Mid-term report: Hearts take top tier by storm

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Robbie Neilson’s side sit in second place and have shown few problems adjusting to life back in the top flight, writes Barry Anderson

Attack

Hearts currently sit in second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Hearts currently sit in second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Probably the strongest area of Robbie Neilson’s team. Only Celtic have scored more league goals than Hearts so far this season. Juanma Delgado’s arrival in the summer has taken some of the burden away from Osman Sow. The Spaniard has eight goals in total, seven in the league, whilst the Swede has seven in total, five of them in the Premiership.

Jamie Walker started the season in excellent form. And while the playmaker’s campaign has been derailed by injury somewhat, the baton has been passed to Sam Nicholson, who’s grown immeasurably over the course of this season.

Defence

Much-improved recently, underlined by four consecutive clean sheets in the league. Hearts’ early-season defending left a lot to be desired as new signings Blazej Augustyn, Igor Rossi and Juwon Oshaniwa took time to settle in Scotland. They now look more comfortable.

Since finishing a sequence in which they conceded 10 goals in four matches, Neilson’s side have notched up five clean sheets in seven fixtures.

Captain Alim Ozturk is due back after hernia surgery in the next fortnight. It should be an interesting selection headache for the Hearts boss.

Star player

Split between Juanma and Callum Paterson. The striker’s eight goals is a good return in his first season in a country where he doesn’t yet speak the language. Paterson has also scored four times from right-back, but his improving defensive ability is even more noteworthy.

Manager

Robbie Neilson has continued the momentum which saw Hearts run away with last year’s Championship title. They now sit second in the Premiership, a remarkable turnaround for a newly-promoted club which only emerged from administration 17 months ago. Neilson’s signings have been mostly successful and having Craig Levein as director of football has no doubt helped enormously.

Must do better

Discipline needs to improve for Hearts to sustain a challenge at the top end of the table. Juwon Oshaniwa, Blazej Augustyn, Gavin Reilly and Callum Paterson have already served suspensions this season, with Juanma banned for Saturday’s match with Dundee.

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