What Daniel Stendel's arrival at Hearts means for the players

Daniel Stendel will use the next few weeks to assess his Hearts squad

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 11:45 am
Daniel Stendel will assess his squad before the January transfer market. Picture: SNS

A video of Daniel Stendel meeting the Hearts first-team squad, via the club’s Instagram, circulated social media on Tuesday.

It provoked a stinging response from some fans as they felt some players had not displayed sufficient respect to the German by standing up to shake his hand.

There was far too much hysteria around a short clip, but it highlighted the strong feeling among the Hearts support towards under-performing players.

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With the appointment of the club’s No.1 target, there is now hope and belief among the club and its fans that he can turn around the fortunes of a team in a relegation battle. That being said, it is unlikely to be a quick fix. Patience with the management team will be required as they try to instil Stendel’s style.

In his media briefing, Stendel said: “The main thing is that I can see we have passion on the pitch, the mentality that we play on the front foot and we want to have the ball all the time. When we lose the ball we want to get it back as quick as possible. When we get the ball, we want to play very quickly to score.”

Fans have already begun speculating which players who could thrive and which ones could struggle under the new system.

So, what could the appointment mean for certain players?

Christophe Berra

The captain has come under plenty of pressure and criticism from fans, on two levels. Firstly, they want to see a return to Berra’s performances of the 2017/2018 season and, secondly, they want his distribution to be better.

There has been a suggestion that he won’t be able to deal with a high press under the new manager. It has to be said that he won’t be the one going around pressing the opposition. The concern is in the space left behind him if the defence push up. The reason he was so good in 17/18 was because he was effectively defending on his box.

A vastly experienced and respected figure at Hearts, his dressing-room influence and understanding of the game will be crucial to Stendel.

Michael Smith

Usually a right-back, the Northern Irishman could be primed for a longer spell at centre-back. Playing a high defensive line requires someone able to read the game and provide a recovery quality in defence. He can do both to a high standard.

With Stendel favouring a back four, it is unlikely he will play the sweeper role in a back three.

Craig Halkett (and John Souttar)

Last season Ethan Pinnock and Liam Lindsay were the bedrock of the Barnsley defence. The centre-backs played so well they got big-money moves off the back of it.

Stendel, whose Barnsley had the best defence in League One, should get the best out of the talented pairing when they are fully fit.

Glenn Whelan

Like Berra, the veteran Republic of Ireland international will likely have been doubted by some regarding the legs required to play a pressing game. Yet Stendel’s Barnsley weren’t just about full-throttle football, there was a control to them.

No team passed the ball more or had a larger share of possession. The German requires a controlling influence in the midfield, as he had with Alex Mowatt at Oakwell.

He was crucial in midfield at not just keeping the ball but playing forward and long at times to get Barnsley on the front foot. Whelan has shown himself to be more than capable of performing such a role to a high standard.

Peter Haring

The Austrian seems the perfect player for Stendel. Not only will they be able to communicate fluently in German, but Haring’s ability to win the ball back would be most welcome.

Hearts fans have missed his quality at getting in the face of opposition players, intercepting, reading the game and making the team so much more difficult to beat. There is little doubt he, when fit, will be a key player.

Loic Damour and Sean Clare

As a duo, both have been written off by many, yet both possess excellent physical qualities and technical talent. They should see this as a new lease of life, to impress and a new manager and get fans back on their side.

They won’t get a clean slate from fans but if they work their backsides off, they will begin to win fans round.

Ryo Meshino and Jamie Walker

The attacking duo are probably at their best operating as a No.10. Both have flattered to deceive so far.

Jamie Walker hasn’t displayed that dynamism and acceleration to get away from players he had in his first spell at Tynecastle, but the ability remains. Ryo Meshino has been more influential in the attacking third, offering more physical qualities. The Japanese star is someone who looks to go forward and attack as soon as the ball is one.

Callumn Morrison and Jake Mulraney

One of the qualities the Hearts team lacks is pace in key areas and according to Ben Hackney, who worked as part of the scouting team under Stendel at Barnsley, he wants his side to be “attacking at pace”. Mulraney and Morrison are two players who can help the team transition from defence to attack and get up the pitch quickly.

Stendel has admitted he likes the “mentality of young players”. Both wingers are 23 or under with plenty of pace and will likely be used especially as the German likes wide players. Last season’s Barnsley side put in the third most crosses on their way to promotion from League One.

This weekend it will be interesting to see if he calls on Morrison - who has not been seen in recent weeks - due to Mulraney’s suspension.

Conor Washington

With everybody fit, Stendel would have the choice of a number of forwards. When it comes to defending from the front and winning the ball back quickly, Washington is probably the most effective of the strikers in the Hearts squad.

After limping out of the 3-2 defeat to Motherwell back in September, he is on the mend and could prove to be a key player for Stendel.

Steven Naismith

It is tricky to look too far ahead when it comes to Naismith. Since the start of last season he has missed 33 games through injury. There is no doubt his experience and general quality will be vital to Stendel but anyone querying his physical capacity to do what is required is within their right to.

Ikpeazu, Keena, MacLean

It won’t be a case of one striker and the rest watching on. Stendel has no set formation, judging by his Barnsley side last season, which he led to promotion with a variety of systems used. With Cauley Woodrow and Kiefer Moore last campaign, there were plenty of times he went with a 4-4-2. However, he did settle on 4-2-3-1 for this season’s Championship, having lost Moore to Wigan Athletic.

His flexibility means he isn’t reluctant to change personnel and formation depending on how well it is working and who the opposition are.

While Ikpeazu will press from the front to win possession back, the Englishman will likely have to release the ball a lot quicker in the final third to satisfy Stendel’s desire “to play very quickly to score”.