Élie Youan breaks Hibs duck as forward's goal sparks Wikipedia edit and possible positional rejig
When Élie Youan tucked away Martin Boyle’s threaded through-ball ten minutes into the second half of Saturday’s 6-1 defeat by Celtic to spark fleeting hopes of a Hibs resurgence, the half-hour or so that followed, in which the hosts scored thrice more, took away from the 23-year-old’s moment.
The goal itself was well worked, Josh Campbell feeding the ball to Ryan Porteous, whose forward pass was laid off by Youan to Kyle Magennis. The recently-returned midfielder picked out Boyle who had a quick glance up and played in Youan for a first-time finish at the near post and his first competitive goal since joining in the summer although a goal in the 4-2 friendly victory over Burton Albion showed a glimpse of what the former Nantes youngster might bring to Hibs.
The on-loan St. Gallen forward has been threatening to score since the start of the season. Three assists in his first four games including setting up Boyle for goals against Hearts and Rangers suggested that he may be the all-round forward Hibs were missing last season.
Strong in the air, good with the ball at his feet, and with pace to test even the most fleet-footed of full-backs he looked like a shrewd acquisition. But a gilt-edged chance in the 1-0 defeat by St Mirren in which he contrived to poke the ball wide of the far post from inside the six-yard box seemed to dent his confidence.
Youan started every game for Hibs up until the trip to Celtic, Lee Johnson revealing that he had chosen a team mostly comprising English speakers in a bid to boost communication but the 23-year-old bagging a goal ten minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute sent a strong message.
Earlier this season Johnson insisted that he would persevere with the former France youth internationalist in a bid to turn him into a well-rounded number nine. But the arrival of Ukrainian striker Mykola Kukharevych saw Youan pushed out wide again.
He has scored goals and registered assists whether playing on the left flank or through the middle. His stats for St. Gallen – 12 goals and 11 assists in 53 games are almost evenly split between the two positions; seven and six from striker, five and five from the left. Hibs fans and Johnson will hope the minor edit made to his Wikipedia page late on Saturday night branding him a ‘goal machine’ will end up being descriptive rather than optimistic.
But Youan’s goal also provides the coaching staff with another selection headache. Kukharevych is also yet to open his account in green and white but provides Hibs with a focal point in attack and contributed to Hibs’ four-game winning streak between September 3 and October 8.
Perhaps his showing off the bench against Celtic could prompt one of several changes for the visit of St Johnstone on Friday. The forward has never scored in more than two consecutive matches at any level previously but remains a threat wherever he plays.
There is undoubted talent in the boots, and head, of Élie Youan. If the Easter Road coaching staff can harness that in a way that benefits the player and the rest of the team then concerns over the paucity of goals from Hibs strikers, and the team’s results, may dissipate.