Craig Levein was resolute in the reasoning behind his side’s 3-1 defeat to Rangers on…
It’s been a rather turbulent season for Hearts. One sacked manager, a new stand and a historic victory over Brendan Rodgers’ so-called “Invincibles.” Craig Levein seems to have steadied the ship at Tynecastle, but there is most definitely still work to be done.
Hearts haven’t lost a league game since the start of November which makes for good reading for the Gorgie faithful. Conversely, out of the eight games they are unbeaten five have been draws. This begins to shine a light on the main problem Hearts have; potency in attack.
Hearts may not have hit top gear yet, but they’re definitely a more solid outfit under Craig Levein. At the back they are tight with Christophe Berra having an excellent season. The Gorgie club have conceded just 19 goals this season; only Celtic have conceded fewer.
Conversely, although they sit in fifth place Hearts have scored significantly fewer goals than the teams above them. In fact, only Partick Thistle have a worse scoring record in the Premiership this season.
They could perhaps do with signing another striker, but in Kyle Lafferty they have a proven goalscorer. The main problem area for Hearts is on the wings. Not only are they short of personnel in this area, but they are short of quality.
Jamie Walker has had a stop-start season and his exit from Tynecastle looks imminent. Similarly, Don Cowie has done a decent job when asked to play on the wing, but at 34-years-old Hearts need younger options with more pace. Their other main winger, Manuel Milinkovic, has started to look like a decent prospect, but to put it bluntly Hearts need reinforcements in this area otherwise scoring goals and winning games will continue to be a problem.
The graph above highlights the average goals and assists of Hearts’ main three wingers. Also included are potential signing targets Chris Cadden and Jordan Jones. Milinkovic is the only one who holds a candle to both Jones and Cadden in this area. Cadden alone has provided more assists this season than Cowie, Walker and Milinkovic combined.
It’s a similar story when we look at the average number of minutes it takes for each player to chip in with a goal and/or assist. It takes significantly less time for Milinkovic (187), Jones (312) and Cadden (202) to pop up with a goal or assist than it does for Cowie (490) or Walker (452).
In essence, both Jones and Cadden are better options than Levein currently has at his disposal.
Both Chris Cadden and Jordan Jones would be excellent signings for Hearts. Whether they’re available is a different matter entirely. Particularly in the case of Jones, who is being watched by a number of clubs from down south, a deal might prove beyond the Jam Tarts.
Jones has been linked to Rangers and has a plethora of admirers down south. Similarly, Motherwell won’t let Cadden go easily. Given they just lost Louis Moult to Preston the Steelmen will be extremely keen to avoid losing any more of their top players.
“I’ve spoken regularly about the need to build up confidence and hopefully Saturday’s result will help with that.
“Then once the January transfer window opens up hopefully we can do a bit of business to balance the side up too, which will help as well.
“A lot of what we do next month will depend on what we can afford. There are some players that will probably need to move on but there will have to be a balance there.
“Is next month’s a crucial window? They are all crucial. If you make a mistake it’s not easy to fix. We just need to make sure we don’t make any mistakes. That’s the focus for January.
“I don’t really want to get dragged into talking about individuals,” he said. “I don’t really see the point. We’ll see what happens in January.
“But we do need speed in the wider areas, that’s for sure. We need a left-back and other things as well.”