Arnaud Djoum wants new Hearts signing Joaquim Adao to help him silence critics amongst the Tynecastle support.
The Cameroonian has been subjected to abuse recently while playing out of position and hopes the arrival of a specialist holding midfielder will let him produce his best form further forward.
Manager Craig Levein completed a four-month loan deal to bring Adao to Edinburgh from FC Sion in the final hours of Wednesday’s transfer deadline day. The 25-year-old holds 11 caps for Angola and is an orthodox sitter, or traditional No.6, by his own admission.
Djoum welcomed his fellow African to Riccarton with more joy than anyone. He has endured the wrath of some fans whilst occupying the holding role and freely admits he is more productive higher up the pitch.
Adao is expected to make his Hearts debut against St Johnstone tomorrow, which may see Djoum released from his shackles. He hears carping from the stands but tries not to let it affect his morale.
“I know, it’s part of football,” he said. “When I came here I played in a more forward position. I played out wide and I played as a No.10. I was in really offensive roles and I could show what I can do. In the last few weeks, I have played as a sitting midfielder, so you are thinking about defensive duties and not attack.
“Maybe the fans are used to seeing me attacking more but I have been playing a different position and they need to know that as well. I will try to help if I am needed there but, after the new signings, I hope to be further forward.
“I’m getting better after my injury and I’m close to being 100 per cent. I did a lot of running in the Celtic game on Tuesday and I feel much better. I also played higher up the pitch in the second half so that made me feel better as well.
“Central midfield, like a No.8, is my best position and that’s where I like to play. Then it’s No.10. The last is defensive midfield.
“When you play sitting midfield, you don’t have the chance to go forward. I was delighted playing higher because I was free to do what I do best. Maybe Joaquim coming to Hearts can let me play higher. The coach needed me in defensive midfield because there was nobody there so I will play there, but No.8 is my best position.”
Adao joins Danny Amankwaa, Steven Naismith and Demetri Mitchell as Levein’s four new recruits from the January window. Adao and Naismith are experienced senior internationalists with Angola and Scotland respectively, whilst Amankwaa and Mitchell have represented Denmark and England at youth level.
Djoum is encouraged by his club’s winter business. “I feel good about that. A lot of the players here now are internationalists so I am looking forward. We can do great things if we stay together for a long time. It’s good for me personally because the midfield is now speaking French,” he joked in reference to Adao and Amankwaa.
Although he only joined Hearts two-and-a-half years ago, such is the turnaround in players in that time that Djoum is now one of the club’s longest serving players.
“There is a big difference in the team from when I came here. It’s only me, Prince and Jack Hamilton. We are the three survivors, which is a little bit strange,” he said.
“It’s a lot of change but the club want to go forward so they try to attract players to make the team better, like guys who have been in England. To move up the table, you need to bring in players who have played at a high level.”
Moving up the table is the priority right now. Hearts’ midweek defeat at Celtic Park coupled with Hibs’ win over Motherwell leaves a seven-point gap between the Edinburgh rivals in the Ladbrokes Premiership table.
The target at Tynecastle in any season is to finish above those across the city, so there is a bit of ground to make up during the final three months of the campaign. Djoum is not unduly concerned about the situation as it stands but he knows the next two weekends are likely to prove hugely significant.
Hearts play St Johnstone tomorrow in the league and then again seven days later in the William Hill Scottish Cup. The Perth club have been something of a bogey side since long before Levein returned to the dugout last August. Indeed, Hearts have won just two of the last 14 encounters between the sides.
Djoum believes these two upcoming games are of the must-win variety if his club is to fulfil their ambitions of qualifying for Europe this season.
“With the team we have, we have the potential to achieve that. We will try to finish as strongly as we can in the league and the cup,” said the midfielder. “The Europa League is a big thing for us and we need to achieve that. The next two games are really important, we are at home in both of them and that is an advantage for us.
“In the league, we need to stay really close to Hibs. The cup is also a very good way to get into European competition. We need to be focused and win both of these matches.
“I think we need to fight for fourth place in the league and try to get ahead of Hibs. We showed when we played them last month that we have a team who can compete for the fourth position.
“We want to win more games and not lose late goals like we did against Motherwell last week. If we do that, we will finish high in the league.
“I am feeling good about the season and I think we can do well in the last few months. It has not been easy because there has been a lot of changes at Hearts over the last 12 months. Hopefully we will now stay more settled to help us have a strong ending in the league and the Scottish Cup.”