Glenn Whelan or Loic Damour: Who'd make a better signing for Hearts?

Hearts are in advanced talks with two midfielders as they look to strengthen in an area of the squad where they're light on bodies at present.

By Craig Fowler
Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 7:02 pm
Hearts are in advanced talks to sign Loic Damour and Glenn Whelan.
Hearts are in advanced talks to sign Loic Damour and Glenn Whelan.

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Hearts in advanced talks to sign two new midfielders

Glenn Whelan has been offered a one-year deal after leaving Aston Villa. Loic Damour, meanwhile, has been allowed to leave Cardiff City to join the Tynecastle club, but only if Hearts can agree personal terms with the player.

Hearts would love to have both players on their books, but if only one of them can be signed, who should they prioritise?

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Hearts are in advanced talks to sign Loic Damour and Glenn Whelan.

In order to make a clear decision, I've broken it down into five categories. Majority wins.

Who would fit into Hearts system better?

Craig Levein would prefer to play an attacking 4-4-2 formation this season with Jamie Walker and Jake Mulraney supporting the strikers from the wings. This is why Peter Haring's absence is being so keenly felt at the moment. His ability to mop up in front of defence, launch attacks and win the majority of second balls is sorely missed whenever he's not in the team. Two-man centre-midfields are coming back into fashion but you still need the right sort of players there to make it work. Haring is that sort of player, but Hearts don't appear to have another suited to partnering Sean Clare.

Whelan used to be that player but there's a doubt he could be at this stage of his career - not surprising given he's 35. The veteran lacks a bit of pace and if Hearts are caught with players high up the park, he's not going to be the sort who is able to chase them down from the other side of the pitch.

Damour isn't exactly Mulraney levels of quick, but he's certainly more mobile. He's also more versatile as well. Where as Whelan is predominantly a defensive midfielder at this stage of his career, Damour can operate as a No.8 and a No.10 also.

Whelan would be perfect in a 4-2-3-1 or a diamond, but in the current preferred set-up it's the Cardiff man who gets the nod.

Verdict: Damour

Who would be a better fit for the Hearts squad?

Without pretending to know anything about the two individuals as men, you have to assume Whelan will fit seamlessly into the dressing room. He's got vast experience of British football - in fact, it's all he knows - giving him an advantage over Damour, who's only played in England for two years.

There's also the leadership aspect. Levein loves having big characters in the dressing room that he can trust to impart wisdom on the young players coming through. It's one of the biggest reasons why Aaron Hughes was kept on throughout last season. Whelan will certainly be another one of those authoritative voices.

Damour is an unknown quantity in that regard.

Verdict: Whelan

Who has the better pedigree?

This one isn't even close. Even though Damour was technically a "Premier League player" last term he barely featured at all. It would be more accurate to describe him as someone who was paid to watch Premier League football while wearing a club tracksuit.

Over the course of their respective careers it's Whelan by a landslide. He's got 325 appearances in England's top flight under his belt. He's also been capped 86 times by Ireland.

Damour hasn't played for France, which isn't something you should beat him with considering the strength of the French national team. However, he also hasn't played in the French top flight either, being plucked from Ligue 2 by Cardiff in 2017. He's played almost the entirety of his career in the lower leagues

Verdict: Whelan

Who's ready to play right away?

This is an important factor as this signing is supposed to represent insurance in the case of Haring absences. With the Austrian already on the treatment table, it's imperative Hearts bring in someone and get them settled into the team quickly. If a player is going to take six weeks to get properly up to speed, what would be the point in taking them on if Haring is due to return by then?

This is also a tough one to judge. Damour is still a Cardiff City player and has therefore taken part in their pre-season preparations. He has, however, not played a single minute of competitive football since January.

Whelan, meanwhile, played regularly for Aston Villa last season, but has been without a club for over a month. He's a respected professional and has undoubtedly been putting himself through his required paces, though managers always talk about the importance of a rigorous pre-season.

Verdict: Damour

Who's the better player?

A lot of this would depend on what you're getting from Whelan in his 17th season as a footballer. Occasionally players, and their abilities, just drop off cliffs. When declines are not gradual, clubs can be left with a footballer who can no longer perform and a veteran's wage eating into the budget.

On the other hand, if Whelan can perform to a similar standard of last season then this writer is giving him the nod here. He may lack some of Damour's physical abilities, but he's the more talented footballer. He not only halts opposing teams effectively, he's also capable of dictating play from deep and sees the whole pitch very well. Last term he had 52 passes per 90 minutes with an 88 per cent accuracy, both of which were high rates for England's second tier.

Damour, meanwhile, relies on his energy and enthusiasm for getting after the ball. In possession he's not as effective. While he's got more of an attacking arsenal - he can run with the ball - he barely gets involved in the play, attempting just 22 passes per game in the 2017/18 Championship, and when he does, his accuracy needs some work, with just 71 per cent of his attempted passed finding their target.

If we break a footballer down into three vital parts, their feet, their body and their head, Whelan gets the advantage in two of those.

Winner: Whelan