Hearts transfers: The one position desperately needing filled before the end of the window
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An experienced back-up goalkeeper was sought in Michael McGovern, Calem Nieuwenhof has arrived from Australia with the hope of improving the centre-midfield corps, while most-recent signing Frankie Kent will be expected to improve a defence which got fairly porous as last campaign drew to a close.
But as we come ever closer to the season kicking off with the first game at McDiarmid Park now just ten days away, there remains one position which needs filled as a matter of urgency: striker – namely one with pace to stretch opponents and give the team a different dimension.
Lawrence Shankland and Liam Boyce, on paper, make up a potent strike-partnership. They are both predatory goalscorers and excellent footballers. Each has the ability to drop deep into the No.10 position and help build attacks. The problem is there isn’t much speed between the pair of them.
Against weaker opponents at Tynecastle this may not be too much of an issue. Many underdogs will naturally sit deeper and invite pressure. But away from home and against teams coming to Gorgie setting out to attack, it could be a severe hindrance.
In the 2-1 victory against Aberdeen under Steven Naismith, the visitors were penned in deep for most of the game. This changed as soon as Josh Ginnelly was forced off with injury. Immediately, and visibly, the Dons pushed their defensive line an extra 15 yards or so up the park. Without the threat of a pacy forward in behind to increase their one-goal deficit, they were able to be more bold in their search for an equaliser.
Lacking this sort of player also won’t mesh with how the management team wants Hearts to play. They are asking players, throughout the side, to be brave on the football, not to settle for sideways or backwards passing. Lacking pace in attack won’t just hinder their ability to do this by having the entire team a few yards deeper, due to a high offside line from the opposition, it will also squeeze the middle of the park. This will shrink the space and time afforded to each Hearts player when they got on the ball, reducing the effectiveness of those forward passes. Furthermore, a willing runner up top creates opportunities with nothing else on, just by putting the ball into an advanced area and getting them to chase.
In the meantime, Yutaro Oda could be asked to take up residence at the tip of the attack with Shankland just off him. He has played there before and it would be a short-term solution if a suitable target can’t be recruited prior to the season kicking off. But the Japanese speedster’s emergence at right-wing was a real highlight as 2022/23 came to an end. Operating on the wing enables him to play while facing the opposition goal and run fearlessly at opponents. He will struggle to replicate this in a crowded central position with his back to goal most of the time.
Hearts are right not to panic and wait to get the right man, but with so many big games coming in August it’s important a Ginnelly replacement is in the door sooner rather than later.