Hibs spring into life with smart summer signings
There’s no doubt that football fans love the drama of a deadline day signing on the stroke of midnight. However, just many would probably admit prior to the transfer window that they’d happily take a safe and orderly summer over the need for last-minute deals.
Hibs seem to have opted for the more sensible option. Yesterday the club confirmed the signing of Kevin Nisbet, Drey Wright and Alex Gogic in one fell swoop. While Aberdeen fans mulled over a £2 million offer for their star striker and Hearts fans thumbed through the latest club statement about a never-ending court case, the Easter Road faithful were taking to social media to celebrate some outstanding business.
There’s no doubt about it: a striker, winger and central defender are exactly what Jack Ross needed ahead of the new season and that seems to be exactly what hes going to get. But how good are the three players in question? Let’s take a look.
Nisbet is undoubtedly the biggest and most exciting of the three signings. The former Dunfermline goalscorer was heavily linked with Hibs in January, when the Easter Road side reportedly had an offer turned down. Six months later and Leeann Dempster finally has her man.
The 23-year-old talent has had an interesting career to date (I wrote a profile of him for BBC Scotland back in January which you can read here) which suggests the striker that scored just five fewer goals than Lawrence Shankland last season has not only showed such promise from a very early age but has also had to quickly mature and prove he can deliver on that potential. A flash in the pan Nesbit is not.
His stats only back that up. Nesbit scored 34 goals in 46 games for Raith Rovers in 2018/19, showcasing to the rest of the SPFL what he was capable of when he finally applied himself properly. The following season he did just as well for Dunfermline in the Championship with 23 games in 35 games. Now, he’ll be hoping to make just as big of an impression on the Premiership.
And there’s no reason he can’t. Very few expect Shankland to struggle in the top tier this season and previous Championship stars like Lyndon Dykes, Steven Lawless and even Billy McKay have suggested that the step up is rarely as tough as some would believe.
Nisbet also provides an immediate solution to a troubled area of Ross’ squad. Prior to the young striker’s transfer Hibs had just two senior strikers on their books in the form of Christian Doidge and Florian Kamberi. And while Doidge accounted for 29% of his team’s Premiership goals last season, Kamberi offered just three in 20 league appearances. Should the Albanian international make his proposed move to Rangers (or elsewhere) this summer then Nesbit is surely ready to step in and partner Doidge up front.
While Wright may not demand the same attention and excitement as Nesbit, he could prove to be just as vital in the season to come and the long-term plans Ross has for this Hibs team.
The former St Johnstone winger obviously arrives at Easter Road with the tag of being Martin Boyle’s No.2 on the right wing but Wright was by no means a back-up at McDiarmid Park and could prove to be Boyle’s ultimate successor before too long.
In 22 league games Wright claimed just one assist yet that could perhaps be a clearer reflection on St Johnstone’s inability to score goals (they had the second worst offensive record in the league last season) and when we dive a little deeper into the stats it suggests Wright was certainly creating plenty of chances.
For example, WyScout suggests that the 25-year-old winger was 10th in the division for crosses made from the right wing. And when we couple that with him sitting 11th in the division for crossing accuracy and 30th for one-vs-one dribbles it suggests Wright was by no means neglecting his responsibilities.
Indeed, the winger finished the season 27th among his Premiership peers for key passes (passes that directly lead to a shot) per 90 minutes. Boyle, the man Wright may be tasked with matching and one day replacing, finished 24th with an almost identical record.
Last but certainly not least is Gogic, who Hibs managed to sign on a free after his contract expired at Hamilton Accies. Not only is the Cypriot an inexpensive and relatively risk-free capture but he could also prove to be another fantastic signing.
In the previous league campaign Gogic made a name for himself through some outstanding, defensive performances for Brian Rice’s side and undoubtedly played a huge part in them avoiding relegation.
For example, Gogic finished 11th among his defensive peers in the Premiership for the number of aerial duels he won on average in his own box - ahead of league favourites such as Ricki Lamie, Jason Kerr and Craig Halkett.
The 26-year old also finished top of the division in interceptions throughout the course of the league campaign, with 268 from 29 league games. A comfortable 68 more than Paul Hanlon in second place.
Naturally, what should make Gogic so appealing to Ross and Hibs fans is his ability to play in midfielder as well as at centre back with relative ease. Not only are Hibs a little lacking in genuine, in-form central defenders ahead of the new season but they also don’t have a single bona fide defensive midfielder in the squad. And Gogic could prove to be exactly what they need alongside the more attack-minded playmakers that Hibs seem to have in abundance.