Hibernian: Assessing Lee Johnson’s Rebuild Job

After a disappointing 2021/22 campaign for Hibernian, Graham Ruthven assesses what needs to be done at Easter Road this summer following the arrival of new boss Lee Johnson.

Graham Ruthven

The 2021/22 season was one to forget for Hibernian. A campaign that started with hopes of European football and cup success ended with a change in manager and a bottom half finish in the Scottish Premiership.

Now, though, there is another new manager in place at Easter Road. Hope has been renewed once more.

Lee Johnson was appointed by Hibernian in May following the dismissal of Shaun Maloney and has already started building his team ahead of the new season.

The former Bristol City and Sunderland boss has no previous experience of the Scottish game, but has been hired to bring new methods and ideas to Easter Road.

At Bristol City, Johnson primarily used an orthodox 4-4-2 shape, but adapted this to a 4-2-3-1 as Sunderland manager. He favours quick attacking play in possession and high intensity pressing out of it.

Johnson is a forward-thinking coach who will look to make Hibernian an entertaining team to watch.

“As a manager, I like to turn up the attacking dial during the game and I want to play a high-tempo brand of football,” he said after his appointment by Hibernian.

“Whatever formation we play, I will make sure my team is consistent in our playing style – aggressive and on the front foot.

“What you will get from me is I will try and win every game, I guarantee you that. Sometimes to our detriment, but I guarantee you we will go to the big boys, be aggressive and try to win every football match.”

Johnson likes his full backs and wingers to link up in advanced positions, adding bodies to any attacks in quick transition. He wants players to get into the box as quickly as possible.

This, however, can leave the defence exposed. Indeed, Johnson’s Sunderland team were known for being vulnerable at the back when faced with an opposition counter-attack.

Lee Johnson Sunderland

There are some players already at Easter Road for Johnson to build around. While his temperament has been the subject of some discussion, Ryan Porteous is a natural defender whose aggression is a positive as well as a negative at times.

Young left back Josh Doig is a good prospect with Harry Clarke one of the best attacking full backs in Scotland right now.

Kevin Nisbet missed much of last season through injury, but should return in the coming months and is Hibernian’s most reliable source of goals.

The 25-year-old is a Scotland international and should benefit from Johnson’s natural tendency to push as many players forward as possible. Nisbet will have support.

Some new additions have already been made. Former Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall has joined while defenders Nohan Kenneth and Lewis Miller have also been recruited.

Johnson will need midfield reinforcements to give his team a chance of controlling games against inferior opponents while a new right back would be useful with Paul McGinn expected to be on his way out of the club.

Hibernian is a club with a lot of ambition under owner Ron Gordon, but they have spent the last few seasons unsure of which direction to take.

Johnson has now been hired to pull the Leith outfit up the Scottish Premiership table while playing a brand of football that will attract fans back to Easter Road. That will be easier said than done, though.

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