Hibs struggling to find way out of dangerous territory - John Greechan's Talking Points
For a Hibs team who have gathered just two of the 18 points available from their past half dozen Scottish Premiership fixtures, there can be no such thing as safe territory. But one look at the next three-game stretch calls to mind the dire warnings plastered (allegedly) across ancient maps to denote especially perilous regions.
Here be dragons? A bit of fire-breathing terror from the sky might come as sweet relief to a team confronted by Celtic at home on Wednesday night, Inverness away in the Scottish Cup on Saturday – and then Aberdeen, likely to be experiencing a new manager bounce, at Pittodrie the following weekend. Navigating that stretch without suffering more damage will require a surety of touch and strength of character not, it must be said, overly evident in yesterday’s miserable showing at Easter Road.
Absolutely humiliated by a St Mirren side who won every one-on-one contest, plus the odd one-on-two mismatch, Nick Montgomery’s men are at a particularly low ebb. Raising themselves back to a level more acceptable to supporters starts with addressing the flaws exposed by visitors given the run of Hibernian’s home turf.
They won’t be short of talking points at the usual post-match post-mortem, certainly. And, having spent much of Saturday evening at a family gathering liberally sprinkled with Hibs diehards, it’s clear that most punters could give Monty and his players a few subjects for general discussion. Starting with:
You don't need Bletchley Park boffins to break the Hibs code
Easy to play against. That’s the most damning thing you could probably say about any team, in a Scottish context. We like our teams to be thrawn. It’s how we’re made.
What St Mirren exposed at Easter Road, however, was more than merely repeated failings at set pieces. Although that is a particularly irksome trait for anyone with a working knowledge of football.
In open play, Stephen Robinson’s men knew that advancing down one flank and then moving the ball to the back post area – either with one deep cross or a couple of sharp passes – would inevitably find an attacker lurking virtually unmarked. St Mirren could have been five up at half-time, if they’d put away the chances created through this simple tactic.
The first priority of coaching is – or ought to be – stopping the thing that’s killing your team. Just find a way to cut out the goals against. And work from there.
Some players are treading on very thin ice
Failure is acceptable. Failure to try is not. And one or two Hibs players looked perilously close to simply chucking in the towel against St Mirren.
Name names? OK. Elie Youan. Not quite committing to a 50-50, leaving a through ball for someone else to chase, barely seeming to try for a pass that rolled slowly past him just a couple of yards out of reach … none of that is a good look. Even for a guy with credit in the bank for scoring a couple of derby goals earlier in the season.
Among those supporters who made it to half-time, there is clearly no great reserve of admiration or understanding for Dylan Levitt. And he didn’t do himself many favours in this one. Once such an exciting prospect, he seems to have lost everything that made him so promising.
In all honesty, this performance brought to mind a great quote from the recently departed Franz Beckenbauer, who once laid into the performance of a particularly poor Germany team by saying: “If you stuck them all in a sack and hit it with a stick, you’d hit someone who deserved it.” Collective responsibility, right?
Officially, Hibs had one shot on target. In 90 minutes of football. At home. Against a team with a much smaller budget and support base.
You can use data to prove or disprove just about anything. Especially in a sport as subjective as football. But really? One shot on target?
That actually feels like a fair reflection of what we saw with our own eyes. Even with three subs on at half-time and another couple thrown in late, Hibs never looked very convincing in the final third.
Now we turn to a different kind of numbers game. Wondering how long it’ll take to get all seven new signings fully up to speed. And asking how quickly Martin Boyle and Lewis Miller can be dropped back into the first team following their Asian Cup exertions with Australia.
A change for the worse
Emiliano Marcondes looked outstanding against Kilmarnock as a second striker, dropping deep into danger areas and enticing central defenders to go with him. Then taking the ball and making it sing with his accurate passes.
Played in a more traditional CAM role as Monty tinkered with his 4-4-2 yesterday, the guy was lost. Because the tweak of shape almost allowed Levitt and Joe Newell to think of themselves as defensive midfielders, Marcondes was trying to do too much. And failing.
With Celtic likely to be smarting from their own minor slip-up, Wednesday night represents a monumental challenge for a group in transition. Getting the tactics absolutely spot in is a necessity. If Hibs are to stand any chance. And avoid falling further into that dangerous no-man’s land a long, long way removed from the European places.