Elie Youan: Hibs' exciting new forward, Martin Boyle replacement who will bring an x-factor and chaos
Then there was Paul McGinn. At the start of June the club announced they had taken the option to extend the defender’s deal. Fast forward a few weeks and the Scotland international joined Motherwell, while the post on the Hibs website announcing his extension had been deleted.
There will continue to be speculation over Ryan Porteous and Josh Doig, both players having been linked with moves away in recent transfer windows, as well as Christian Doidge, who is available for transfer.
With regards to players arriving, Hibs – on paper – have pulled off a couple of real coups in adding the highly-rated duo of Nohan Kenneh from Leeds United and Aussie full-back Lewis Miller from McArthur, fighting off competition for both. David Marshall and Aiden McGeady will add substantial and much-needed experience to the squad. On the other side there are two largely unknown forwards in Jair Tavares and Momodou Bojang.
None of the above compare to the intrigue and excitement around Elie Youan. The 23-year-old French forward has arrived from St Gallen on loan with Hibs having an option to make the deal permanent.
Of the seven new additions, only two have Scottish football experience. The game north of the border is one which can be hard to adapt to and one which has chewed plenty up only to spit them back out. It adds another layer of fascination.
There will be further arrivals at Easter Road, whether those happen before the start of the Premier Sports campaign or the start of the league season.
Yet, in Youan, Hibs have signed a player who could cause a whole host of problems for opposition, right from the off.
He joins after an unusual season where he hit six goals for St Gallen in the Swiss top flight in the first half of the season before moving on loan to Belgian side Mechelen, only to feature just four times, all of which were off the bench.
His 0.39 goals per 90 minutes in the Swiss Super League was the same as Celtic pair Jota and Liel Abada, and better than on-loan Hearts forward Ellis Simms and the league’s joint-top scorer Regan Charles-Cook.
At St Gallen, he played on the left side of a narrow 4-3-1-2 system at the start of the 2021/22 campaign. It was a role which clipped his wings. Too often he would be too deep and narrow to utilise his pace and ability to run at defenders. He would get the ball in central areas with his back to the opposition goal. Rather than getting the ball in front of him out wide or on the turn.
Even still, in the first game of the season against Lausanne-Sport, when afforded the chance to run with or without the ball into space, he caused all sorts of issues. In the first half he sped away with the ball at his feet and finished and after the break he ran in behind, scoring with the second attempt.
It was therefore no surprise that he was eventually moved further up the pitch, first out wide then through the middle where he can be a focal point. He is not shrinking violet in the air, winning around 50 per cent of aerial duels contested if Hibs need to go back to front. He scored the winner against Basel with a header, holding off an opponent.
But, more than anything, Youan will provide an abundance of pace and power in the final third. He is someone who could provide the Easter Road club with something they have missed since Martin Boyle was sold to Al-Faisaly. His best role is either wide on the left of a front three, cutting in, or through the middle.
It’s that pace though which puts defenders under serious pressure and leads to them making daft decisions. It causes chaos. A lofted ball over the top against Servette provoked the defender and goalkeeper into a pickle which Youan took advantage of, running on to a loose header to pick up on the ball and slot into an empty net.
Even over short distances, he possesses electric acceleration.
In the aforementioned win over Basel, his pace made life really uneasy for the Swiss giants, especially early on when defenders were forced into rushed clearances.
His movement and willingness to run in behind will stretch defences, something Johnson made note of.
“His attributes will enable us to stretch the game and allow us to open up space for our technically-gifted midfield players," he said.
Youan is someone who will take Hibs up the pitch with and without the ball, averaging 8.59 dribbles per 90 and he travels really well with the ball, rarely getting it caught under his feet. But he is not a wide player in the traditional sense. He won’t get chalk on his boots, hit the byline and put crosses in. That’s not his game with his crossing stats far from the best. He wants to head towards goal. With or without the ball.
There is plenty of room for improvement in the final third when it comes to his decision making. At times he can try to do too much himself or rush an action, almost like he gets carried away because he is moving so quickly with the ball as the defence retreats.
One thing is for sure, he will be heavily involved. He wants the ball, whether it is coming short to pick it up and carry or making constant runs into channels or behind defences.
Whisper it, but Hibs may have unearthed a real gem to replace Martin Boyle and bring an x-factor to Easter Road.
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