Hearts boss craves more creativity from midfield

Craig Levein tries to urge on Hearts at Easter Road
Craig Levein tries to urge on Hearts at Easter Road
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Hearts manager Craig Levein wants an improved team performance against Rangers and insists there is the quality within his squad to play better.

Levein was disappointed by the display in Tuesday night’s Edinburgh derby defeat against Hibs at Easter Road. Rangers arrive in the Capital in turmoil after sacking manager Pedro Caixinha yesterday. Youth coach Graeme Murty has been placed in temporary charge but Levein is preoccupied with his own club’s issues. He is managing a minor midfield crisis with injuries to experienced figures Don Cowie, Arnaud Djoum and Prince Buaben. However, he wants more creativity in the middle of the field, starting at BT Murrayfield tomorrow.

“I do think we’ve improved defensively but in a creative sense we can do more. That’s my big thing now – trying to create more chances and score more goals. I need Don and I need Arnaud back to be able to feel that we’ve got a balance in midfield. We haven’t had a balance in there for a while now.

“We have a problem with [midfield] rotation and we need to get that right. I think putting more midfield players in would help. I looked back at Tuesday’s match and our rotation was really poor. We didn’t clear space for other people or anything. That’s because the players we put in there aren’t fully aware of the things required to play central midfield. Again, that’s on me.”

Creating opportunities for top goalscorer Kyle Lafferty and Hearts’ other forwards is top of the agenda tomorrow. Levein wants his team playing to the strengths of skilled forwards like Jamie Walker and Esmael Goncalves without resorting to long balls. I hope this is the sort of game Kyle will relish,” he said. “He has done well for us, scored goals. The problem isn’t that strikers are missing chances, it’s that as our midfield players have disappeared. We are not creating too many chances.

“We are not set up to go from back to front and, although he is a big guy, that’s not Kyle’s strong suit. Latterly on Tuesday night we played long balls and that didn’t suit us.

“Isma and Jamie are not that sort of players either. We need to play football, but we need players who can play football before we can play football.”

Levein stressed Hearts must exploit any weaknesses arising as a result of Rangers’ poor run of form, which preceded Caixinha’s sacking yesterday afternoon.

The Ibrox club have won only three of their past seven matches. “We will do everything we can to win the game. Rangers look like they are in a period of bad luck, shall we say. Hopefully that will continue on Saturday,” continued Levein.

“Their issues will only help us if we perform at a level near our best. Even Rangers not at their best with injuries and suspensions are still really dangerous. My focus is on getting us to play near our best.”