After last week’s draw with St Mirren, which took Hibs’ run without a victory to seven matches, assistant manager Garry Parker revealed that he and Neil Lennon would look towards the January transfer window to improve the squad and remedy the situation.
“We know what sort of players we need to bring to play the type of football that we want to play,” said the No.2. “At the moment we don’t have the players to play the pressing game like we did last year and we need to get back to that.”
Although Hibs subsequently won at Hamilton Accies on Saturday and still have another five games this month in which they have the chance to improve the situation and the perception of the squad, it seems reasonable to assume that the club will follow through on Parker’s statement and be fairly active in January. After all, it is worth remembering that they were one of the busier Scottish clubs in the last mid-season window at a time when things were going notably better than they are at present, with Faycal Rherras, Jamie Maclaren, Florian Kamberi, Scott Allan and Cammy Bell added to the squad while Simon Murray and Anthony Stokes moved on.
Here we took a look at how Hibs’ squad is fixed and where management may look to make changes.
GOALKEEPERS: Hibs are currently well stocked in the goalkeeping department, where international duo Adam Bogdan and Ofir Marciano are battling it out for the No.1 jersey. Bogdan has played for most of the season although the fit-again Marciano will be hoping to retain the gloves after being given a surprise start last weekend when the Hungarian suffered a minor injury in the warm-up. Barring injury to both players at the same time, Ross Laidlaw, the dependable third choice, is unlikely to feature this season. Now 26, it is not beyond possibility that the former Raith Rovers keeper may choose to seek a loan move away from Easter Road in search of more game time.
DEFENDERS: On paper at least, Hibs’ squad looks to be in good order defensively. Steven Whittaker, David Gray, Lewis Stevenson, Darren McGregor, Ryan Porteous, Miquel Nelom, Efe Ambrose and Paul Hanlon are all contracted until the end of the season at least and all boast good pedigree or have already proven themselves at Hibs. The problem is that, of these eight players, only Porteous, Ambrose and Stevenson can be deemed to have featured regularly this season, for one reason or another, meaning defence has lacked the solidity and cohesion of last term. In addition, there is the prospect of fresh interest in star man Ambrose, who was close to leaving on deadline day in August.
The addition of any new centre-backs is likely to depend on whether the club expect to retain the experienced Nigerian, who is out of contract in the summer. There is no need for a new left-back, with Nelom and Stevenson competing with each other for game time, but the absence of a regular and dynamic right-back has been a problem for Hibs this season.
With Gray having barely played in 2018 due to a couple of injuries, and Whittaker unable to nail down the right-back berth in his absence, Hibs have the option of extending the contract of Charalampos Mavrias beyond January or they may seek fresh blood for this position. Alternatively they have the option of playing 3-5-2 with attacker Martin Boyle at wing-back.
MIDFIELDERS: The engine room is likely to be an area of focus for January activity at Easter Road, with Hibs still, understandably to an extent, lacking the fluency of last year when Scott Allan, Dylan McGeouch and John McGinn were running the show. The inactivity through injury of Thomas Agyepong has been a blow to the team’s dynamic, and it won’t be a great surprise if Hibs decide not to extend the pacey winger’s loan from Manchester City beyond January. That would free up a void in the squad.
A question mark also hangs over the head of Emerson Hyndman, whose loan deal from Bournemouth expires next month, although the American served up a timely reminder of what he can bring to the party in last weekend’s win at Hamilton. With Allan’s contract at Celtic due to expire in the summer, the midfielder is free to speak to other clubs about to a pre-contract in a matter of weeks. It remains to be seen if there is any way Hibs can bring their former midfielder back in January or whether they will have to wait and try and line him up for a summer return to the Capital.
Hibs have had English midfielder Tommy Block on trial and they have also been credited with an interest in Glenavon’s Mark Sykes, although the Northern Irishman is poised to join Port Vale after they agreed a fee with the Glens. While adequately replacing McGinn is impossible on Hibs’ budget, they could clearly do with recruiting someone who can bring fresh power and box-to-box thrust to the midfield.
FORWARDS: At the start of the season, an attacking triumvirate of Florian Kamberi, Jamie Maclaren and Martin Boyle would have been the envy of most teams in Scotland. The campaign hasn’t gone to plan for the main strikers at Hibs, however. Boyle had a great start but hasn’t hit the heights since making his Australia debut recently. Kamberi and Maclaren have been unable to get going at all, with injuries limiting their game time together and Parker questioning their contributions last week. Youngster Oli Shaw has chipped in with goals in his last two matches, but Lennon and Parker need more productivity from their attack. Unless there is a marked upturn in the attacking third in the remaining weeks of 2018, it wouldn’t be a great surprise if Lennon sought a new striker next month – especially if Boyle and Maclaren, along with Mark Milligan, are called into the Australian squad for the Asian Games in January.