The January transfer window is now officially open and the good news for Heart of Midlothian is that the squad doesn't need any major surgery.

Steven Naismith's men have got themselves into a good position in the Premiership, sitting third going into the final match, away to bottom-place Livingston, prior to the winter break.

It is, however, still set to be an interesting month at Tynecastle Park. We look at the different talking points and what Hearts fans can expect:

READ MORE: How recruitment works at Hearts - transfer process, missed targets, scouting markets

Transfer priority

The club have been open with regards to the priority for the next month: Right-back. Head coach Steven Naismith has gone on record about the need to recruit in the area.

 "I wouldn't expect us to be doing loads," he said recently. "I think the clear area that we need to improve is right-back. We lost Odel [Offiah] going back to Brighton and Natty Atkinson has had an injury. We've really struggled in that area so that is the obvious one."

Naismith spoke to Hearts Standard about the change in shape following the defeat to Celtic and how the lack of options at right-back played a big role in it with Atkinson out injured.

The Aussie full-back won't likely be back until February due to his involvement with Australia at the Asian Cup which adds even more importance to bringing in a player in that position. The winter break ensures it isn't as pressing as it could have been.

Any other areas?

"We'll look around for if there are areas that we can improve the squad," Naismith said.

Supporters will, of course, have their own opinions about where the club need to strengthen. Some fans may point to another option in the centre of the pitch. Cammy Devlin is out injured, while Beni Baningime takes on a lot of responsibility. The likes of Calem Nieuwnehof, Jorge Grant and Aidan Denholm have had their moments. There is always a desire amongst the club's fanbase to see a Colin Cameron or Paul Hartley type in there. Those profiles of players are not as popular as they once were and therefore difficult to source.

Elsewhere, supporters will also likely want reinforcements in attack. Lawrence Shankland continues to carry the team in the final third. Barrie McKay and Liam Boyce have been out with injury this season. Alex Lowry, Kyosuke Tagawa and Kenneth Vargas have shown glimpses rather than consistency to varying degrees. Yutaro Oda and Alan Forrest have played different roles with the latter more impactful than the former. Between those seven, however, they have mustered 10 goals to Shankland's 17.

If an opportunity presents itself to the club they would not doubt take it. The preference in January is usually for someone who could hit the ground running. As always there will be a view to possible options for the future in terms of doing a deal for a player who could be useful next season and beyond.

READ MORE: Hearts set to be without six first-team stars for Livingston clash - Beni update

Lawrence Shankland

The one player Hearts won't want to lose. 

There has been plenty of noise around Shankland due to his goal-scoring exploits. When he was back amongst the goals the links to Rangers were easy to predict. Those have persisted over the last six weeks or longer. It is somewhat understandable, with their expensive striker signings from the summer struggling as pundits and fans point to this excellent striker on the club's doorstep.

His value to Hearts, however, likely outstrips what teams would be willing to pay for a player who will be 29 early next season, even one as good as Shankland.

The likelihood of Rangers coming in for the Hearts captain seemed to all but end with the loan signing of Fabio Silva. 

Hearts are relaxed with the situation, as Naismith said just before Christmas, but will sit down with Shankland or his representatives and offer a contract extension to the deal which runs out in 18 months. Neil McCann, the former Hearts star, spoke on Sportscene about him becoming the club's highest-paid player. With what he has produced it would only be deserving.


As well as Shankland, Hearts will be looking to secure the future of players on expiring deals. 

Craig Gordon, Michael McGovern, Craig Halkett, Beni Baningime, Andy Halliday, Alan Forrest and Peter Haring are the first-team stars whose contracts expire at the end of the season. Kenneth Vargas is on loan but Hearts do have an option to make that permanent.

Naismith told the Evening News recently that he wanted to keep Gordon at the club. Hearts have also offered deals to Halkett and Baningime. Forrest is another who the club will likely want to keep hold of.

READ MORE: Hearts poor but officials worse - VAR makes mistakes less forgivable

Trimming the squad

As things stand, the first-team squad stands at 25, excluding Odel Offiah. If you include Finlay Pollock, who returned to the bench for the first time in nearly a year on Saturday, and Macaulay Tait it takes it to 27. 

Steven Naismith's preference is 22-23 first-team players with four to six younger players who supplement the squad. Therefore the current squad is too big. It is something sporting director Joe Savage mentioned at the AGM, there could be some trimming to allow more room for the younger players who are ready to make the step up and be involved regularly.

Although it is a balancing act with injuries and now Kye Rowles and Nathaniel Atkinson at the Asian Cup.

However, like with potential arrivals, if an opportunity presents itself to move on individuals who are keen on game time it will likely be taken.

Around the league

January is the time when clubs can start thinking about approaching players in the final six months of their contract regarding a pre-contract agreement. Looking around the Scottish Premiership, in this writer's opinion, there is not an abundance of options that would be attractive to Hearts. 

Connor Barron is the standout. A huge midfield talent, he has been underused by Barry Robson in the league. And that is putting it lightly. He demonstrated his quality in Europe. He is versatile and all-action. A great work rate and a very assured presence on the ball. 

Others that have caught the eye over the last two or three seasons: Yan Dhanda, Ross County's attacking midfielder. St Mirren duo Keanu Baccus and Ryan Strain but neither would be much of an upgrade, or an upgrade at all, on Cammy Devlin and Nathaniel Atkinson. Then there is also potentially Livingston's Bruce Anderson and Joel Nouble. Two guys who have talent for the Scottish Premiership but are not enjoying good campaigns. Both would be supplementary rather than instantly improving the team.