Heart of Midlothian – Match Report vs Aberdeen 29/12/19

This is a guest contribution from Daryl Gouliard.

In the last round of the Scottish Premiership in 2019, two goals from Ryotaro Meshino and Niall McGinn ended the game with the two teams shared the points. Daniel Stendel opted to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation for his Hearts side with the use of a target man, Uche Ikpeazu, as his focal point in the team’s attack. Around him, the attacking midfielders were given the license to roam more often in order to allow them to receive the ball in between Aberdeen’s defensive lines. At the other end of the pitch, they played with a fairly narrow defensive shape, allowing the players to create overloads and win the ball in those areas.

Ratings

A1 – Very good player, could play higher
A2 – Strong potential to play higher
B1 – Good, strong player at level
B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
C – Average for the level, rewatch
D – Below average, don’t follow up

Joel Pereira

Player Profile

Nationality: Swiss-Portuguese
Age: 23
Date of birth: 28/06/1996
Current club: Heart of Midlothian
Career: Neuchâtel Xamax, Manchester United, Rochdale (L), Belenenses (L), Vitória de Setúbal (L), KV Kortrijk (L), Hearts (L)
Position: Goalkeeper
Preferred foot: Right

In his fifth loan spell from the club, Joel Pereira is used in goal for most of this season and this match was not an exception either. The Portuguese goalkeeper is decent when having the ball at his feet by connecting well with the centre-backs to play out from the back. But most of the passes made by him were not risky passes as he looked to distribute the ball safely, and at times, played it out wide for the full-backs.

In the air, Pereira claimed the ball well and safely thanks to his positioning and allowed the team to regain possession from an unsuccessful long pass or cross executed by Aberdeen players. He stayed concentrated for the whole match and managed to neutralised attempts made towards his goal and even saved a corner that headed towards the far post of the goal (occurred at the 74th minute). But a weakness that he showed in Niall McGinn’s free-kick goal was his decision to stay at the far post and leave a significant gap behind the wall to allow McGinn to curve his shot into the bottom left corner.

Rating – B2

It was a decent match for Pereira as he did not face many shots that forced him to showcase his ability. Still, it remains hard to come up with a decision whether he is good in goal for the team only based on his performance in this match. Definitely I will find an opportunity to rewatch another of Hearts match this season to track the progress of Pereira and his teammates, but given he is still young, he still can become a good player not only for the Scottish Premiership if given the correct guidance and game time.

Aaron Hickey

Player Profile

Nationality: Scottish
Age: 17
Date of birth: 10/06/2002
Current club: Heart of Midlothian
Career: Hearts, Celtic
Position: Left Back
Secondary position: Centre Half
Preferred foot: Either

Hickey is one of the hot prospects that has just made his debut this season and the 17-year-old left-back certainly did not disappoint Daniel Stendel when he was given the chance. When he had the ball, Hickey showed good dribbling ability as he tended to make overlapping runs with pace to stretch the opposition’s defensive shape. Combining well with the winger in front of him, Oliver Bozanić, the duo on the left-hand side often swapped positions with each other as one would move into the half-space and the other drifted wide. One attacking aspect that Hickey did not have the chance to show in this match is his crossing since he only registered two crosses throughout the whole match, but managed to float one of them into the box early in the match.

In defence, Hickey showed his awareness and intelligence well to intercept passes that come towards his wing, especially when he had to face long passes and the overlapping runs of Shay Logan constantly. He rarely backed down from a challenge and but lacked physicality given he is only 5’7” tall. Hickey also showed his intelligence when it comes to marking pretty well as he always tried to get that attacker in his sight and ready to get in front of him before he could reach the ball.

He usually stayed back during corner situations and looked to win second balls for his team and prevent Aberdeen from creating counter-attacks. He was Stendel’s first-choice for throw-ins on the left-hand side on the pitch since he was able to take long throws and allowed his teammates to pick up the ball inside the opposition’s half.

Rating – A2

Hickey definitely has the potential to make it to a higher level than the Scottish Premiership given he is already a first-choice left-back under Stendel. It would be very interesting to see Hickey occupies the role of a complete wing-back in the future as he has the dribbling ability and the pace to do so.

Andy Irving

Player Profile:

Nationality: Scottish
Age: 19
Date of birth: 13/05/2000
Current club: Heart of Midlothian
Career: Hearts, Berwick Rangers (L), Falkirk (L)
Position: Central Midfield
Secondary position: Defensive Midfielder
Preferred foot: Left

In the role of a central midfielder for this match, Irving tended to drop deeper than his partner, Michael Smith, and looked to link up with the centre backs. On a few occasions, he also drifted wide to the right wing and received the ball to dribble forward. One of his strengths that he capitalised very well during the match was passing, looking to switch play or find Uche Ikpeazu up front. He took long free-kicks, which allowed him to use his vision and crossing skill to find a teammate inside the box.

He was confident receiving the ball and looked for runners and forward passes. His first touch was also decent, which allowed him to control the ball pretty quickly and dictated the play. He took a few long shots but weren’t successful.

When not in possession, Irving was very active when involving in duels to regain possession quickly for his side. Although he did not have the strength needed to outplay the opposition’s player but he won the ball through his tackles and stayed on his feet. Interception was not the aspect that he showed often in this match since Aberdeen mostly relied on long balls and counter-attacks and this forced Irving to take part in duels rather than allowing him to read the situation and intercept passes.

Rating – A2

Ryotaro Meshino

Player Profile:

Nationality: Japanese
Age: 21
Date of birth: 18/06/1998
Current club: Heart of Midlothian
Career: Gamba Osaka, Manchester City, Hearts (L)
Position: Attacking midfielder
Secondary position: Right winger
Preferred foot: Right

Deployed as a right-winger, Meshino worked in both the right half-space and the right-wing while also roamed from his position occasionally. Dribbling is one of his biggest strengths and he capitalised that very often during the match. He had good pace in order to outrun the opposition’s player and found himself good space. His technique was good and allowed Meshino control to the ball in tight space and worked his way out of trouble. Still, given those strengths, he overused his flair for the majority of the second half and it forced the team to lose possession on several occasions.

Another aspect of his play that he could improve on is his decision making and selfishness as there were situations in the match where he opted to take a shot rather than passing. In several of those situations, it could have opened a dangerous chance for Hearts. Nonetheless, he still scored by driving his shot from outside the box to the top right corner and brought home one point for the team.

Defensively, Meshino showed he was aggressive when pressing the opposition. Though he did not make any interceptions and only registered one tackle, his work rate somewhat helped the team and slowed Aberdeen’s attack down, allowing his teammates to find a suitable position to locate themselves into. He was too reckless at times, earning himself a yellow card when the first half, which hindered his ability to contribute to the team’s press later in the match.

Rating – B1

Meshino is definitely an interesting prospect to follow when he returns to Manchester City in the summer. He is a skillful winger who can do unexpected things with the ball, but he can also be a team player who creates chances but needs to be less selfish and reckless at times since these two mentalities can limit his team.

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