There are no mind-numbing 0-0s, no bouts of dispondency because your favourites have managed (again!) to chuck away a two-goal lead to a humble opponent, no protests against the manager or board. It’s a time full of hope and promise before the crushing reality sets back in once again. It’s when your club goes out and brings in a number of new faces in the transfer market.
You know all of these guys can’t be good. Hey, even a 50 per cent success rate is pretty decent given prior experience. But for the time being you don’t know if they’re bad, and that ignorance brings a welcome amount of bliss. You look at the YouTube clips, read comments on social media from supporters at their old clubs, and scour their career for evidence of real pedigree. You dismiss the bad and zero in on the good. ‘Can’t pass, can’t score, doesn’t defend… but he’s fast you say? That’ll do for me.’
We allow ourselves to dream because there are occasions – rarer than we would like, but they do exist – when everything goes just as you want it to. That new defender is a dominant destroyer of dreams for fans of the opposition; the new midfielder is a soccer sorcerer, capable of conjuring magic at a moment’s notice and wowing everyone in attendance. And the new forward? Well, he does the most important thing. He sticks the ball in the back of the net and does so with a regularity that gives you a certain degree of confidence going into any football match.
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Hibs, off the back of an eighth place finish, need at least 50 per cent of the new additions to reach expectations if they’re going to quickly turn things around and enjoy a fruitful season under Lee Johnson. But, in particular, they need one of the forwards to emerge and become a new talisman. In Elie Youan, a French forward signed on loan from Swiss side St Gallen with an option to buy, they might just have found their man.
Looking at the player in action for his parent club on Wyscout, and pouring over the advanced stats, it’s hard not to be impressed by just about everything the 23-year-old has to offer.
His pace and movement in attack are the two things which immediately stand out. He’s always looking to run in behind and does so intelligently, bending his runs around defenders, getting on to their blind side, and displaying a willingness to either drop deep or drift out wide in order to provoke the element of surprise.
He averaged 0.37 goals per 90 minutes last season, a mark better than Kevin Nisbet, Christian Doidge or Elias Melkersen managed over the last 12 months. His finishing can be a little wasteful at times. He doesn’t always have the best composure when in strong goalscoring opportunities, but he seems to get into enough of these positions so that it a certain degree of profligacy doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things.
Capable also of starting on the left wing, he loves to charge forward with the ball. He averaged 8.55 one-v-one dribble attempts last term along with 2.97 progressive runs. No forward in Scotland average more with regards to the former and only Rangers’ speedster Fashion Sakala had more of the latter.
Scotland, of course, is a different kind of game to that on the continent. The league is played at a frenetic pace and, with little time on the ball, teams will often resort to going long. But Youan has that covered as well. He won 50 per cent of his aerial duels last term, that’s a fantastic number for someone in a position where, for the majority of the time, you’re being asked to divert the ball from a defender rather than just going to attack it.
He also possesses a strong work ethic which sees him put in a shift in on the defensive side. Compared with his cinch Premiership counterparts, he ranks in the top 10 for successful defensive actions, interceptions and slide tackles from last season. And, as a welcome bonus, he gives away very few fouls. Impressively for a forward, he wins more than he commits.
If all that isn’t enough for Hibs fans to get excited, Youan is also a player who likes to insist himself upon matches and not slink into the background. He always shows for the ball when not in possession and has an enthusiasm for getting involved in build-up play. No striker in Scotland’s top flight averaged more than Youan in the following per-90-minute categories: passes, long passes, through passes and progressive passes. He’s also an accurate, especially when playing it forward.
He’s not without flaws. He likes to cross when drifting out to the wing but isn’t good at it. His decision-making can also use a little work as he can get a bit of tunnel-vision when he decides to run. This causes problems on the counter attack where he’s often guilty of making the wrong choice or holding on to the ball for too long. And, as noted earlier, he can do better in situations where you’d be expecting him to score.
There’s the usual caveats to throw in: he’s moving to a new country and a new style of play; he’s playing under a new manager for a team which struggled last term. There are still plenty of ways in which this could go wrong, but the signs are pointing toward the positive.
Considering Kevin Nisbet is probably out until 2023, Christian Doidge may never rediscover his pre-injury form, Elias Melkersen is still young and the two other attacking additions don’t match his pedigree, Youan making himself a success may be more important than any other individual signing made by the club this summer.