Celtic; Dundee; Hamilton Accies; Hearts; Hibernian, Kilmarnock; Motherwell; Partick Thistle; Rangers; Ross County; St. Johnstone
PREDICTED LEAGUE POSITION: Third
LAST SEASON: 2nd, 76pts
NOTABLE INS: Kari Arnason (Omonia Nicosia), Gary Mackay-Steven (Celtic), Nicky Maynard (Milton Keynes Dons), Greg Tansey (Inverness Caledonian Thistle), Ryan Christie (Celtic, loan), Greg Stewart (Birmingham City, loan)
NOTABLE OUTS: Neil Alexander (Livingston), Jonny Hayes (Celtic), Ryan Jack (Rangers), Aaron Lennox (Raith Rovers), Niall McGinn (Gwangju), Peter Pawlett (Milton Keynes Dons), Cammy Smith (St. Mirren, loan made permanent), Ash Taylor (Northampton Town), Joe Nuttall, Lawrence Shankland
LAST SEASON'S BEST XI (Departed players crossed out): Lewis, Logan, O'Connor,
This time last year I suggested Derek McInnes' side had reached their peak, yet they went on to finish second again, with a comfortable cushion over Rangers. I'm not going to make such a prediction this time; there is a quiet optimism at the club, and amongst the support, that they won't be dropping down the table any time soon.
McInnes' decision to turn down a move to Sunderland was an enormous fillip. So too was news of investment from software entrepreneur Dave Cormack. Both events have contributed to the club's summer transfer dealings. At the start of June, the prospect of losing Jonny Hayes, Niall McGinn, Ryan Jack and Ash Taylor would have filled Aberdeen fans with dread. Not so much now that Gary Mackay-Steven has been bought, Kari Arnason signed, and Greg Stewart brought back north on loan.
Crucially, Ryan Christie was also persuaded to extend his loan stay from Celtic; if the 22 year old plays like he did in the Europa League qualifiers then he will have a spectacular campaign. Whilst the loss of McGinn and Hayes (for whom they reaped a very decent £1.3million) robs the Dons of some trickery and loads of pace, the former will certainly be compensated for by Christie, Mackay-Steven and Stewart, a triumvirate of attackers who could wreak havoc if McInnes gets the best out of them. Reassuringly, Mackay-Steven has looked rejuvenated by the move.
Of course, it would help if there was a prolific centre-forward to take all the chances being created. Adam Rooney's figures are inflated by the number of penalties he converts - take away the spot kicks and he managed just nine league goals from open play last season. For reasons that are unclear to those of us with eyes, McInnes has often preferred Jayden Stockley for big matches, despite the fact that Stockley offers little other than an elbow to the chops of opposing centre-backs. Veteran English striker Nicky Maynard offers another alternative, but missing out on Liam Boyce was a disappointment and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the boat pushed out to land Motherwell's Louis Moult this month.
But it feels like a regular goalscorer is about all they're short of. At 34 Arnason is a stopgap solution in central defence, but Anthony O'Connor has shown signs of stepping up his game and - whisper it- Mark Reynolds has given the odd glimpse of his form from a few years ago too. A more reliable, long-term option at the position would be ideal though. The full-back positions are sorted with Shay Logan and Andy Considine consistently excellent.
The latter's solidity has allowed Graeme Shinnie to develop into one of the country's finest central midfielders, and he should thrive with the added responsibility of being captain. The loss of Jack removes a safety net in front of the back four, but McInnes will be unkeen to shackle Shinnie or Kenny McLean by forcing either of them deeper. An alternative would be to throw Greg Tansey into that position, but that would involve removing one of the attacking players. It's not a bad problem to have.
No Dons fan has realistic aspirations of a title challenge, though the disappointment at their Europa League exit gives an impression of how far expectations have risen. But second in the table is theirs to defend. They can't match the cash that Rangers are throwing at the problem, but so far Aberdeen have shown that a good manager with a decent team constructed with nous and thought can take you a long way.
THE SQUAD (players born after 1 January 1996 in italics)
Goalkeepers: Joe Lewis, Danny Rogers
Defenders: Kari Arnason, Andrew Considine, Daniel Harvie, Shay Logan, Scott McKenna, Anthony O'Connor, Mark Reynolds
Midfielders: Dean Campbell, Gary Mackay-Steven, Kenny McLean, Frank Ross, Graeme Shinnie, Craig Storie, Greg Tansey
Forwards: Ryan Christie, Nicky Maynard, Connor McLennan, Adam Rooney, Greg Stewart, Jayden Stockley, Miles Storey, Scott Wright
THE BEST XI?
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.