the season.  Off-the-field tensions between the fans and chairman Michael Johnston have definitely affected the players, who have only two wins so far to their name.  The team will have to improve drastically on the whole if they are to get out of the fight for the relegation play-off spot, which looks like it could be a three horse race at the moment between Killie, Saint Mirren and perhaps Ross County.

St. Mirren                   Current Position: 11th             Pre-Season Prediction: 11th

The hangover from their League Cup Final win in March does not seem to have lifted for the Buddies as of yet.  They are currently occupying the relegation play-off spot, saved only by Hearts’ point deduction from being lower down the table.  The Saints currently have the worst defence in the league, already letting twenty goals slip past in their ten games, and they haven’t played top-scorers Celtic yet.  St. Mirren need to find some results soon to push them up the table, perhaps starting today as they host Ross County.

Hearts                        Current Position: 12th            Pre-Season Prediction: 12th

Starting from a fifteen point handicap with a weakened squad on the previous season always seemed a daunting task for the Jambos this season, and sadly, for those who want to see a competitive relegation fight, it’s looking to be impossible for Hearts.  Having kept up in terms of points earned with the other sides near the bottom of the table, they can take some pride in some good results early in the season, such as beating their Edinburgh rivals and the successful Aberdeen at Tynecastle.  Even if form improves, it’s hard to see other teams’ form falling by a similar margin to save the men from Gorgie from a Championship campaign next season.

There is plenty more football to play this season, and the table is tight between 2nd and 11th place for the second year in a row.  For me, the most interesting fight is the one for the European spots, with Motherwell, Aberdeen, Inverness CT and even Dundee United strong contenders for a place in the top 3.  Beyond that, Hibs and St. Johnstone will also be fighting to get into the top six, with Partick Thistle perhaps in with a shout if they recapture their form from the start of the season.  Ross County, Kilmarnock and St. Mirren will be hoping to improve their form to pull away from the relegation spots.

With plenty to play for, here’s hoping we get plenty of exciting games from the next few months of Scottish football.

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