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Scottish Premiership: Every club’s season assessed at the halfway stage

BY SKYSPORTS
12.30.2022
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Up to 48 live matches from the Scottish Premiership during the 2022/23 season and at least five Scottish Women’s Premier League fixtures

With the halfway stage of the Scottish Premiership season upon us, Sky Sports assesses who has earned top marks so far, who must to do more and who have been the star men?

Aberdeen 6/10

Jim Goodwin’s side made a reasonably strong start to the season after the former St Mirren boss spent the summer fine-tuning his squad. Lewis Ferguson’s move to Bologna meant the loss of Aberdeen’s main man but it did free up some cash to fund Goodwin’s summer transfer window.

Bojan Miovski hit 11 Premiership goals before the break, Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes has impressed and loan signing Liam Scales has been pivotal in the Dons defence.

A 1-0 win over Dundee United on November 12 ensured Aberdeen went into the World Cup break in third spot while also having a League Cup semi-final against Rangers to look forward to but things have taken a turn following the resumption of the Premiership. They came within minutes of taking points off of both Celtic and Rangers but four defeats on the bounce following the restart has seen them surrender third place to Hearts. Goodwin felt the need to apologise to the travelling supporters for their “worst performance of the season” on December 28, as they went down 2-1 to Kilmarnock.

What do they need? They need to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. Consistency is also key for Goodwin’s side. Strong victories have sometimes been followed by disappointing defeats, with Aberdeen only winning two games in a row on two occasions.

Star man: Bojan Miovski

Celtic 8/10

It has been a near-perfect defence of the Scottish Premiership title for Ange Postecoglou’s side so far this season. Thumping wins over Kilmarnock and Hibernian, as well as a 9-0 victory over Dundee United, have seen Celtic pick up from where they left off last term, ruthlessly dispatching sides with Kyogo Furuhashi again among the goals.

A 4-0 win over Rangers in September has also helped them to open up a nine-point lead over their Old Firm rivals. A surprise defeat to St Mirren is the only blot on their Premiership copybook so far, although the appointment of Michael Beale at Ibrox presents Postecoglou with a new challenge.

What do they need? While most results have been comprehensive, if you are being picky you could point to Celtic needing late goals to win games on a few occasions, while the manager was unhappy with the display in the win over Livingston before Christmas. It is difficult to see Postecoglou allowing his side’s intensity to drop but ensuring complacency does not creep in will be key.

Dundee United 3/10

It has been a difficult campaign so far for the Tannadice side who finished fourth last term. What promised to be such an exciting season with a new manager in Jack Ross and a terrific 1-0 home leg win over AZ Alkmaar in Europa Conference League qualifying quickly turned into a nightmare following that away leg.

A 7-0 loss in the Netherlands was quickly followed by heavy defeats to Hearts, St Mirren and then that 9-0 hammering at home to Celtic. All the confidence had been drained from the side and Ross was sacked shortly after that defeat to Ange Postecoglou’s team.

Liam Fox has steadied the ship – running both Celtic and Rangers close in Glasgow before the World Cup break. A point at home to Hearts on Christmas Eve gave them something to build on and they followed that up with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Ross County on December 28 to climb off the bottom of the table, leapfrogging the Staggies in the process.

What do they need? Things are clearly improving but United still have the joint-worst defensive record in the league – they need to tighten up at the back and turn narrow defeats into draws at least if they are to claw their way up the table. Scoring twice at Parkhead and then four against Kilmarnock the following week shows there are goals in the side and that win over Ross County could be pivotal come the end of the season.

Heart of Midlothian 7/10

It has been a mixed bag for Robbie Neilson’s side so far this season – possibly down to participation in the group stages of the Europa Conference League. There was a real sense of an opportunity missed when Hearts lost to FC Zurich in Europa League qualifying but trips to face the likes of Fiorentina in the Conference should stand the players in good stead while providing a welcome cash boost for the club.

An early exit in the League Cup was also a source of frustration for Neilson but league form has been steady enough – especially given their European exploits and a sizeable injury list. The Jambos boss will be determined to secure European football again next season and Hearts have been able to capitalise on Aberdeen’s disastrous restart following the World Cup to jump up into third place with a game in hand.

