How Robert Snodgrass can replace Liam Boyce at Hearts - where he fits, age inspiration, stat concern

Hearts stuck true to their word when it was revealed they would monitor the free agent market after the transfer window shut last week.

Injuries to Liam Boyce and Kye Rowles had made the requirement for reinforcements more pressing than the club envisioned.

Zander Clark, a possible successor to Craig Gordon at international level, was a shrewd addition. Fans had pined for a back-up should the Hearts and Scotland No.1 suffer any misfortune.

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While there is a feeling that the team could do with more pace in the final third, it was the injury to Liam Boyce which summoned concern. The Northern Irishman, for his few faults – namely chopping onto his weaker foot when in a good shooting opportunity – was always going to be a very difficult player to replace.

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The club’s top scorer the past two campaigns, he was carving out a role in the side which suited his attributes. Not a No.9 nor a No.10. A player in between who could take some of the scoring and creating responsibility away from Lawrence Shankland and Barrie McKay.

With Hearts lacking ideas in the final third in defeats to Kilmarnock and Livingston, his absence became more noticeable.

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It is hard enough recruiting for such a role in the window let alone the free agent market. Yet, Robbie Neilson and Joe Savage have managed to entice a former Scotland international who ticks plenty of boxes on the ‘creative forward checklist’.

Snodgrass qualities

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Robert Snodgrass has joined Hearts after leaving Luton Town. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

At 34, his age shouldn’t be a concern. Steven Davis, Steven Fletcher and Jonny Hayes are all older and still excelling at this level. Nor should any perceived lack of dynamism or acceleration concern. Those are not qualities Boyce was known for.

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With Snodgrass, Hearts are getting a hugely experienced, technically proficient and intelligent attacker.

A lack of games in recent seasons is something to be wary about but he has not been brought in to play every week. Hearts’ schedule is such that Neilson needs reliable players who he can drop in and out of the team and they will contribute.

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It would be lacking respect for the level Snodgrass has played at and the standard he has played to, to suggest he couldn’t cut it being brought in for domestic duties at home to St Mirren and away to Motherwell, one of a number of teams who were keen to sign the 28-time Scotland cap.

Snodgrass’ personality will lend itself well in the dressing room environment but it is on the pitch where he will be asked to ease the creative burden on McKay and Shankland, to free more mobile wingers.

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While Hearts are averaging more goals per 90 minutes the stats suggest that will slow down with shots per 90, touches in the opposition box, key passes, passes to the final third and deep completion all down compared to last season.

Snodgrass has the quality to help those figures as part of an attacking trio with McKay and Shankland or as the key creative source in the final third. He also possesses a threat from outside the box and real quality from set pieces.

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Hearts recruitment drive in the final third wasn’t for a lack of effort, prompting more short-term measures. In the circumstances they don't come much better than Snodgrass.

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