Lithuanian striker Deivydas Matulevicius became Hibs’ sixth summer signing when he agreed to a two-year deal on Thursday. Here’s the other positions Hibs could look to strengthen between now and the end of the transfer window.
Yes, I know. They’ve just signed one. But Neil Lennon isn’t adverse to playing two up front and, if he does use a strike-pairing for even half of Hibs’ games, they’re still a little light at the position. Particularly when you consider that Simon Murray is an unknown quantity at Premiership level, Brian Graham is coming back off a sub-par year in the division below, and Matulevičius has never before played in British football. There is highly-rated youngster Oli Shaw, though it would be too much to expect him to come straight into the top flight and start banging them in.
The club’s efforts to get Anthony Stokes back make sense. He’s a proven goalscorer at the top flight in Scottish football, he’ll be playing for the manager that got the most out of him at Celtic, and he’s a beloved former player who will generate much enthusiasm among the home support. What’s more, he’s still only 28, which seems strange. It feels like he’s been around forever.
This is an obvious need. They don’t really have one at present. Danny Swanson can play centrally, but his best work at St Johnstone came on the left of a midfield four, adding a bit of guile and ingenuity to an otherwise industrious unit. Even if Neil Lennon wishes to use Swanson as a No.10 and give him a free role to link attack and midfield, his pursuit of Cambridge United midfielder Luke Berry suggests he’s not content with what he’s got.
The Hibs boss isn’t afraid to alter his formation depending on the strengths or weaknesses of the opposition, and he’ll need greater strength in depth in the midfield to do so effectively, especially if he ever wants to play 4-5-1.
If they manage to get a central attacking midfielder, this isn’t as much of a pressing requirement, as Swanson can be used almost exclusively on the left. But with Martin Boyle, like Murray, an unknown commodity in the top flight, a bit of competition for places wouldn’t go amiss.
Even in the second tier, with Boyle playing fairly well and Andrew Shinnie often filling in on the other flank, Lennon still went out and signed Chris Humphrey to provide a little extra spark on the wing. Overall, the deal didn’t work out too well, with Humphrey quickly falling out over favour before getting injured. Yet he still played a significant role in helping Hibs defeat Dundee United in early January, which was a huge result at the time in the Championship title race.
Marvin Bartley is now the club’s only recognised defensive midfielder following the departure of Fraser Fyvie, though look for Steven Whittaker to be used there on occasion if they’re short for cover. The ex-Rangers and Scotland international has played in midfield at various points throughout his career, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him take up the role of screener in front of the defence.
If Whittaker is needed in defence or at wing-back, it may leave Hibs a little lacking in depth. And, what’s more, we’ve yet to see what Bartley can do at the highest level on a weekly basis.
Hibs have probably got it covered as far as the full-back positions are concerned. They’ve signed Whittaker, who can play on either flank, while they’ve retained club captain David Gray and Easter Road stalwart Lewis Stevenson. However, they may look to bring in an attack-minded defender if Lennon feels the 3-5-2 formation fits his side the best. Playing as wing-backs for a full season in the top flight would be asking a lot of either Stevenson or Gray. Crossing is neither’s strong point and they’re at their best playing in a flat-back four.