Analysis: Are Hibs improving under Shaun Maloney? How big a miss is Martin Boyle? What the stats tell us

Eight games into Shaun Maloney’s Scottish Premiership management career and Hibs have won two, drawn two, and lost four.

Friday, 11th February 2022, 10:12 am

At first glance things could be better – but has the side improved under the new boss?

Shots on goal

Hibs have managed a total of 298 shots on goal in league games this term, with 92 of them – 30.9 per cent – on target. Just three games have passed without the team getting at least one shot on target. So far the average number of shots on target is 3.5 per game, according to FBRef.

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Hibs are making progress, albeit slowly, under Shaun Maloney

In the previous two league matches against Rangers, Hibs registered just one shot on target in each fixture, and four combined shots on goal.

On their third trip they managed four on target, courtesy of Chris Cadden, Ewan Henderson, Sylvester Jasper, and Kevin Nisbet, and 12 shots overall – their third highest number of attempts under Maloney.

It is perhaps worth noting that Hibs had a shots-on-target percentage of 33.3 per cent against Rangers. In the 3-0 victory over Ross County in the second game of the season the team had the same percentage. The percentage of shots on target in the victories at home to Livingston in August, away to St Johnstone in November, Dundee at home in December, and Dundee United away in December was lower.

Hibs have achieved a shots-on-target percentage of 40 per cent or higher in seven league games. Only two of them resulted in wins with two defeats and three draws.

Maloney-ball

Since Maloney’s arrival, Hibs have registered 83 shots on goal, of which 25 have been on goal (30.12 per cent). That’s just under their average for the 2021/22 campaign so far, which stands at 30.9 per cent.

Pre-Maloney, Hibs managed 215 attempts on goal in 18 games with 67 on target, giving a shots-on-target percentage of 31.16 per cent – not vastly different from current stats.

Near the top of Maloney’s to-do list is ensuring Hibs are still creating chances without the talismanic Martin Boyle. Tick.

Also key is tightening up the defence. Hibs have conceded nine goals in eight matches working out at an average of 1.13 goals against per game. Pre-Maloney it was 21 goals in 18 games giving an average of 1.17. Tick.

The key thing now is sorting the team’s form in front of goal.

Are Hibs missing Martin Boyle?

Boyle departed for Saudi Arabian side Al-Faisaly last month, having scored seven goals and registered four assists in 20 league matches. He didn’t score in any of the three matches in which he featured under Maloney but perhaps crucially, he provided a combined three assists in the victories over Aberdeen and Dundee United.

Four of his seven league goals were penalties leaving him just three from open play. But it wasn’t just his goals and assists that made him so valuable to Hibs – it was his all-round play and how his movement and speed could open up opportunities for his team-mates. That, and the fact he became deadly from corners.

Hibs are quite simply missing that spark in the final third. Sylvester Jasper looks like he might be able to fill some of the void, but there are other issues at play too. The prolonged absence of Kyle Magennis and the injury issues that affected Christian Doidge for the first three months of the season haven’t helped any.

Despite his lay-off Magennis ranks seventh for Hibs for shots on target with 46.2 per cent (six from 13), ahead of both Boyle and Nisbet.

Henderson, meanwhile, has found the target with four of his six attempts (66.7 per cent) and Jasper with one of his three (33.3 per cent). Henderson is currently attempting more shots per 90 than Boyle did (2.40 to 2.18).

Hibs fans might feel they need additional firepower but the stats suggest they already have the players to do so. It’s obviously a much smaller sample size for the new signings but if they can maintain those numbers then Hibs should be in a better place come the end of the season.

‘My season ticket for a goal’

Since the start of 2022 Hibs have scored three goals in total; one against League One side Cove Rangers in extra time of the Scottish Cup fourth-round tie courtesy of Nisbet, and two in the 3-2 defeat by Livingston with wingbacks Cadden and Demi Mitchell netting one each.

The side needs to be scoring goals, plain and simple. But at the moment, while Hibs are doing the right thing in terms of creating chances, they aren’t taking them.

Supporters, naturally, view it in black and white terms: if the strikers aren’t scoring, then they’re not doing their job. Maloney has been bordering on effusive in his praise for Nisbet’s all-round game recently both in and out of possession.

He had a chance inside the penalty area but his effort lacked the power to trouble Allan McGregor. The Scotland internationalist has perhaps been under more fire than his team-mates for the lack of goals in recent matches because of his goal-getting in his first season with Hibs.

At Ibrox and to a lesser extent in the Livingston game we perhaps saw evidence of Maloney’s desire for other players to help out in front of goal. In Govan Rocky Bushiri, Cadden, Henderson, Jasper, Mitchell, Mueller, and Nisbet all had chances either on or off target.

Slow progress, but still progress

The stats show that some sort of progress is being made under Maloney despite a less than stellar record since the turn of the year. Shortly after his arrival he said there would be good results and bad.

Hibs need to cut out the individual errors and halt the lapses in concentration that are currently causing them to lose goals, and sharpen up in the final third. The stats show that they are often finishing games strongly and if they can spread that out over the 90 minutes as well as stamping out mistakes then results should improve.

Simple, really…

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