London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Steve Conroy
Stewart Michael [D Cadamarteri pen 3] ;[D Cadamarteri 86]
4 of 018 ----- L SPL A

Wise recruits augur well as Laszlo rebuilds

CSABA Laszlo recently complained, albeit with his customary good humour, that he feels like he has had to rebuild a team every season. Perhaps it is because of the number of times he has had to do it that he has become very adept at the exercise, for it certainly did not take him long on arriving at Tynecastle a year ago to mould a disunited Hearts squad into a competitive unit.
Having lost Bruno Aguiar, Robbie Neilson and Christos Karipidis from the team which finished third in the SPL last season, Laszlo has again had to dip into the transfer market with very limited funds. So far, the signs are that he has again done so w isely.

Winger Suso Santana has been an instant hit with the Tynecastle support, Ian Black has fitted in well to midfield, and centre-backs Ismael Bouzid and Dawid Kucharski look useful additions too. Striker David Witteveen has, as Laszlo admits, a lot to do to get up to speed, but he was primarily signed as back-up, and it is not his fault that bids for more experienced front men fell through.

On the evidence of their pre-season friendlies, Hearts have a solidity and a strength in depth which augurs well for the new campaign. With Marius Zaliukas suspended from the first four league games it may take them some time to determine their first-choice pairing at the heart of defence, but with Eggert Jonsson and Lee Wallace at right and left-back respectively they have the makings of a highly competent back four.

The primary question now for Laszlo as he looks ahead to the visit to Dundee United on Monday and then the Europa League play-off game at Dinamo Zagreb three days later is what formation to play in. Witteveen, he has said, is too similar to Christian Nade, and Calum Elliot is not yet fit. Does the manager therefore go with the 4-5-1 formation which brought him a certain amount of success last season, or does he play with two up front in the hope that the return of Elliot, perhaps with Gary Glen as back-up, will yield dividends?

The pairing of Santana on one wing with Andy Driver on the other looks exciting – though Driver is also out of action at the moment because of injury – but if the two wide men are part of a midfield four, the remaining two look vulnerable. Laryea Kingston played in a deeper role in the friendly against Bolton Wanderers than he was used to last season, but, while there is no denying the Ghanaian's talent, he has been either injured or demotivated during much of his time at Hearts.

Ruben Palazuelos is a natural holding midfielder, but if he is preferred to Kingston, would he and new club captain Michael Stewart have enough forward-going drive? For the time being, Laszlo could decide that 4-4-1-1 gives the team more solidity than it would have with two up front.

The manager should have a clearer picture in front of him when Elliot returns, and while that should be soon, the club announced yesterday that managing the striker's injury will be a delicate business. "Calum has been diagnosed with a congenital issue whereby he has a slightly enlarged heel bone, which has caused some friction and pain," a statement on the Hearts website read yesterday.

"Club medical staff confirmed today that it is not possible to inject the area because of the structure of the blood vessels around the bone, with the only other option being an operation which would be a major piece of surgery to effectively re-structure the heel bone."

That would be a last resort, according to Laszlo. "Major surgery would be required, keeping Calum out for a long time, and requiring extensive rehabilitation," he said.

"As a result, the medical experts have suggested we hold off on this option for now and begin a very carefully managed process of getting Calum back into training.

"This means we look very carefully at everything including padding, use of ice, the boot he wears and so on. If it is possible to manage this situation this way then Calum should be able to make good progress."

With a home game against Rangers coming between the two legs of their Europa League match, Hearts have an extremely demanding start to the season, and it may take several weeks before they can settle down and begin to show their best form. Once they do, they should establish themselves in or around third place again, though the players know that they have to be more ambitious than merely hoping for more of the same.

"The aims for the team are that we want to play good football for our supporters and achieve a minimum of third place, and go through (to the group stages of] the Europa Cup," goalkeeper Marian Kello said. "We know teams will want our place, so we need to be better this season.

"People will see us as a good team that finished third and believe they must play better against us than last year. We would like to get closer to Rangers and Celtic, but we also have to watch other teams and continue our level of performances from last season."

Taken from the Scotsman

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