Aberdeen: Derek McInnes says side can recover winning form
Derek McInnes insists that Aberdeen can overcome their slump in form by "sticking to their values".
His side have lost their last four games, but the manager is convinced that it will not take drastic measures to restore the team's self-esteem.
McInnes says that little has changed from the way the team prepared during their eight-game winning streak.
And he is confident that their winning form can be rekindled for Saturday's visit of Motherwell.
The Aberdeen manager is facing a difficult spell in the context of a season in which the team has overachieved.
They broke a club record in winning the opening eight games of the campaign but have since been knocked out of the Scottish League Cup by Hibernian and lost three consecutive league games to be overtaken by Celtic at the top of the Premiership.
McInnes is trying to find the means to balance perspective with the need to demand more from his players.
Confidence is a brittle quality at times and the Aberdeen manager needs to restore it to his side.
The international break was spent trying to remedy the team's form. In particular, the unaccustomed defensive frailties that saw Aberdeen concede nine goals in their three league defeats, having lost only three goals during their eight consecutive wins.
Yet Aberdeen then lost the first game back after the break away to Ross County and McInnes has analysed every aspect of the defeats, from the performances to the preparations, to seek a solution.
At the same time, he is trying to protect and encourage the belief of his players.
"The recent run of results has been disappointing, but when you sign up to management, you've got to enjoy the good results and, when the results don't come, you've got to work hard to arrest the slide," McInnes said.
"Where we are at the moment is probably where most people thought we would be - just tucked in behind Celtic and slightly ahead of others.
"All teams will hit a poor patch of form at some time during the season. Hopefully we've had ours and we can come out of our bad form with a win on Saturday, which will take us back to the top of the league.
"It's not often you can say that, you come out a poor run and can be sitting top of the league.
"We trust ourselves, we've good players in the dressing-room and it's important we get that confidence from results.
"You've got to analyse every game and you look at everything - how you prepare, team selection, tactics.
"Everything is scrutinised, but it's important that you stick to your beliefs, your values, trust how you work and trust your squad, which we do."
Aberdeen's rise to the top of the league pushed the team further into the spotlight, where their credentials as title challengers to Celtic were scrutinised.
There is pressure in leading from the front and, although McInnes's side defeated Celtic at Pittodrie last month, the side faltered two games later when they travelled to face Inverness Caledonian Thistle and lost 2-1.
McInnes acknowledged that the players have to cope with the expectations that come with playing for Aberdeen but also the additional pressures of challenging at the top of the table.
"There's high expectation," McInnes said. "They've been raised even more because of the strong start and rightly so maybe I was expecting more as well.
"But, regardless of what's expected of you, you've got to make sure that you do all you can to get results.
"We've got to fight fire with fire, show that determination to win games and beat any opponent.
"Probably nobody anticipated such a strong start. Eight wins out of eight is unprecedented at our club. It's unusual that run of form, as is three league defeats in a row.
"Confidence is a big factor in it. There's no magic wand, you just have to try to get performances from each and every one and hopefully together we can get the win that we're all striving for.
"Nothing's really changed in our approach. Our working week has been very similar to how it was when we won eight in a row. The best way to get confidence is by winning games and playing well."
McInnes recognises that Motherwell will be motivated to raise their performance levels under newly appointed Mark McGhee, who himself is also a former Aberdeen manager.
"I'm sure he'll come here looking to win and he's inherited some good experienced players that he can depend upon - and a decent squad," McInnes said. "We'll be up against a team keen to impress their new manager.
"I don't think there will be a lot in the game, but we want to make sure it goes our way.
"Even when we were winning games, we were winning a lot of tight matches, so it's important that those fine margins go our way.
"If we can get three points and go back top of the league, I'd rather be discussing how to deal with being top of the league than not. "