Hibs: Why Ryan Porteous ban makes centre-back Shaun Maloney's transfer priority

There has not been a more divisive figure in Scottish football this season than Hibernian centre-back Ryan Porteous.
Hibs centre-back Ryan Porteous. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Hibs centre-back Ryan Porteous. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Hibs centre-back Ryan Porteous. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The 22-year-old was front and centre once more on Wednesday when he was banned for three matches after the Scottish FA issued a notice of complaint for kicking out at Aberdeen striker Christian Ramirez. He won’t be available for selection until February.

The incident was highlighted by the American on social media and it gave more credence to those who have pilloried Porteous this season, especially after a red card against Rangers earlier in the campaign.

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There are two schools of thought. On one hand there are those, mostly of a Hibs persuasion, who feel there is an agenda against the player. On the flip side, there are those who feel he brings it on himself.

What all the noise overshadows is Porteous’ importance to the Easter Road side and just how good a football player he is. Aside from Martin Boyle he is the team’s most influential individual, even more so after the arrival of Shaun Maloney.

The new Hibs boss, influenced by his time working under Roberto Martinez as a player at Wigan Athletic then coach with Belgium for three years, wants to implement a positive possession-based approach, which means building through the thirds of the pitch as a team with fewer long balls.

While it will take time to be fully applied, there were encouraging signs in the recent 3-1 win over Dundee United, albeit the Tannadice side were stand-offish and without key players.

Hibs dominated possession with 64 per cent, making over 200 more passes than their season average yet they hit fewer longer balls.

Porteous role

Maloney wants his team to be able to play out from the back and Porteous is key to that. Being moved to the right of the back three was beneficial, allowing him to pass the ball more, while opening better angles for him to do so.

He made 92 passes, with just 10.9 per cent deemed as long, at a 90 per cent success rate. His average in the Premiership is 56.75 passes per 90 minutes, 21 per cent of which are long, with an 82.3 per cent success rate.

Prior to the ban, centre-back was a priority position for Hibs. Now it has taken on even more importance before the team return to action with a trip to Celtic on January 17.

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Porteous is the team's best passer. There is no other centre-back who can provide the variety which he does. Whether it is keeping it simple, switching play or breaking the lines to the forward line with an incisive pass.

No Hibs player progresses the ball more or plays into the final third as much as Porteous. He is top ten in the Premiership for both metrics. As he is for aerial success rate with cross balls an issue throughout the season.

Currently available to Maloney are two full-backs who can play inside as part of a back three, a dependable Darren McGregor who is 36 and a squad player, and captain Paul Hanlon.

Competition and quality at centre back is a priority. And if the new Hibs boss wants his style to continue being implemented in the short-term, someone with a strong passing skillset is required.

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