We are only one weekend into the Scottish Premiership campaign, and already it has delivered up a plethora of talking points.
Goals, gaping defensive holes, relegation predictions and new signings upsetting their managers. It is all there.
So what did we learn from the weekend? Here, BBC Scotland picks out the key takeaways from all 12 teams after the first games of the Scottish Premiership campaign…
Christie could be the main man
Neil Lennon described him as “exceptional”, but midfielder Ryan Christie simply said he was eager to make an impact on this Celtic team. The 24-year-old played only 60% of his club’s Premiership matches last term, but has started this season in a manner that suggests he will be a key player, with his opening-day hat-trick against St Johnstone adding to three goals in Champions League qualifying.
County making their mark
Ross County only spent one season out of the Scottish Premiership, but on Saturday looked as if they had never been away. There is plenty of top-flight experience in the Dingwall squad and in Billy Mckay, they have a proven goalscorer. Teams will not enjoy defending set pieces against County this season and their 100% record in the League Cup group stage shows they don’t just mean business in the league. On this evidence, they could be well clear of any relegation fight.
If you were asked to describe Derek McInnes’ side in recent years, most would say they don’t score many, but don’t concede many, and when they get their noses in front they are good at managing the game and seeing it through rather than going for more goals. It has generally been effective, with Rangers defender Jon Flanagan’s dig last season that they were “long-ball” merchants possibly sour grapes after Aberdeen had defeated them three times in Glasgow.
But this season Aberdeen look a side that will excite Pittodrie punters. Eight goals scored in their last two games, spearheaded by Sam Cosgrove, and aided by new signings Ryan Hedges and Greg Leigh both scoring early in their Dons careers. Jon Gallagher’s lung-bursting runs and Funso Ojo’s ability to pick out a pass has lit up games. And yet McInnes still has more artillery to call upon with Craig Bryson and Curtis Main on the injury list.
From late blow to late glow for Gerrard
On the eve of the new season Rangers manager Steven Gerrard highlighted his side’s need to shut up shop in the closing stages of matches, with them having shipped late goals and points too often last term. It happened on the opening day at Pittodrie a year ago and was on the cards again on Sunday when Kilmarnock’s Stephen O’Donnell smashed the ball beyond Wes Foderingham to make it 1-1 after 83 minutes. This time, however, Connor Goldson provided Rugby Park redemption for Rangers with a 91st-minute winner.
Gerrard insisted it’s “too early” to say if the late goal shows Rangers are a different animal this season, but when we have the answer to that, we’ll also know how likely a title race is.
‘Match-winner’ Allan saves the day for Hibs
Scott Allan was the returning hero for Hibs, with a cracking late goal to eventually break St Mirren’s stubborn resistance. However, relieved home fans may be concerned by laborious build-up play and a lack of pace in wide areas, while substitute Christian Doidge was guilty of two terrible misses after a truly shocking offside decision denied fellow forward Florian Kamberi a tap-in. Of the new boys, only Allan shone in flashes – and he’s not really new, is he?
“Scott Allan is a match winner, he gets fans on the edge of their seats and he cuts defences open. He will be a huge player for Hibs this season,” said Sportscene pundit Michael Stewart.
‘He’s going to annoy me’
Aymen Souda did his best to break the deadlock as Livingston and Motherwell played out a goalless draw at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Livi’s French forward had a spectacular effort with an overhead kick in the first half, and BBC Sportsound pundit Allan Preston is a fan, but says the 26-year-old “annoys” him. “I watched him last week and was talking about it to one of my pals – he’s going to annoy me because he goes down easy, he gestures with his arms, he shouts at his team-mates. But he’s got terrific ability.”
Steelmen tough to break
Celtic may have started the season by scoring seven goals against St Johnstone, but this weekend they will come up against a Motherwell side yet to concede in the Premiership or League Cup. Prior to their trip to Livingston they had also hammered home 13 goals in four games.
“The good thing is – Celtic won’t have seen how we can play,” said manager Stephen Robinson after the 0-0 draw with Livingston. “This is different from any other game. The surface, how Livi play. It might have been a wake-up call for some of the new boys, but there’s a lot more to come. We’ve a tough game next week, but we’ll certainly be better than that.”
Hard lesson for Hearts youngster
Hearts boss Craig Levein watched his side come from behind to lead at Pittodrie but left empty handed after going down to 10 men following the dismissal of Aaron Hickey.
“Aaron is a young kid who’s only played four or five first-team matches,” said Levein of the 17-year-old full-back. “He was very good today, but I don’t think he needed to make the tackle for the second booking. He’s a good kid though, and he’ll get better. It was a competitive match, and one I didn’t think we deserved to lose.”
Alessio can take positives
After seeing his Rangers team score late to win 2-1 at Rugby Park on Sunday, a relieved Steven Gerrard said post-match that Kilmarnock “were themselves” in the season opener. Following the Europa League shocker against Connah’s Quay Nomads, many feared Angelo Alessio had already lost what made Steve Clarke’s Killie side so impressive. The reality is the Ayrshire men were better than many expected on Sunday, with Gary Dicker and Alan Power their usual industrious selves in midfield and Eamonn Brophy looking lively up top. The striker missed a great chance to level it at 1-1 though, and bolstering his attack must be a priority for Alessio. This performance will certainly have given the Italian, and the Killie fans, a bit more hope for the season ahead.
New boys impress for beaten Buddies
St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin was heartened by his side’s defensive organisation and the contributions of recent arrivals Ilkay Durmus, Sean McLoughlin, Sam Foley and Jonathan Obika following a narrow loss at Easter Road.
“You can see the quality we’ve added, just in that one performance,” he said. “Once we get those guys up to speed and get the fitness levels up, we’ll be in a much better position.”
St Mirren fans were left panicking about the start of the new season following a horrendous League Cup group campaign. Is this steady showing at Easter Road enough to ease those nerves?
Sombre warning from Rice
Hamilton Academical are used to being written off and also used to proving the doubters wrong by preserving their top-flight status. Yet it was their own head coach Brian Rice who was predicting doom for the Lanarkshire side if they do not improve on their performance in Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Ross County. Accies looked uncomfortable defensively throughout and only really threatened in the second half – by which time they were two down. Blair Alston was a bright spark for Rice but the midfielder needs more from his team-mates.
Wright needs backing from board
After seeing his side ship seven without reply at Celtic, St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright was left lamenting the gulf in class, his side’s lack of belief and his squad’s need for reinforcements. All three points are pertinent because as impressive as Celtic were on Saturday, the men from Perth simply did not lay a glove on them – as the stats suggest. Wright can work on the belief aspect but he needs backing from his board to address the lack of options he has… and the need is desperate.