Neil Lennon was in a particularly blunt and prickly mood after watching his side draw…
Even in the modern game, where tribalism dictates all, it’s rare that an entire fanbase agrees on the true worth of a player, Somewhere, there are probably a handful of Barcelona fans who believe Lionel Messi isn’t all that. But at Hibernian, their support are seemingly universally agreed on one thing – Dylan McGeouch is the unheralded star of their team.
Of course, plenty eyes have been drawn to Hibs’ midfield this season, with John McGinn catching the eye of many, underlining his status as the brightest young talent in the Scottish game right now. But alongside McGinn, the Easter Road support regularly make the point that McGeouch is almost as important.
Indeed, watching McGeouch, it becomes apparent just how important he is to Neil Lennon’s side. He brings energy to Hibs, drifting wide from a central position to pick up the ball. He is one of those players who operates between the lines, not really a winger, not really a central midfielder. His fluidity is something Lennon uses well.
It’s little wonder then that Hibs are so keen to keep McGeouch at the club beyond the summer, when his current contract will expire, offering the former Celtic man a new three year deal this week. “It is not in writing yet, but is verbally there,” confirmed Lennon. “The ball is firmly in Dylan’s court and he is taking a bit of time to think about things – I’ll be pushing him a little more as the weeks go on. He is an important player, he is having a fantastic season and we are seeing the best of him. It’s something we will look to pursue very quickly. It is very high up on our list of priorities.”
But for all that McGeouch’s quality and his importance to the team is difficult to quantify through statistics. Of course, statistics are certainly not the only way to determine the worth of a player. They should never be used to form an opinion with no other basis. Instead, they’re useless when used to support an argument.
McGeouch might well be an exception here, though. Alongside McGinn, the 24-year-old has played more games than any other Hibernian midfielder this season, but has only contributed a single assist. In terms of key passes, he only averages 0.1 per game. To put that into perspective, Lewis Stevenson has a better average in key passes this season.
In through balls, McGeouch somewhat redeems himself. He is Hibs’ second most prolific performer in this sense, and one of the most prolific in the Scottish Premiership this season, averaging 1.36 per match. Only Scott Allan, McGinn, Moussa Dembele, James Tavernier, Tom Rogic and Esmael Goncalves have a better average this season.
When it comes to passes into the final third, McGeouch also does himself proud from a statistical point of view, averaging 8.71 per game. McGinn might average 12.86 per match, but he plays a different sort of role to his more versatile teammate. But in other areas, like opportunities per game (only 0.3) and key pass conversation (0.06) he lags behind many of his teammates.
Perhaps it’s difficult to quantify the role of McGeouch in this Hibernian team because so often he is the one who sparks their attacking moves. He’s not the one who scores the goal or even assists the goal, but the one who makes the pass before the assist – the secondary shot assist, as it’s known.
When it comes to this particular data set, McGeouch is more prolific, per 90 minutes, than any other Hibernian player besides McGinn, Anthony Stokes, Deivydas Matulevicius and Fraser Murray, making 0.85 secondary shot assists per 90 minutes. Without the 24-year-old, Hibs would lack a key component of their midfield engine.
Lennon has acted quickly to add a striker to his squad this month, signing Jamie Maclaren on loan from Darmadst in the Bundesliga until the end of the season. The Australian will either take up a first team role or put pressure on the likes of Old Shaw, Anthony Stokes and Simon Murray to improve. But without midfield creativity, Maclaren, and the rest, will be handicapped. McGeouch is crucial to that creative process at Easter Road. The Hibs fans know it, even if the statistics don’t necessarily show it.