Hearts recently indulged in some decent transfer business by signing English youngster James Hill from Bournemouth on loan. The 21-year-old’s transfer to the Jam Tarts is one of the notable deals to happen in the Scottish Premiership in the 2023 winter transfer window. He progressed through the youth ranks at Fleetwood Town, making his debut at the age of 16 and becoming the club’s youngest-ever first-team player. The defender featured regularly in the EFL League One over the past two seasons before Bournemouth signed him in 2022.
Since joining his new team, James Hill has started all four matches for Hearts in the Scottish Premiership, averaging 75 minutes per game. The English youngster will provide the Scottish side with much-needed depth in the defensive positions as they look to finish the season strongly and retain the third spot. Below, we look at some stats to understand why Hearts decided to add James Hill to their ranks.
James Hill is mainly a centre-back but can also perform the role of a right-back. The above viz shows the percentile rank of the player’s stats compared to other centre-backs from the 2021–22 season of League One. It can be observed that the 21-year-old has fared admirably in the defence department. Notably, the player has an excellent sense of positioning and also has a good rank for winning aerial duels and defensive duels. Overall, the English defender has a reasonable rank in the possession and attacking departments as well, and he stands out with his high rank in terms of shots per 90.
James Hill shows his proficiency in the defensive and middle thirds for his team, particularly on the right side. The above viz shows the player’s defensive territory from the last two seasons in League One. Hill commits lots of defensive actions inside his own half by making important interceptions and tactical fouls. He also makes plenty of interceptions inside the penalty box and has only committed one foul there. Currently, he makes 5.14 interceptions per 90, along with 7.71 defensive duels and 4.29 aerial duels. He has a 59.3% win rate for defensive duels and a 66.7% win rate for aerial duels. Hill gives up only 0.86 fouls per 90, which shows his composure while defending, and also averages 2.57 clearances per match.
The two visuals above represent the role the English defender plays in restricting the opponent in both halves. He has shown the ability to win back possession in the opposition’s half, as evidenced by the six high regains he has made. Currently, the defender makes 9.43 recoveries per match, with 15.2% of them occurring in the opposition’s half. He is also capable of making dangerous and counter-pressing recoveries, including one in the opposition penalty box that led to a shot being taken. Meanwhile, in his own half, Hill has thwarted the opposition from threatening his goal on multiple occasions. He has blocked a total of 21 shots with a combined xG of 1.54. Half of them were crucial blocks inside the box.
Passing the ball around
James Hill performs the important role of circulating possession and building up play from the right side of the backline. The Englishman possesses a sound passing ability for various types of passes. Currently, he averages around 52 passes per match with an accuracy of 77%. His pass map above shows a network of sideward passes in his own half. But as he moves forward, these passes become more progressive towards the midfield and wide positions on either flank, especially on the right side. Hill averages 20.57 forward passes per match with 59.7% accuracy. Among these, 9.43 of the passes are to the final third, with an accuracy rate of 45.5%.
Role at Hearts
The addition of James Hill has added much-needed depth and talent to the Hearts’ defensive setup. They usually play with three defenders at the back, and the 21-year-old Englishman is proving to be a great backup option for Scottish centre-back Craig Halkett, who suffered a long-term injury not so long ago. The Bournemouth defender has already started four matches in the Scottish Premiership since joining Hearts.
The above viz is a comparison between James Hill and 27-year-old Craig Halkett. Both players outperform each other in some of the stats, with the experienced Scotsman faring better in more areas. While Halkett has a better rank in more of the metrics, Hill holds the advantage in areas like contesting and winning defensive duels, positioning, shots, dangerous passes, and goal contribution.
Overall, James Hill is a promising young player who has amassed a decent level of experience playing regularly for the first team. He is defensively adept and is a suitable candidate to improve the overall performance of Hearts’ backline. The move to the Scottish Premiership is ideal for the English youngster as it will aid the development of his gameplay and talent.
Visuals via TFA data viz engine