Even in the modern game, where tribalism dictates all, it’s rare that an entire fanbase…
Florian Kamberi joined a Hibs team in desperate need of a new striker in January and made quite the impression during the second half of the season. Neil Lennon was keen to sign the 23-year-old on a permanent basis after it became apparent a deal for Kamberi’s fellow January addition Jamie Maclaren wasn’t on the cards. Yesterday, Hibs announced that they had got their man on a three-year deal.
Hibernian had an agreement in the Swiss’ loan contract that meant they were able to sign him for a previously-agreed fee and it’s a good thing this was the case. Kamberi caught the eye during his Premiership stint last season and had reportedly gained the attention of admirers in England’s Championship, where his parent club Grasshopper Zurich could have significantly raised any potential transfer fee. But in the end, Hibs stumped up the cash and convinced the forward to stay on at Easter Road.
Kamberi was a total unknown when he turned up in Edinburgh but now looks to be one of the most promising and effective strikers in Scotland after he hit the ground running. The Swiss forward banged in nine goals in 14 appearances and has proven himself to be the ideal striker for Lennon to build his attack around; not only is Kamberi proficient in front of goal, his hold-up play and all-around ability make him a thorn in any defence’s side.
Lennon will be delighted to have convinced Kamberi to stay at Hibs in the Edinburgh club’s first foray into the transfer market this summer. With uncertainty surrounding much of the Hibs squad – particularly in midfield – securing the signature of a reliable goalscorer won’t just have been Lennon’s first order of business: it’s arguably his most important too.
Kamberi only joined the club in January but still finished as the joint-sixth top scorer overall in the Premiership this season. Out of players that played at least 600 league minutes this season, Kamberi has the fifth highest goals per 90 – not bad for a player who’s only finding his feet in Scottish football.
A look at Kamberi’s expected goals (xG) paints a similarly impressive picture. The Swiss striker has an xG/90 of 0.5, which is 0.2 lower than his goals/90. Essentially, this means that Kamberi is scoring more than he should be expected to – that might not sound like much, but it works out at an extra goal every five games that he isn’t expected to get otherwise.
It’s clear that Kamberi isn’t just a flat-track bully, either. Generally, his goals have come in big games against some of the league’s trickiest opponents. The forward has scored against Rangers, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Hearts and Motherwell – basically all of the Premiership’s best sides, with the notable exception of Celtic.
The forward’s hold-up play is equally eye-catching. Kamberi’s strength and pace make him a fearsome opponent and he’s proven himself to be a disruptive presence in attack. He’s not provided much in the way of direct assists, but when it comes to secondary assists – a pass which leads to an assist – Kamberi is once again amongst the league’s leaders.
The new Hibs signing averages 0.2 secondary assists per 90, which is the fifth-highest rate in the league. This demonstrates the creative side to Kamberi’s game. He might not be directly creating many chances for his teammates – although he has got two assists – but he’s clearly getting himself in dangerous positions and making passes that ultimately lead to goals.
Opposition sides are clearly aware of Kamberi’s talents and managers have identified him as one of Hibernian’s key players that must be stopped. His fellow Hibees John McGinn and Martin Boyle suffer more fouls per game on average, but Kamberi is still the fourth-most fouled player in the league per 90 minutes. This tells us that Hibs’ opponents view Kamberi as something of a danger man and that if you want to stop them, fouling the forward is the way to go. It probably doesn’t feel like it for Kamberi, but it’s actually a testament to his ability.
All in all then, Hibs fans should be delighted that Kamberi has committed to the club and joined on a permanent basis. He’s got all the attributes a coach could want in a striker and, as he becomes more settled, it’s likely that he’ll only get better. Lennon will be wanting to press on with Hibs’ transfer activity but will be relieved that, up front at least, he shouldn’t have too much to worry about. As long as Kamberi is in the team, Lennon will know he can rely on him to lead the line with distinction.