Hibs transfer window analysis: Planning for future but first-team concerns remain
If you had taken a look on social media on transfer deadline day between 5pm and 11.59pm you would have been forgiven for thinking that Hibs hadn’t brought in any new players during the window.
The reality was that nearly an entire new team of players had arrived at Easter Road over the course of the previous 31 days, while a handful had left as well.
Granted not all the new faces are ready to step into the first team but there was a flurry of early business as Rocky Bushiri, Harry Clarke, Ewan Henderson, Elias Melkersen and Demetri Mitchell signed on, with Chris Mueller’s contract kicking in following his pre-contract agreement in the summer.
But it was the departure of the talismanic Martin Boyle that made the biggest impact. It’s been a while since Hibs have lost such a key player in a transfer window. There have been links and rumours previously surrounding the likes of Josh Doig, Kevin Nisbet and Ryan Porteous, but the Easter Road side always seemed to hold onto their prized possessions.
Not this time, however, with Boyle's departure leaving Hibs without their top scorer; their talisman.
Development team signings
There have been a number of signings with a view to strengthening the development squad. This will be a team in between the under-18s and the first team aimed at bridging the gap between the club’s academy and the first-team squads.
Runar Hauge is expected to start off in this team, while it sounds as though Melkersen may also play some second-string games as he adapts to Scottish football. Allan Delferrière from Standard Liège has also been mentioned as an addition to this XI.
They will likely play a similar system to the senior team, meaning they will be in a good place to step up when required. It will also allow fringe first-teamers to get more game time and for the younger members of the development squad, playing alongside older, more experienced professionals will help to bring them on.
Bayern Munich and clubs in England, including Brighton, have long played an overage player in their Under-23 teams with a view to helping younger players. Brighton’s technical director Dan Ashworth said on the Training Ground Guru podcast back in 2020: “I hear a lot of people talk about back in the day when in the reserve team you could drop down a couple of senior players and help the young players. I suppose this is a hybrid version of that.”
Hibs could, in theory, do this with Darren McGregor or Lewis Stevenson. It would obviously depend on the players but it’s an option that the club might consider as a mentoring-type arrangement.
Better than January 1?
Hibs badly needed to strengthen in defence and they have done that with the arrival of Bushiri and Clarke.
Mitchell will provide attacking and defensive qualities on the flank while it is hoped that Henderson, Jasper, Mueller and, eventually, Hauge and Melkersen can provide a threat in the final third.
Shaun Maloney has repeatedly stressed that it will take time to implement all his ideas on the Easter Road squad. Some of the new arrivals may take time to get up to speed but the suggestion is that it will be worth the wait.
Bushiri has already shown his quality in his appearances so far while Henderson’s crosses will be resulting in goals sooner or later – one such centre against Livingston resulted in a Christian Doidge header smacking the post. Mueller, too, has shown flashes of his skill in the final third.
As well as incomings Hibs sent Dan Mackay and Dylan Tait on loan to Kilmarnock and Stevie Bradley to Dundalk to get them game time, while Jamie Gullan and Melker Hallberg left permanently and Alex Gogic and Jamie Murphy agreed loan deals that will take them up to the expiration of their Hibs contracts.
With one or two exceptions, the bulk of the players at Easter Road will get game time between now and the end of the season. Most of the loan deals have an option to buy, showing Hibs are planning for the future.
With a handful of players out of contract in the summer they probably have the next three to four months to earn a new one.
At first glance Hibs look to have come out of the January window stronger than they entered it. The defence has been strengthened and there are more options in wide areas. It remains to be seen how Hibs fare in central midfield. It is likely that two of Josh Campbell, Jake Doyle-Hayes, Joe Newell, and potentially Drey Wright could fill the central roles, but with Gogic and Hallberg both leaving, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see reinforcements in the middle of the park.
However the last-gasp signing of Jasper – an attacker – suggests that Maloney and the coaching staff are happy with the current make-up of the first-team squad.
Hibs' biggest issue since the turn of the year has been in front of goal, with just three goals scored in four games – two from wingbacks, and one by a striker in extra time against a League One side in the Scottish Cup.
If things click in the final third it could end up being a very, very good window for Hibs. At the moment it looks “pretty good” but with the caveat that we’re still to see half of the new signings in action.
Provided the new-look Hibs gels quickly, all will be well. With everyone fit, up to speed, and in form, the Hibs squad looks fairly well balanced and has enough goals and assists in it to help cover for the absence of Boyle. But there isn’t much wriggle room, especially given the fans’ expectations.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there is cause for cautious optimism – but it feels as though time is not on the players’ side.