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon will miss the rest of the season after suffering a double leg break in the 2-2 draw with Dundee United on Christmas Eve and will be a massive loss. Zander Clark will deputise but the loss of their captain will be keenly felt by everyone at Tynecastle.

What do they need? For injuries to ease. Hearts took on an extra workload with European duty and could ill-afford the injuries they suffered in the first half of the season. The return of Nathaniel Atkinson, Kye Rowles and Cammy Devlin, buoyed from what was ultimately a successful World Cup with Australia, has helped but the loss of Gordon is a devastating one for the team.

Star man: Lawrence Shankland

Hibernian 5/10

After a mixed start to the season Lee Johnson’s side put together a four-game winning run in late September to kickstart their campaign – only to then lose 1-0 to bottom side Dundee United. It summed up a stop-start run for Hibernian who have missed Kevin Nisbet and will now have to do without Martin Boyle for the rest of the season after he picked up a knee injury in October which also forced him out of the Australia squad for the World Cup.

Hibs sit eighth in the Premiership table but just five points behind Hearts, albeit having played a game more. Johnson, and the Easter Road supporters, will have been hoping for more given player turnover in the summer but most of those additions were young players who would need time to adapt. Nohan Kenneh and Marijan Cabraja have shown that there is plenty to work with if Johnson can get the squad settled for the restart.

The return of Nisbet has been a welcome one for Hibs – he has scored two goals in three games since the restart and will be expected to take on the talisman role in the absence of Boyle.

What do they need? Now that it has been confirmed that Ryan Porteous will not be signing a new deal it may be best for player and club if Johnson can facilitate a January move to free up some funds and ensure clarity at the back. Hibs have conceded 10 goals to Celtic already this season and it is essential they tighten up defensively.

Star man: Martin Boyle

Kilmarnock 6/10

Kilmarnock have found it tough upon their return to the top flight after a brief stint in the Championship. Not that manager Derek McInnes would have expected anything different after a summer spent securing a number of loan deals and free transfers as part of the transition back to the Premiership.

Killie are not expected to reach the heights of European qualification achieved in Steve Clarke’s time at the club but a 1-0 win over Hibernian in the final game before the World Cup break lifted McInnes’s side off the bottom of the table and will have helped to ease a few fears after a three-game losing run that included a 4-0 hammering by Dundee United.

They are out of the relegation play-off place after coming from two goals down to claim a point against Motherwell on December 23, which they followed up with a 2-1 win over Aberdeen five days later.

They sit ninth as it stands but, in a congested division, a win or two will make all the difference and they are just five points off of the top six. They also have a trip to Hampden to look forward to in a fortnight where they will play Celtic for a place in the League Cup final.

What do they need? Kyle Lafferty’s return from a 10-game ban for sectarian language will be important for Kilmarnock. McInnes’s side have scored 17 goals in 19 matches and desperately need additional firepower up front if they are to climb the table.

Star man: Daniel Armstrong

Livingston 8/10

David Martindale continues to work minor miracles in West Lothian. He was named the Scottish Premiership manager of the month for November, and with good cause after his side remained unbeaten throughout the month. He was minutes away from guiding his side to a famous win at Ibrox in October as well.

Livingston sit seventh in the Premiership after picking up their first point since the restart against St Mirren on December 28. They are just four points behind Hearts in third, however, and are well placed for a tilt at another top-six finish and, whisper it, possibly even a shot at Europe. The Lions are difficult to beat and, while they don’t score many, have one of the better defensive records in the division.

What do they need? Jon Nouble has been the scourge of Rangers so far this season with two goals in two games against the Ibrox side but the striker has only scored one more in the league away from that. Sean Kelly and Cristian Montano have chipped in with vital strikes as well but Livi need more goals if they want to make sure of a top-six place at the very least.

Star man: Sean Kelly

Motherwell 5/10

Not many clubs take the decision to sack their manager on the eve of the league season but that is exactly what Motherwell did in July. Graham Alexander left the club after their Europa Conference League exit at the hands of Sligo Rovers in qualifying following a poor run of results in the second half of last season.

It could have been the start of a tricky campaign at Fir Park but Steven Hammell led Motherwell to three wins from their opening four league games to steady the ship. Narrow defeats to the Old Firm have shown Motherwell’s fighting capabilities but they have only won once since October 4 and need to start picking up more points against the teams around them.

