Scottish clubs need a “proper debate” on the best way to prepare for Europe, says Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes.
The Dons enter Europa League qualifying next week, with Rangers and St Johnstone having already fallen in the opening round.
The new Scottish Premiership campaign kicks-off on 5 August.
“We’ve hummed and hawed about the merits of summer football; there is a far bigger discussion required,” McInnes told BBC Scotland.
“We need a proper debate on whether that can help us – domestically, in Europe and for the national team.
“Can we be as good as we can be at this stage of the season? No.
“You’ve got that hurdle to overcome and you have to handle bringing new players in and settling the team down.
“There is no magic wand but we need the best chance to be game ready at this stage of the season.
“There was a game at Pittodrie in every month of the year last season. It’s a strain.”
In the past three years Aberdeen have reached the third round of qualifying in the Europa League, having entered in the first round.
This time, the league runners-up and losing Scottish Cup finalists begin in the second round against Bosnian outfit Siroki Brijeg.
“We’ve lost to a good level of team; Real Sociedad, Kairat Almaty and Maribor,” said McInnes.
“We want to be able to find a way to overcome those teams when the game is in the balance.
“We need to get the balance right between enough rest after a long campaign and having enough preparation to be ready.
“It’s a dilemma. To get through in Europe, you probably need to continue your season but when do you get a break into your players?”
Reshaping the squad
Aberdeen, who also lost out to all-conquering Celtic in last term’s League Cup final, will have a few new faces in the squad when Siroki Brijeg visit on Thursday.
Former West Ham and Bristol City striker Nicky Maynard signed on Friday, joining Greg Tansey and Greg Stewart, while Ryan Christie has returned for a second loan spell.
McInnes aims to complete a deal for experienced Scotland midfielder Shaun Maloney and Motherwell have rejected an offer for their top scorer Louis Moult.
“We’ve been busy all summer, trying to get signings and things in place,” he explained.
“We’ve lost a few key players and we might not always get like-for-like but it’s our job to make sure those we bring in can handle the demands of being successful.
“It’s the first time since my first season in charge that there’s been a stress on recruitment. The last few seasons has been about fine tuning and there has been a familiarity about the team.”
Bridging the financial gap
Aberdeen reached 76 points in the Premiership last term, a club record, but were still a distant 30 points behind champions Celtic.
Rangers, who were nine adrift of the Dons, have invested heavily in new recruits, while Hibernian are back in the top flight after a three-year absence.
“I like the fact we are being judged against the Old Firm,” said McInnes.
“There are huge differences in finances, but how we prepare, how we recruit, the spirit and togetherness we can manifest, all those little percentages can help us.
“We can’t get too hung up on what others can do. We’ve got to strive to be as good as we can be. We need to be the biggest animal we can be as a club.”
Close to joining Sunderland?
Many expected McInnes to depart Pittodrie this summer, along with high-profile players Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn.
However, the 46-year-old former St Johnstone and Bristol City manager chose to stay after holding talks with Sunderland last month.
“I was keen to find out more about the job,” he explained. “Once that was agreeable between the clubs, I managed to have those conversations.
“There were huge attractions. It’s a fantastic club but there are lots of positives about being the Aberdeen manager.
“I love my job. We’ve shaped the club the way I want it to be and how it needs to be and we’re also striving for that improvement.
“I’m ambitious and I can meet a lot of my ambitions at Aberdeen.
“Now I’m looking forward to building on what we’ve done over the past few seasons.”