Why Garang Kuol is the missing piece of the Hearts attack – gamechanger, no fear, entertains and pace

Hearts have landed a gamechanger in Australia starlet Garang Kuol. It’s exactly why Socceroos boss Graham Arnold not only took him to the World Cup, just two months after he had turned 18, but brought him off the bench in games against France and Argentina.

“A player that has absolutely no fear,” Arnold said. “He just goes out and he wants to entertain. He’s a player that can change a game.”

Kuol nearly did exactly that when the Aussies were searching for an equaliser in their last-16 tie with eventual winners Argentina. A cross found the attacker at the back post deep into stoppage time. The youngster held off an opposition defender, brought the ball down and spun expertly before being denied by a big save from Emi Martinez. He was the youngest player to feature in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958.

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There are very high hopes for the player, even after only 21 games for Central Coast Mariners and Australia. There is a reason why Newcastle United were so keen to sign him and expressed their delight at beating “a number of high-profile clubs” to land “a very promising young talent”.

The loan to Tynecastle Park will help him continue his development and acclimatise to British football in an environment with familiar and friendly faces in Australia team-mates Kye Rowles, Cammy Devlin and Nathaniel Atkinson. In turn, he is exactly the type of forward Hearts require.

Pace and penetration

Kuol will add electric pace to the team's front line and should view Robbie Neilson's preferred 3-4-3 system as an enticing prospect. For the Mariners, he predominantly played wide, either left or right, of a 4-4-2 which meant there was plenty of defensive responsibility. He was never one to shun them but it's on the front foot, varying attacking positions, running with and without the ball where he comes alive and is most dangerous.

In the A-League this season, he was top 12 for assists per 90 minutes (fourth), dribbles (sixth) and crosses (12th). Kuol wants to get the ball to feet, turn and drive at defenders. Quick and capable of shifting the ball either side, he immediately unnerves opponents and puts them on the back foot. He is not someone who will wait for things to happen, he will go searching to be the protagonist, moving in field or swapping flanks. In his final game for the Mariners he played a key role in the opening goal in a 2-1 win. Getting the ball centrally, he held off a defender and popped it out right like a target man before making a run into the box. In doing so he created space for Jason Cummings to nod in unmarked at the back post.

Garang Kuol will link up with Australia team-mate Cammy Devlin at Hearts. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)Garang Kuol will link up with Australia team-mate Cammy Devlin at Hearts. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
Garang Kuol will link up with Australia team-mate Cammy Devlin at Hearts. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

In the same game, where he started on the left, his importance was highlighted in a graphic which showed where the team were focusing their attacks; 23.1 per cent on the right. 7.7 per cent through the middle. 69.2 per cent down the left.

Hearts perhaps lack a bit of pace with the ball and players willing to make runs in behind from deep. Kuol ticks both boxes, while he possesses a good centre of gravity and has shown to be robust. That fearfulness which excited Arnold should excite the Hearts supporters.



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