Simon Murray wasn't exactly prolific in last year's Dundee United team, picking up just ten…
Depending on who you ask, Hibernian should either be targeting a second place finish in the Scottish Premiership or hoping to merely remain in the top six. Neil Lennon himself has hailed the Easter Road side as the second best team in the country, but even he would admit there are certain deficiencies he must use the January transfer window to address.
Lennon has led a comprehensive overhaul of Hibs in the 18 months he has been in charge of the club, but now they find themselves at a crucial juncture of the Northern Irishman’s tenure. They need something else, another dimension, if they are to achieve the next phase in their progression.
But what does that dimension look like? What kind of players should they be targeting? Is there a specific position, or positions, that need filled in January? We looked in the statistics to find some answers. If Hibernian are to end the season as the second best side in the country, this is what they’ll need.
With 28 goals in 19 Scottish Premiership games this season, Hibs are hardly struggling for goals. In fact, they are the top flight’s fourth top scorers. In Simon Murray and Anthony Stokes, Lennon has two of the league’s top goalscorers, with the two strikers boasting six goals apiece for the season.
However, Hibees will tell you just how many chances Murray and Stokes have spurned over the course of the campaign. There’s a sense at Easter Road that with a natural goalscorer leading the line Hibs could be doing even better this season. What’s more, there aren’t many backing up the duo in terms of goals, with Martin Boyle the closest to their tally with four for the season.
Stokes is the target of the majority of frustration felt over Hibernian’s attacking options. The former Celtic striker has had more shots than any other player in the Scottish Premiership this season, with Murray also among the most prolific shot-takers in the division (35 in total). From those shots by the latter, only 42% have been on target.
In recent weeks, Ofir Marciano has also become something of an issue for Hibs, as if the Easter Road goalkeeping curse has finally enchanted the Israeli. With just 36 saves made so far this season, Marciano’s stats don’t exactly made for glowing reading, although that could also reflect on the strength of the defence in front of him. A number of mistakes in recent weeks, though, suggest otherwise.
It’s been reported that Lennon could look to Germany in his search for a new striker. Australian striker Jamie MacLaren is apparently available on loan from Darmadst 96, but that doesn’t exactly scream ambition. Since making the move from Brisbane Roar in the summer, the 24-year-old has struggled for game time, making just seven appearances off the bench in Bundesliga II this season, failing to find the net. He’s averaging just 0.4 shots per game.
Another player linked with a move to Easter Road this January is Niall McGinn. The Northern Irishman playmaker is expected to return to Scotland after a short stint in South Korea, with Hearts also thought to be interested. That would give Hibernian a significant boost in final third creativity. At Aberdeen, McGinn scored or directly provided 88 goals in the Premiership. That’s a goal or assist every 131 minutes.
Hibs might have more pressing priorities than signing McGinn, though. In Murray and Stokes they have two strikes with considerable pedigree, but both players are proving far too wasteful in front of goal this season. Lennon must either find a poacher or find a way to ease his team’s reliance on them. That must be his aim this January.
Lennon: “We have to be realistic about bids coming in, especially for John [McGinn]. We’d have to weigh it up and be prepared for that eventuality if it does happen. If the club gets an offer they can’t refuse, that could potentially alter what we’ve got to spend.
“I’d like a bit more depth to the squad. We’re a little light in numbers, so we’ll look in January to see if we can strengthen. I don’t want to over-egg the squad, either, but we will look at areas where we could do with an extra body.”