Hearts have been proactive with their transfer business in preparation for next season, the signing of Australian defender Ben Garuccio the club’s sixth of the summer.
Left-back has been a problem position for the club in recent years but Garuccio arrives with a good reputation.
Here’s what you need to know about Hearts’ most recent recruit ...
REPLACEMENT FOR MITCHELL
Hearts have made no secret of their desire to keep loan star Demetri Mitchell. However, the left-back’s parent club Manchester United may need the player for their pre-season trip to America which means he may not be available until August.
Fans were excited by what the Englishman brought to the team following his January move. He offered pace and width, posing a threat going forward, especially from a wing-back position. He also offered that recovery pace in defence. With no suitable cover in the position, the club required a left-back, and they have brought in a player with similar traits to Mitchell.
Val Migliaccio, sports reporter for The Advertiser in Adelaide, told the Evening News: “He’s tenacious and can get feisty. He has a great left foot and very good physical traits in terms of being an aggressive, overlapping left-back. He can also play a little higher up the park as a winger.”
The 22-year-old is at his best on the front foot, driving forward with his pace and is an excellent dribbler. This will give Craig Levein the option of playing him as a full-back or wing-back depending on whether he opts for a back four or a back three.
HEARTS’ CROSSING PROBLEM SHOULD BE SOLVED
Hearts fans will unlikely have been shocked to see the club propping up the Ladbrokes Premiership table for number of crosses. With 449 crosses for the season, Hearts were well and truly bottom, 57 fewer than second-bottom Hamilton. More than 300 fewer than Motherwell.
A lack of width was a glaring weakness throughout the season, aided slightly by the arrival of Mitchell. Garuccio should help with that particular issue. He hugs the left flank when motoring forward and is productive when he gets into attacking areas. No player in last season’s A-League crossed the ball more than Garuccio’s 124. It would have been enough to put him in the top ten in the Premiership for frequency.
What’s more impressive is that with so many crosses he sat in the 12th for accuracy, finding a target 39.52 per cent of the time. The average in the Premiership last season was 30.27 per cent.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
“If there is a flaw he sometimes drops his guard defensively but I’m sure that can be rectified with good coaching,” qdded Migliaccio.
Such are the demands on the modern day full-back, they can have more responsibility going forward than in the defensive phase. While Garuccio gives his all both ways, he is not a reliable defender in the way Michael Smith or Christophe Berra are.
Levein will see the player as a project, the same way he saw John Souttar. The centre-back, and even Mitchell, made improvements in their defensive contributions throughout the past season and Garuccio will look to follow the same path to become a more rounded full-back.
However, with the presence of Smith on the right, counter-balancing his surges, and the protection of Berra behind him, it is likely Garuccio will be given more freedom to attack, such are his strengths.
NO LACK OF EXPERIENCE
Garuccio doesn’t turn 23 until next month but has plenty of games under his belt. While Mitchell had played only one competitive game of first-team football, Garuccio has more than 100 outings to his name.
He’s been a regular in the A-League for the past two seasons and made his Australia Under-23 debut earlier this year.
The left-back will require to time to adapt to Scottish football and its peculiar culture but he won’t need to be treated with kid gloves.
EARMARKED FOR SUCCESS
Before signing for Melbourne City in 2012, then known as Melbourne Heart, Garuccio was part of the Australian Institute for Sport where he played youth team football.
The AIS previous alumni includes former Celtic striker Mark Viduka and cricket legends Glenn McGrath and Ricky Ponting. It aids the development of promising talent in the country and give them a pathway to the top of their sport.
The Adelaide-born player moved out from his parents at 14 before returning in 2016. Such a move at such an early stage in his life will have prepared him for another big step in career which seems him move more than 10,000 miles across the world.
As well as recruiting a promising talent, Hearts are also signing a personable and grounded individual. The combination of committed performances, youthful exuberance and coming from the city, Adelaide fans saw someone they could warm to.
“He has a great character,” said Migliaccio. “I’m sure Hearts fans will take a liking to him immediately. He certainly gives everything he has in every match.”
As well as being well liked around the club, the player understood the importance of giving back to the fans and would happily spend time signing autographs and posing for pictures.
It is fully expected that he will be a useful addition both on and off the field.