A back three? Craig Levein preparing different tactical plan for Hearts-Aberdeen

Hearts manager Craig Levein is preparing a different tactical plan for Sunday’s opening Premiership match at Aberdeen.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 6:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 7:30 am
Hearts manager Craig Levein admits confidence levels have dropped

Having employed a 4-4-2 formation throughout the Betfred Cup group stage, he could field John Souttar, Craig Halkett and Christophe Berra in a three-man defence for the first time.

The final decision will be made later this week ahead of the trip to Pittodrie. Halkett’s excellent form, including three goals in three group appearances, make him difficult to leave out. Souttar and Berra are normally automatic starters when fit and Levein revealed he is now considering switching to a back three.

“We will play two or three different systems this season. Going away to Aberdeen in the league isn’t the same as playing in the Betfred Cup groups, so you might see all three centre-backs,” he said.

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“That’s a different thing altogether from Saturday. I don’t equate the East Fife game to playing Aberdeen away in the first league match. We played 4-4-2 in every Betfred Cup game, without a defensive midfielder, but that’s not what will happen this weekend.”

The manager admitted confidence levels have suffered due to the number of scoring chances passed up during the Betfred group games. Hearts struck 76 shots at goal across all four matches and managed only six goals to reach the tournament’s knockout phase. The 1-1 draw at East Fife left both fans and Levein unhappy.

“Not scoring more is the frustrating thing. Players don’t mean to miss chances and the whole team suffers a dip in confidence when you continually miss opportunities,” he said. “Saturday’s game should have been dead and buried by half-time.

“We conceded very few chances in the game but it doesn’t feel like that. It felt like we were poorer than we probably actually were. That’s because we were playing a lower-division team and didn’t get the game finished the way we wanted. We brought that upon ourselves and there is no hiding from it.

“There were some good performances. I thought Halkett was fantastic, Christophe did well. They had a lot of balls to deal with through the middle. We got caught on the counter-attack a little bit following a set-piece and that happened against Dundee United as well, so we will look at that.”

Levein’s priority now is strengthening his midfield. “We have lost very few goals and conceded very few chances in the Betfred Cup so far,” he said. “I think defensively we are fine and I think we will score goals. We are light in central midfield and I’ve talked about that previously.

“If I can get another one or two midfielders in, that will definitely help us. It’s very difficult to quantify how much confidence can be drained by continually not scoring - plus how much confidence it gives the opposition.”