Hearts haven’t necessarily had a season to forget but the brand of football being played at times from Craig Levein’s men is horrific to watch. A long ball from Christophe Berra at the back to Uche Ikpeazu up front is the main way the Jambos start an attack.
It’s this style of football which has seen Hearts stuck in fifth place in the Premiership and now face a cup quarter final replay after a draw with Championship basement side Partick Thistle.
Hearts need their big game players like Steven Naismith, John Souttar and Ikpeazu to live up to their expectations. Unfortunately for Levein, one of last season’s main players has had his season hampered by injury and it looks to have caught up with him.
Club captain Berra is a loyal Jambo willing to give everything to secure victory for his side. Since his return from a four month injury though, the skipper’s performances have left a lot to be desired. It’ll be painful viewing for Hearts fans as he did so well for them last season. It’s becoming clearer as the weeks go on that Berra isn’t the defender he was last season.
Last season when Hearts were handing debuts to the likes of Harry Cochrane and various other youth stars, Berra was key for Levein. He offered experience and leadership, a head for the younger boys to look up to. Hearts without Berra last season would have been unimaginable due to his presence and defensive qualities.
It just seems different this term. At 34 years of age, Berra did well to get to this point in his career without a serious injury. When he eventually suffered a torn hamstring against Celtic in August things took a turn for the worse.
A shadow of the player he was
Hearts’ three at the back just doesn’t suit Berra anymore. He isn’t as mobile as last season, something which has been brutally exposed on multiple occasions since his return to action. Whenever he’s on the ball, the defender just lumps it towards Ikpeazu up top with usually no reward. Sometimes it doesn’t even reach the big targetman, with Berra wasting possession for his side on a more regular basis as the season goes on.
With how ruthless Levein has been with his dropping of players, it’s a surprise he hasn’t sidelined his captain. He benched goalkeeper Colin Doyle after one mistake (albeit a costly one) against Motherwell in February. Berra seems to make countless errors without much punishment coming his way.
Last season, if Levein were to drop Berra, he would be called crazy. Now fans are wondering if it’s time to call him that for not benching him. With the likes of Clevid Dikamona on the bench , there are able replacements ready to take his place and prove they can do a better job than the veteran captain.
Berra is a committed Hearts player and fans will be saddened by his performances. He’s been great for the Tynecastle side up until this point, but it looks as though he needs to take a backseat for Levein’s men to improve defensively.