The incredible statistics which highlight Steven Naismith's importance to Hearts

Hearts supporters are fully aware of the importance of Steven Naismith to their side. Unfortunately, it's looking increasingly certain that they'll face off against Celtic in this Saturday's Scottish Cup final without their talismanic striker.

Steven Naismith is unlikely to make the Scottish Cup final.
Steven Naismith is unlikely to make the Scottish Cup final.

Having undergone his second knee operation of the campaign after going down in a match against Celtic at the end of February, it was initially hoped the Scottish international would recover in time to make the game.

Those hopes were dealt a blow when manager Craig Levein admitted earlier this month that Naismith was unlikely to recover in time. With just five days to go and Naismith yet to return to full training, whatever slim hopes that are left are dwindling by the day.

It is a significant dent to Hearts' prospects this Saturday as the statistics show. Hearts' form this campaign has been drastically different when the 32-year-old has been in the starting XI compared to the games he's missed. Quite how startling that contrast is has been outlined in the stats below...

League record with Naismith

P 19 W 12 D 3 L 4 GF 29 GA 14 PTS 39

League record without Naismith

P 19 W 3 D 3 L 13 GF 13 GA 35 PTS 12

Averages with Naismith

2.05 points per match x 38 = 78 points

1.53 goals per game x 38 = 58 goals

0.74 goals conceded per game x 38 = 28 goals

Averages without Naismith

0.63 points per game x 38 = 24 points

0.68 goals per game x 38 = 26 goals

1.84 goals per game x 38 = 70 goals

Final placing averaged out to 38 games with Naismith

Third place

Final placing averaged out to 38 games without Naismith

Second bottom

Fun/not-so-fun facts

Hearts' average goals for and against would be third best (with Naismith over 38 games).

Rangers would be ahead of Hearts in second only on goal difference (with Naismith).

They'd sit just three points ahead of Dundee (without Naismith).

Hearts' goals scored tally would be the worst in the league (without Naismith).

Hearts' defensive record would be worse than St Mirren's (without Naismith).

Conclusion

Of course, a lot of this rests on hypotheticals and there are a few variables to explain as well.

When the striker returned to the squad following his first knee injury, the spark that has ignited the terrific 10-game stretch to start the league season was no longer there. Across six games, Hearts won just twice, which isn't the sort of form that leads to 78 points over a campaign. Things might have picked up had he not suffered the second injury against Celtic, but it's just as likely that Hearts' form would've remained patchy for the remainder of the campaign.

It should also be noted that five of the 19 "without Naismith" fixtures are post-split games, so that full list of fixtures would be significantly tougher than those which featured the attacker. Therefore, finishing just three points ahead of Dundee wouldn't have been as plausible as the stats may suggest.

However, in spite of the variables, there remain many startling contrasts. The most significant of which is probably the defensive record - 14 conceded in 19 games with compared with 35 without. This goes to show that losing a key player affects the entire team and not just their area of the park.