Jorge Grant: Hearts are getting reliable set-piece taker capable of double figures in goals and assists
Hearts have landed another key target in Peterborough United midfielder Jorge Grant as Robbie Neilson continues to build a squad to fight on four fronts next season.
Neilson spoke of Grant adding “dynamism and guile” to the final third of the pitch, with Hearts likely to play in a 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 system next campaign.
The new arrival has experience of various midfield roles. Last season for Peterborough he played at the base of the midfield in a 3-4-3 or in an more advanced supporting attacking role. He also featured in a 4-1-4-1.
The season previous, when he combined for 21 goals and assists in League One for Lincoln City, ten of which were penalties, he would play in central midfield role in a 4-2-3-1 or on the left, cutting in on his favoured right foot. Going back to the 2017/18 campaign, he played as an advanced left attacker for Notts County, combining for 22 goals and assists.
During his time at Notts County, he was often rewarded for attacking the box when the ball was on the other side of the pitch and, at times, becoming a de facto centre forward. He was adept at latching onto loose balls or simply being in the right position at the right time.
How to handle helter-skelter midfield battles
As his career has progressed he has looked more at ease deeper and centrally. He is extremely composed under pressure, aided by a good awareness, an excellent first touch and control, plus he uses his ball very well to shield the ball and turn away from opponents. He is not averse to a quick, first time pass before making a supporting run to get the ball back.
There were two moments that really stood out last season for Peterborough. Against Manchester City in the FA Cup he controlled a high ball over his shoulder with one touch and before it hit the ground, knocked a pass out wide under pressure from Gabriel Jesus.
Against Fulham in the league he got a pass facing his own goal. He was pressed immediately but turned away and played out calmly. The ball went right back to him but this time he had three opponents around him. He took his time to move away and slip the ball forward, taking three opponents out of the game.
In the helter skelter nature of a Scottish football midfield, the ability to play quickly is paramount for a midfielder, especially an attacking one. That is not an issue for Grant. he creates space really well for himself.
In terms of physical characteristics, Grant is mobile and, due to time spent in the heart of the midfield battle in English lower leagues, is not shy to put himself about. As well as using his body well with the ball, he does it out of possession. He will bring a combative element to Hearts. What he does lack is acceleration, taking him to hit top speed.
Defensively, he can be guilty of getting caught square on when engaging opponents at the base of the midfield, making it easy for teams to play around him. However, Hearts will be utilising his attacking qualities higher up the pitch.
When playing on the left he will vary his movement. Hugging the touchline looking for under lapping runs from the full-back before moving infield and playing a reverse pass. Other times he will drive in field looking to combine.
He will lose the ball higher up the pitch but that's because he will try more adventurous passes. In his final season at Lincoln he averaged 1.51 deep completions, higher than Barrie McKay who was playing in the division at the time with Fleetwood Town.
He can skip past opponents in tight spaces, capable of shifting the ball between feet quickly, or dragging the ball away from defenders and finding a pass.
Grant will take the creative responsibility off of McKay's shoulders, while Neilson will want to give him the freedom to break into the box to offer a goal scoring threat from midfield as he did so well for Notts County. At Lincoln he was a more supporting presence.
Another key component he will bring is a threat from set-pieces. He could be the most reliable since Olly Lee. Whether it is inswinging or outswinging, he delivers the ball into and around the six-yard box for team-mates to take. Don’t expect a lot of floated crosses but he is willing to play it short and take the pass back.
Hearts have picked up a player who, if given the right role in the right system, is capable of hitting double figures in both goals and assists.
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