What to expect from Hearts as Robbie Neilson names attacking line-up - Ben Woodburn position key

Robbie Neilson has named the Hearts starting XI to face Ross County with three changes and what looks like a formation switch.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 2:07 pm
Updated Saturday, 18th September 2021, 2:24 pm
Ben Woodburn could start in the middle of midfield. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Michael Smith misses out as expected. He was replaced during Sunday's game having picked up a knock on international duty.

He wasn't involved in training prior to Friday.

Josh Ginnelly, who came off the bench last week, also isn’t in the squad.

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Alex Cochrane and Peter Haring drop to the bench with starts for Taylor Moore, Armand Gnanduillet and Barrie McKay.

The initial reaction can be summed up by @heartsstats.

The account posted: "Well people asked for something more attacking, they certainly got it!”

On paper it looks like it could be a 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 system, a move away from the team's 3-4-3 default.

Taylor Moore, who Robbie Neilson spent time talking to on the pitch on arrival, will play at right-back after coming on as a wing-back against Hibs.

Further forward it gets interesting for Hearts. Very interesting.

Haring and Beni Baningime have formed a formidable partnership in the middle but the Austrian has made way which could see Liverpool loanee Ben Woodburn slotting in beside the former Everton star.

His positioning will provide Hearts with more attacking intent from central and deeper areas.

Neilson outlined how Woodburn could play after his arrival in August.

"Ben will play a bit more inside," he said. “He plays in the No.10 role and he can play as a No.8 as well. He plays attacking-wise in midfield so we are pleased getting a very good player from Liverpool.

“Technically he is very strong. He is direct and takes people out of the game. He just creates opportunities and is somebody who can change the game for you.”

The other interesting decision is that of Armand Gnanduillet for his first league start of the season. The Frenchman came off the bench against Dundee United and scored to secure the win.

He should enjoy being flanked by Gary Mackay-Steven and McKay who will likely play wider than they would in a 3-4-3 and fire in more crosses. So far Hearts are averaging 15.4 per 90 minutes which puts them in the middle for the Premiership teams.

Gnanduillet’s presence will allow Boyce to operate as a No.10.

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