The two January signings key to shape-shifting Hibs regaining momentum

Midfielder and attacker give Monty new tactical options
Nathan Moriah-Welsh, seen celebrating Martin Boyle's opener in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Aberdeen, has added an extra element to midfield.Nathan Moriah-Welsh, seen celebrating Martin Boyle's opener in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Aberdeen, has added an extra element to midfield.
Nathan Moriah-Welsh, seen celebrating Martin Boyle's opener in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Aberdeen, has added an extra element to midfield.

Following a January transfer window that saw seven new faces arrive at East Mains, two mid-season signings can already claim to have made a fairly quick impact. By changing the entire shape of a Hibs team in desperate need of momentum-swinging victories.

Nathan Moriah-Welsh gives manager Nick Montgomery something he’s lacked since his arrival back in September. A hard-running, ball-winning, athletic and energetic midfielder who can fetch and carry, fight and scrap with the best of them.

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But the recent switch from a much-maligned 4-4-2 to a more combative 4-3-3/4-5-1 isn’t just about Moriah-Welsh, a rare permanent signing in a window of loan deals, squeezing his way into the midfield alongside Joe Newell and Dylan Levitt. That’s only possible because of a change further up the park.

Initially looking as if he might be better used on the wing, former 10 million Euro man Myziane Maolida is beginning to look like a real handful at centre forward, capable of tying up defenders and doing more than just cause a nuisance with his ability on the ball. Having a player of that type and quality means Hibs can rely on a lone striker to hold up play and use his team-mates – two lightning-quick wingers or supporting midfielders – to break opponents down. Which makes the tweak in formation, adding a body to midfield in a league where very few go with a two-man engine room, easier to implement.

Addressing the impact made by Moriah-Walsh, Montgomery said: “Look, Nathan is the sort of midfielder we lacked this season. He has good energy, picks up a lot of second balls and does a lot of the dirty work. That allows the other players to get on the ball a little bit more.

“Since he came in, it’s been a big ask for him to be thrown straight into games. But I think he’s been excellent. And he’s still got a lot of developing to do.

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“We knew that we had been really light in midfield all season. The change of shape on the defensive side of it gives us that extra body in midfield.

“And we know that, with the attacking bodies we’ve got at our disposal now, the last couple of weeks especially, we can play that way – and have players who can come off the bench to make an impact. I think everyone can see how the squad has evolved since the transfer window, with boys coming back from international duty and others coming back from injury.

“It would have been nice if we had this squad eight weeks ago. But we have to utilise everybody as well as we can and keep getting everybody up to match speed.

“Because we knew, when the new boys came in, that it would take a couple of weeks for them to get into training and get up to match speed. Right now, we’re in a good position.”

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While Moriah-Welsh buzzes around the centre of the park, former Lyon and Nice wunderkind Maolida, on loan from Hertha Berlin and looking to resurrect his career after being dumped into the Bundesliga 2 club’s B team, clearly has talent to burn. The only question, when he arrived at Hibs, as whether he’d have the right attitude to cope with the mayhem of Scottish football, where reluctant conscripts tend not to last beyond the first skirmish.

After a very rocky start that left fans fearing the worst, he’s showing promising signs. Montgomery obviously hope he continues on the current upward trend.

“He’s obviously a massive talent who made the big decision to come to Hibs,” said Monty, the gaffer adding: “I convinced him that this was the right place to come and get some game time this season, get his career back on track.

“I’ve seen day by day, week by week since he came in, that he’s a real threat on the ball. He’s also very unselfish, as you saw with the assist for Martin Boyle at Aberdeen.

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“He’s added a different dynamic to the front line. And he’s quite versatile as well, able to play out wide as well as well as centrally. I still think there’s a lot more to come from Myziane. But he’s enjoying himself and getting fitter every day.”

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