From one end of the table to the other in just a few short days, Hibs are on their way to Livingston this Saturday.

It's a very different assignment to the midweek visit to Celtic, one that inflicted only a second Premiership defeat on Nick Montgomery. The hectic December schedule leaves little time to tend to wounds, however, with the manager and his players back on the road to face the Premiership's bottom side.

It's been a painful season thus far for the Lions, albeit one of only two league wins came at Easter Road back in August. Much has changed since that grim afternoon for the Hibees, though, and they will arrive at the Tony Macaroni Arena expecting nothing less than three points.


It probably had to happen at some point, but for the first time in several years, Livingston's on-pitch outcomes are reflecting their status as the club with the league's smallest budget. They have punched consistently above their weight under the stewardship of David Martindale, who not only manages the team, but seemingly fills every role the club requires of him.

Languishing at the bottom of the pile with only 10 points from 14 matches, Livi have not yet been cut adrift into no man's land, but they do require a rapid turnaround in fortunes to stay in touch with those above them. Martindale's side have lost six consecutively in the league, and have failed to score in their last five outings.

A number of fixtures have been lost by the odd goal, suggesting Livi remain competitive every time they step on the pitch. But while they aren't uncontrollably hemorrhaging goals, they haven't really been threatening to win these games either.

Where is it going wrong?

No goals in five speaks for itself, and that headline statistic is backed up by a rather sombre-looking attacking radar, courtesy of our partners at StatsBomb. The general rule with these radars is you want to see as much sprawling colour as possible...

There's an awful lot of white space up there, and it's telling of a team struggling badly to register any attacking numbers. Even the box cross percentage doesn't mean much in isolation, as it's not much use attempting lots of crosses if defenders are easily sending them back on their way.

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The primary issue, clearly, is a distinct lack of goal threat. Their xG has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks, and has not risen above 1 since they lost to Kilmarnock on October 21. It has plummeted as low as 0.11, 0.15 and 0.22 at various points this term, highly indicative of a team not functioning going forward.

A feature of Martindale's Livingston throughout his tenure has been that to compliment the refined organisation and high workrate, they always managed to carry a threat. Joel Nouble finished top goalscorer with seven last season, but seems to have lost his spark this term, and it's been to the clear detriment of the team. He has, however, been deployed in a modified right-wing back role of late, and while it may be borne of necessity, it's not one he seems particularly well suited to.

Last time out

In their 3-2 win at Easter Road early in the campaign, and before Montgomery's arrival, they were quick and ruthless in transition. Lee Johnson had deployed lesser-seen centre-back Riley Harbottle at right-back, and Livingston repeatedly targeted him down that side. Nouble would drop into pockets on the inside left to look for a pass, or they would go long towards that side and look to pick up second balls.

Hibs have improved markedly since that day, and you wouldn't expect to see anything like the defensive mess they were in August. The freeze frame below captures their messy, chaotic shape from a simple punt up towards Nouble. He's able to bring the ball down with ease, and slide a pass for James Penrice to flash a low ball across goal.

The opener, a Jordan Obita own goal, is just as poor, with Martin Boyle switching off and failing to block a pass into Nouble. Allan Delferriere belatedly attempts to cover, but instead of showing Nouble inside where Hibs have more bodies, his body shape invites the forward towards the open space for a through pass. Again, Harbottle can't live with Penrice and his cross is turned in by Hibs' left-back.

That side of the pitch should be much more secure with a natural full-back in Lewis Miller, and Saturday's match, as a whole, will be another useful barometer of progress, given how simply Livingston exposed weakness and disorganisation in the Hibs ranks last time.

Going forward, Hibs are likely to face a similar low block as in the reverse fixture. The below was pretty much what they were met with every time they crossed the halfway line.

Livingston were happy to shepherd the ball out to Hibs' full-backs and close off space near the touchline, and would look to transition forward quickly if possession changed hands. It's a tactic have faced in several home matches of late, and they are likely to face something similar on Saturday.

Livi may opt to be more aggressive out-of-possession given it's their home game, but that could be of potential benefit to Hibs, for whom the low block has been a tricky obstacle at times this season.