Arnuad Djoum was the standout player during Hearts' 1-0 win over Motherwell and needs a central role, writes Joel Sked.
Arnaud Djoum had one of his best performances in a Hearts jersey in 6-0 thumping of Motherwell back in January 2016. A fantastic piece of skill in the closing stages to win a penalty which he converted was the coup de grâce.
He wasn't quite at that level at Tynecastle on Saturday afternoon but what he showed was a player getting back to the standards he set in his first season and a bit in Gorgie.
An Achilles tendon rupture ruined the second half of last season, at a time where his consistent quality had dipped. He returned quicker than expected to give Hearts boss Craig Levein another quality option in midfield.
He took his time to find his feet again but it was clear he was a trusted Levein player. Played as a narrow option on either the right or left he would put in a shift but failed to influence games in the final third as Hearts fans expected.
In trips to Ibrox and Celtic Park he showed fleeting moments of excellence when shifted centrally, yet he has more often than not had to play a slightly wider role. In recent weeks he has been more effective going forward.
With a switch to a system which required wing-backs the Cameroonian was pushed into a central attacking role. He was easily the classiest player on the pitch against the Fir Park side. Michael Smith was excellent at the back, while Peter Haring put in a typical Peter Haring performance but it was Djoum who was provided a semblance of football in a battling afternoon at Tynecastle.
From the opening stages he was getting the ball under control, taking his time, shielding players and playing composed passes.
If Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous 'If' poem after a trip to EH11 on Saturday afternoon his revered beginning 'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs' would have been about Djoum.
The quick dazzling feet were back, the positive and accurate passing had returned. There were dashes from midfield, with and without the ball, and there was that combative side which is always required against the Steelmen. In addition he provided a voice in midfield, barking at team-mates, demanding the ball or simply asking for better.
This was the player fans had been missing. The player some had even given up on.
With Steven Naismith's return around the corner it will be interesting to see whether Levein keeps Djoum in the centre. It was a performance deserving of a central run, even if he was moved back beside Haring.
It was a trying afternoon for the purist but in Djoum there was one shining light on the pitch.