After today’s announcement of Ian Cathro’s departure, a big season for the Jambos just got bigger as they frantically search for the right man or woman to lead the Gorgie club to success this campaign. This is my preview of Hearts’ season and the squad they have comprised already.
With 14 players departing over the summer, it was always going to be a massive task for Cathro to gel a team quickly and unfortunately for him the mass clear-out has cost him his job. Not all players were released or sold, however; Callum Paterson and Sam Nicholson moved of their own desire while Perry Kitchen and Bjorn Johnsen had offers accepted by foreign sides which has saw them leave Tynecastle.
It was always going to be hard to find a replacement for Paterson but in Michael Smith, I think Hearts potentially have a viable stand-in. With the progress of Liam Smith also giving the Jambos hope, I do not think the full-back position is of worry right now.
The addition of Christophe Berra and the retention of Aaron Hughes are huge pluses, also, and if you add this to the potential of McGhee and Souttar, I think any new manager has a good solid base to work with. A new goalkeeper to challenge Jack Hamilton is required with Swede, Viktor Noring struggling to displace the youngster despite some errors, which suggests the experienced shot-stopper is not the answer to the Edinburgh side’s goalkeeping woes.
Further up the park, I think Hearts’ midfield is a major worry; Jamie Walker is arguably the most creative and most pivotal to the side but with speculation regarding his future rife, the Jambos will need to make sure they have a fully focused player. Another who has publicly stated his desire to move on in the future is Arnaud Djoum, with the Cameroon International also providing a cutting edge for the Jam Tarts.
The versatility of Krystian Nowak and the experience of Don Cowie is positive but I still think they aren’t strong enough in the middle of the pitch to meet their goals this season with long-term contracts being handed out to players such as Maulary Martin who has ultimately sturggled to adapt to the Scottish top-flight so far.
Up front, Kyle Lafferty and Esmael Goncalves are figure-heads which will lead the line well and should get goals, however, they can’t do it all themselves and I think the signing of Cole Stockton is not enough to back this up. Connor Sammon didn’t get a chance under the previous management and may now come into the reckoning for any new boss, but, if he was to leave, at least one more striker is required of sufficient quality for Hearts to even consider competing with Rangers and Aberdeen for second, in my opinion.
Overall, the squad looks to have a solid enough base, with Hughes and Berra; Cowie and Walker with Lafferty and Goncalves up front. When you add in players such as Djoum and Souttar, there should be enough there to compete in the Premiership, without doubt. However, have Hearts got enough strength in depth? I think that is questionable and a few more signings are required. With the group of players signed up now, I feel a battle for fourth is the moat likely outcome, but, if reinforcements are brought in of adequate quality in key areas – goalkeeper, central midfield and striker – then I see no reason why Hearts can’t them aim higher.