The key stats behind Hearts' unbeaten start to the season - Halkett presence, Devlin influence, creating good chances

Hearts know they can go top of the cinch Premiership on Saturday with a win, for a short time at least.

Hearts are the only unbeaten side in the Scottish Premiership. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)

Craig Halkett’s late header, taking advantage of Allan McGregor’s blunder at Ibrox at the weekend, saw Robbie Neilson’s men earn a draw against Rangers ensuring they stay just a point behind the Scottish champions who play on Sunday.

Hearts remain the only unbeaten team in the top flight with Dundee next up at Tynecastle Park.

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There are a number of reasons for the team’s strong start to the season following promotion from the Championship. The club have recruited excellently and Neilson’s 3-4-3 system has been both formidable and effective. There is depth to the team allowing the manager to make necessary changes and there are key players performing very well in important positions.

We have explored Wyscout and WhoScored.com to look at some of the numbers behind the unbeaten start.

Craig Gordon

No one needs reminding how much of a difference maker Scotland's No.1 is a for Hearts. After seasons of struggle between the sticks they have arguably the best goalkeeper in Scotland as their last line of defence. He showed his qualities in the draw with Rangers, keeping the side in it to allow them to earn a draw.

It may be surprising that Gordon’s has faced the second most shots in the league (48). What isn’t surprising, however, is that he has made the most saves (42).

According to Wyscout’s prevented goals metric, no one has kept out more than his 3.96.

Craig Halkett

In front of Gordon, Halkett is currently having his best run of form for Hearts. Aside from his goal scoring heroics on Saturday, he was one of the team’s best players. There is no more dominant player in the air than Halkett who has won 75.38 per cent of his aerial dues.

In addition, he is fourth in the league for total interceptions.

Midfield duo

Beni Baningime and Cammy Devlin. A diminutive but formidable partnership. Such is the way they play the game it is no surprise that Hearts are second in the league for tackles per game.

The Aussie’s influence has been immediate, from the moment he stepped on the pitch as a second-half sub in the 2-2 draw with Ross County. The tenacious manner he plays the game has won over the fans.

That is reflected in the data. According to Wyscout, Devlin leads the way in defensive duels per 90 minutes (12.7), while Baningime is fifth for total defensive duels.

Devlin is second for interceptions per 90 minutes (7.73). Outside the Old Firm, only team-mate Taylor Moore and Aberdeen’s Declan Gallagher make more passes per 90 than the midfielder’s 57.42, owing to his all-rounded qualities.

Attack

Hearts are effective at creating good chances. While the team sit fifth for number of shots, they are third for percentage on target. Using Wyscout’s xG per shot metric, Neilson’s men are second behind Celtic. It effectively means the side are creating opportunities you are more likely to score.

The attack has been added by the joint-highest goals from set pieces (five) and a willingness to move the ball forward.

Hearts sit third progressive passes which are described as “a forward pass that attempts to advance a team significantly closer to the opponent’s goal”.

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