Hearts to improve next season as the technical approach enters its next phase

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Coaches at Riccarton have identified aspects of play which can be better

Attacking play and goalscoring improved for Hearts during the second half of the season, helping underpin their surge to third place in the Premiership. Those areas will be worked on further over the summer as coaching staff seek even greater reward when 2024/25 begins.

Head coach Steven Naismith watched his team score eight goals in their final three games of the Premiership season. By then, third place and guaranteed European league-stage football were already secured and pressure was off. Naismith enjoyed seeing players play with a certain freedom, something he wants to harness.

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“As we've gone on this season, the goalscoring has improved. We probably didn't score enough goals earlier on in the season. We didn't create enough good chances,” he admitted. “On Saturday [the 3-3 draw with Rangers], even the build-up to the goals is good. People were in the right positions, we weren't reactive with people thinking they need to be higher up the pitch or in a specific space. Players are starting to get into those positions.

“We have focused a lot this season on what we want defensively when we are out of possession. We have done a bit on the forward areas in the second half of the season but we can still get better. Overall, the boys are picking it up. It's not just what pass to make, it's how quickly we can do it. Can it be one-touch? The speed of play is so important for what we want to do. I think that has been a natural progression throughout the season.”

The next phase of Hearts’ progression is to pass through lines at pace. “Yeah, exactly,” said Naismith. “There is an element of reading the game. Do we need to get control of the game or can we attack? The best thing for everybody is that, if we can attack, then you go forward and you attack straight away. We don't need to make 10 passes if something is on right away.

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“The more we work, the more we understand what the game needs. Does it need us just to have the ball, or does it need us to penetrate? Then, how good quality a chance could we get on the back of that? We will grow and get better at that as we develop.”

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