Hearts appear to be doing things differently when it comes to transfers!

written by: Jamie Kilday @fitbainscotland

I’m hoping to get four or five done fairly early and then have time to see how that looks and then we will bring in two or three others in come mid-July/August.
— Craig Levein - March 2018

Not many people would have thought back in March that this quote would have ended up being an understatement and yet Hearts finished the transfer window with 16 new faces and they are not done!

Their summer haul also included the pre-contract signing of Czech striker David Vaněček who is due to arrive in January. His imminent arrival is another sign that Hearts are doing things behind the scenes that a majority of other Scottish clubs are yet to try, scouting unfamiliar and under valued leagues. Peter Haring has been an absolute find for the Edinburgh club and I’m sure fans will he hoping the club have found a similar gem.

The current FK Teplice striker hasn’t been resting on his laurels since signing for Hearts and has been ever present featuring in 83% of their available minutes. He's also been fairly prolific netting 7 times in his 1127 minutes, giving him a not too shabby 0.56 goals per 90.

Standing at 6’ 4” and with a penchant for dying his hair blonde you could make a lazy comparison to a former Heart of Midlothian striker who only recently moved to the opposite side of the M8, but a deeper look into Vaněček’s playing style reveals that the similarities are more than just skin deep.

Predominantly playing as a lone striker for a FK Teplice side who like to counter attack, surprisingly he isn’t used as a conventional target man. He much prefers the ball being played to his feet and often finds himself in either of two situations.

The first is coming deep to pick up the ball and running at the back line. Much like his Northern Irish counterpart when he does this he is not looking for his team mates when he has the ball.

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As his shot map indicates, he usually drives into the left half space, cuts inside and shoots from distance, regardless of weather he has players in support. This trait will be familiar to Hearts supporters as both Kyle Lafferty and Esmaël Gonçalves were fans of similar wasteful play, so much so it was often remarked that Hearts played with two lone strikers.

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His distance shooting has yet to garner any goals which leads to the next, and arguably best, aspect of his play. Getting himself in between the centre-backs, off the ball, and bullying his way into space so he can receive a low cross or through-ball into feet. His physicality and finishing ability make him perfect for this style of play and is a reason why 65% of his shots come from within the Danger Zone this season.

From his 34 shots his xG is 5.36 (or 0.43 per 90) so his good run of form is an over performance and there could be further alarm bells in his statistics.

So far this season 44.1% of his shots have been on target, which is impressive but pretty unsustainable. Based on the shots he’s taken his Expected Shot Accuracy should be 38.8%.

As previously mentioned his finishing is impressive and he has managed to put away 46.6% of his shots on target, again based on the shots he takes we had an expected shooting percentage of 44.6%.

I know stats are not everyone’s cup of tea and it is often peddled that a modern style of analysis using stats is at odds with traditional scouting methods, and yet, my initial impression of Vaněček from watching videos of him play was that he was similar to Lafferty and a statistical look at both their careers would back that up. In over 11000 career league minutes his goals per 90 is 0.43....Lafferty...0.44 from 14000 minutes. Granted different leagues and different levels but sometimes it’s just worth making the point that good analysis in either field should give similar results.

Now, considering Vaněček was officially signed six weeks before Lafferty’s departure you could be forgiven for thinking that Hearts knew Lafferty was going to be sold, but we’re hoping to hold on to him until January.

All in all Vaněček looks promising and is of peak age (27), so whilst some of his goal scoring statistics do present a risk, even if he only hits his expected metrics he will be a risk work taking. Especially if he can get himself into similar shooting locations and Hearts can focus on playing the ball into his feet.

Its worth adding that the signing can’t come soon enough if you consider that Hearts are presently reliant on a 36 year old Steve MacLean who has, over his whole career, averaged 0.24 league goals per 90...perhaps signing MacLean is an indication that although Hearts are doing things differently there are still some lessons to be learnt.