WE are now 10 games into Shaun Maloney’s tenure at Easter Road and it has been far from plain sailing, to say the least. There were plenty of grounds for an initial bout of optimism as Aberdeen and Dundee United were defeated in the first two matches but both performances and results have dried up since.

Two wins have arrived in the Scottish Cup – Hibs squeezed past Cove Rangers with a thoroughly unconvincing 1-0 win last month before an assured display at Gayfield secured the Leith club’s place in the quarter-finals.

The trip to Arbroath had ‘banana skin’ written all over it yet Maloney’s side put in a professional and composed performance. On paper, Dick Campbell’s tough-tackling and organised Championship table-toppers should have presented the toughest opposition Hibs could face but Maloney’s men were able to breeze past them after suffering an early scare.

Victory over part-time opposition – even against a team as impressive as Arbroath – won’t be enough to assuage supporters’ concerns, though. It is still early days, of course, but dramatic improvement is required if Hibs are to qualify for European football. Heck, they might not even make the top six if they maintain their current level of performance.

Let’s start at the back. The radar below shows how Hibs have been performing relative to every other Premiership side up until Maloney’s appointment. The bigger the radar, the better a team is performing in each metric. The red shape is Hibernian, while the blue one is the league average.

The Herald:

There isn’t all that much to shout about here. In a few areas, Hibs under Jack Ross were outperforming the league average – they conceded fewer shots than most and didn’t allow too many deep completions (passes made within 20 metres of the opponent’s goal) – but for the most part they were on a par, or marginally better or worse. Compare and contrast with the graphic below, which shows how Hibs have been getting on under Maloney.

The Herald:

There are a couple of areas for encouragement here. Hibs’ total xG conceded per game has reduced, while their xG per shot faced has also marginally improved. On Maloney’s watch, Hibs tend to allow the opposition to play a little bit more too – Hibs’ PPDA (opposition passes allowed per defensive action) has taken a downturn, their opponents’ passing accuracy has risen and they concede far more clear shots (chances where there is no defender between the striker and the goal) and shots from counter-attacks. The team are also pressing less aggressively, too.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that we have a small sample size for Maloney’s reign so far and it must be pointed out that two of his eight league matches have taken place at Parkhead and Ibrox. Still, though, it cannot be ignored that Hibs are regressing in a few defensive areas.

The defence is on the slide but it isn’t the biggest problem facing the Hibees. The radar below shows the capital club’s performance in attacking metrics prior to Maloney’s appointment.

The Herald:

Again, Hibs were generally doing pretty well in most regards before Ross was let go. Attacking set-pieces were an issue and the team’s average xG was fairly low for a side with European ambitions but they excelled when it came to shifting the ball about in the final third. They generally had a higher xG than their opponents, too. Take a look at how things have changed since Maloney took charge.

The Herald:

Ooft. It is no understatement to suggest that Maloney’s Hibs are the least effective attacking outfit in the league. That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched them recently – their performances have been characterised by a general malaise in possession and a meandering approach to attacking – but still, the scale of the decline should seriously worry Hibernian supporters.

Their xG differential (Hibs’ xG minus their opponents’ xG) is now negative, suggesting that Hibs are creating fewer quality chances than the opposition. And that’s the highlight – in every other metric in the radar above, Maloney’s men are performing significantly below the league average.

This toothlessness in the final third is the biggest problem facing Maloney at present. The three goals scored against Arbroath at the weekend offer some sign of improvement here but the truth is that Hibs’ current attacking output has more in common with a team scrapping for top-flight survival than one with ambitions of finishing in the top four.