Hearts: What does the signing of Donis Avdijaj mean for Daniel Stendel?

The Kosovo international could make his debut against Ross County after signing a six-month deal

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 4:55 pm
Donis Avdijaj has boosted Hearts' attacking options. Picture: SNS

Daniel Stendel completed his first signing for Hearts on Monday with the addition of Donis Avdijaj.

The 23-year-old arrives on an initial six-month loan after an up and down few years, from getting experience in the Austrian Bundesliga with Sturm Graz as a teenager and then breaking into the Schalke side, to being suspended by Dutch side Willem II and having his contract terminated by Trabzonspor.

Stendel was a huge influence in convincing Avdijaj to make the switch with the paths having crossed previously in Germany.

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Avdijaj's path has crossed with Daniel Stendel previously. Picture: SNS

But what will the forward's signing mean and how can he be used?

Position

Avdijaj began his career in the Schalke academy as a potent striker but Stendel has talked him up as a wide option.

Ambidextrous, he can play either wing which was the case with Trabzonspor and Willem II. His right foot is more prominent, as seen when playing from the left as he looks to shift it quickly with either a drop of the shoulder or step-over.

There is an element of Jamie Walker when he first broke into the Hearts team. Moving from wide left into a more central position onto his right foot where he becomes a danger.

His second goal for Schalke's first team saw him take a pass from the full-back, play it infield before getting the return and slotting the ball past the goalkeeper. Avdijaj's first for Dutch side Roda JC came from the left foot, cutting inside and bending the ball into the far top corner.

Played on the opposite flank, he will give Hearts a crossing outlet. His preferred method is putting the defender on the back foot before firing in a low cross into the path of a team-mate or in the corridor of uncertainty, angling away from the goalkeeper.

Crossing is not something Hearts have lacked with only Rangers attempting more than the Tynecastle side's 397 in the league.

Goal threat

Hearts netted five for the second time this season on Saturday. Despite such returns, goals have not been easy to come by this campaign, especially in the league.

The side currently average 0.86 goals per game, and, with just 18, are one of four teams yet to hit the 20 mark - Hibs have hit 29, Motherwell 33 for context.

Centre-back Craig Halkett is the top scorer with five goals, four of which have been scored against lower league opposition and none netted in the league.

"There is no country, no city in the world where I don't score," Avdijaj said. "I score everywhere."

Confidence is clearly not lack with the new signing and Stendel has admitted his expectancy that he will score goals.

As well as such qualities as finishing and composure, a determination and willingness to get into goal scoring areas is a huge advantage, something which Avdijaj does.

Counter attack

Hearts have been in desperate need of an injection of speed. It has been evident in their one-paced, ponderous displays this season, especially when it has come to the attacking teams having just won the ball.

The transition from back to front can be let down by both decision making and quick thinking, but mainly due to pace.

Avdijaj supplies this. He doesn't tend to hang around, and if there is a chance to attack he will take it. It doesn't matter if he does or doesn't have the ball he will look to scamper up the pitch.

A double for Kosovo against Malta highlights his threat on the counter attack. Twice Malta were caught out down their left and on both times the goal was scored by Avdijaj haring down the opposite flank, past the full-back to net crosses at the back post.

Excitement

As well as an element of Jamie Walker to his play, Avdijaj also resembles David Milinkovic, the last truly exciting player at Tynecastle who very much played off the cuff.

It was a quality which frustrated manager Craig Levein with the player seemingly not following specific instructions. But he made up for it with his endeavour, attitude and capability at taking the game by the scruff of the neck, producing something out of nothing.

Watching footage of Avdijaj, seeing the attacking moments he produces, it is hard not to make the comparison.

Having played in Germany for Schalke, the new signing is likely more versed in positional play, but no matter where he plays, whether it will be right, left or even central, he will get fans off their seat.