Let's just be frank; Hibs have been excellent this season. Similarly, Hibs' midfield has been…
This hasn’t been a great week for Hibernian fans. Just a few days after dropping points at Dingwall, reports began circulating that star midfielder, Dylan McGeouch, would not only be rejected any plans to renew his contract at Easter Road but would also sidestep any advances from Aberdeen to head south this summer.
Of course, nothing has been confirmed by the club as of yet so circumstances could still change between now and May. However, if the 25-year old was to leave Hibs in July then it would leave Neil Lennon with the mammoth task of replacing him ahead of next season’s campaign.
Although John McGinn may be the poster boy at Easter Road this season – and could ultimately be the subject of a dramatic bidding war this summer – McGeouch has in many ways been just as vital to what has been a superb season for Hibs.
As an ever-present member of Lennon’s side, the midfielder has gone from Celtic reject to Scotland international (well, if he hadn’t been injured) and was recently voted as the 2017/18 player of the year by the Hibs Supporters Association.
We’re not talking about just another player here. McGeouch’s role at Hibs has seen him become a dependable, consistent star for the Premiership club and as we’re about to see the stats easily point out just how crucial his talents are to this team.
To say everything at Hibs goes through McGeouch would be an understatement. Not only does the former Celtic player lead the charts in total passes at Hibs this season but in almost every metric he outdoes his peers from one week to the next.
The graph above shows the breakdown of passes across the Hibs midfield this season and as we can see as we toggle across the tabs McGeouch is either top or very close to the top of almost every type of pass.
Sitting top of total passes may not surprise too many Hibs fans, but McGeouch averaging more forward passes than both McGinn and Scott Allan probably does. Which is made all the more impressive when we consider that only Brandon Barker averages more backwards passes than McGeouch, while the midfielder averages more lateral passes than any other Hibs star aside from Marvin Bartley.
Basically, McGeouch is the main passer of Lennon’s side. While McGinn, Bartley and others may thrive at different tasks there isn’t a single player at Easter Road that dominates across all types of passes quite like McGeouch.
Like Scott Brown at Celtic or Kenny MacLean at Aberdeen, McGeouch may not be the midfielder scoring the long-range goals or carefully laying off the assists, but he’s the man that keeps play ticking along and dictates so much of how his team play. And that’s not an easy job to replace.
Another aspect of McGeouch’s game that Hibs will miss next season is what he brings to the attacking line. Although he may play slightly deeper than the likes of Allan or McGinn, the midfielder’s role in helping Hibs score is undoubtedly prevalent and vital – albeit far less obvious than simple goals or assists.
The graph above shows how McGeouch, Allan and McGinn compare when it comes to establishing passes, through passes and passes in to the final third of the pitch. And as we can see, the seemingly-departing Hibs midfielder undoubtedly holds his own against these two, heralded attacking players.
When it comes to passes in to the final third, McGeouch’s average of 10 per game not only keeps up with McGinn’s 12 but beats Allan’s six. While he averages more establishing passes – the pass that begins an attacking move – than McGinn’s from one week to the next. And although just one through ball a game might not seem like much, it isn’t far off the two or three McGinn and Allan manage respectively.
It’s also worth noting that McGeouch’s passing accuracy for passes in to the final third stands at 72%. Which is far higher than McGinn’s 63% or Allan’s 59%. That’s not to say the midfielder is a better attacking player than his teammates, but when we peel beyond the more obvious ways to measure attacking plays we find that McGeouch is undoubtedly an asset to Hibs’ front line. And, again, one that Lennon will struggle to replace next season.
Unless it hasn’t already been clearly stated: we’re not entirely sure if McGeouch will actually leave Hibs this summer. Things are very much still at the newspaper rumour stage. But if the young midfielder was to part ways for the brighter lights of English football then Lennon and the club would find themselves with a huge hole in the middle of the park. And finding someone to fill it may prove quite troublesome.