One point from two games since the restart has seen Hammell’s side slip to 10th, just two points clear of Dundee United, and they need to start putting wins on the board to avoid getting dragged into a relegation fight.

What do they need? More goals, especially at Fir Park. Kevin van Veen has hit eight goals in 18 appearances so far this season, nearly half of Motherwell’s total tally so far. They will also have to improve on their solitary win at home going into a crunch period over the winter.

Star man: Kevin van Veen

Rangers 4/10

Expectations were high over the summer after Giovanni van Bronckhorst led his Rangers team to within a kick of European glory and a Scottish Cup triumph at the tail end of last season but this league campaign has already come off the tracks.

The Dutchman has been replaced by Michael Beale after falling nine points behind Celtic at the top of the table with Rangers picking up just eight points from five league games from October 16 until the World Cup break. Fans were booing the team off the pitch, even after wins, such was their disappointment in the performances. Beale has started to reinvigorate a jaded squad and will be expected to win silverware somewhere – even if wrestling back the Premiership title now looks like a monumental challenge.

Four wins from his first four games has been encouraging for Beale, even if performances remain inconsistent. Celtic’s visit to Ibrox, live on Sky Sports, on January 2 could either breathe new life into their title challenge or finish it off completely.

What do they need? Rangers looked like the fittest team in Scotland by some distance last season but they appear well off the pace this time around. Beale needs to get Alfredo Morelos up to speed and find a way to bring out the best in Ryan Kent if they are to have any chance of chasing down a relentless Celtic side. However, with both players out of contract in the summer, the club may have a decision to take in January on their futures.

Star man: Antonio Colak

Ross County 5/10

It was always going to be nigh on impossible for Malky Mackay to improve upon Ross County’s top-six finish last season. The re-emergence of Aberdeen and the continued good work of David Martindale at Livingston meant it was always going to be difficult for the Staggies to challenge above midtable again.

One win from their opening nine Premiership matches saw County flirt with the relegation places but a much more positive November, which included back-to-back wins and a narrow loss at Parkhead, meant they went into the World Cup break out of the bottom two and with some momentum to build on.

However, three defeats following the re-start have seen County drop to the bottom of the table. A 3-0 loss at Tannadice on Wednesday saw Dundee United leapfrog the Staggies into 11th place, one point ahead of the Highland side with a game in hand and they desperately need to get back to winning ways.

What do they need? Every side at the bottom of the table needs goals and Ross County are no different. The loss of Regan Charles-Cook, who scored 13 goals last season, in the summer will have been keenly felt. Jordan White and Owura Edwards only have six between them so far this season and County need more.

Star man: Owura Edwards

St. Johnstone 7/10

After appearing to suffer a cup-double hangover last season Callum Davidson seemingly has St Johnstone back on track. Short of winning the division last term nothing was going to top their League Cup and Scottish Cup success from 2020-21 and it took a relegation play-off win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle to preserve their top-flight status.

Now, they are back in the top six, have beaten Rangers in the league for the first time since 2017, and had been unbeaten in six until a 4-1 loss at Celtic on Christmas Eve. A stoppage-time goal denied them a point against Postecoglou’s team in October but they certainly appear difficult to beat again – something that was lacking last season.

What do they need? Davidson has found a partnership that works up front in Stevie May and Nicky Clark, with the pair bagging nine goals between them and the former chipping in with four assists as well. If Davidson can keep the duo fit and firing then St Johnstone will be in the mix for a top-six finish again.

Star man: Stevie May

St. Mirren 8/10

Stephen Robinson endured a difficult return to the Scottish Premiership when he took over at St Mirren in February last year, losing seven of his first eight matches before ultimately guiding the club to safety.

This season has been different. St Mirren are currently three points off of a European spot with a game in hand and were a penalty away from beating both of the Old Firm in the league for the first time since 1989/90.

Mark O’Hara and Jonah Ayunga have scored some important goals, while Keanu Baccus returned in great spirits from Australia’s World Cup campaign.

What do they need? The Buddies have turned St Mirren Park into a bit of a fortress this season with six wins and three draws from 10 games there. Celtic came unstuck in Paisley while Rangers needed a late penalty to salvage a point but their away form tells a different story. One win in seven on the road has hampered Robinson’s side and they will be keen to address that.

Star man: Jonah Ayunga


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