A few months ago, at a Foundation of Hearts plot ceremony at Tynecastle Park, after a couple of entertaining speeches, supporters were led out to the side of the pitch to search for the area where their plot was located.

While not allowed on the pitch that day, the 100-odd attendees would likely have struggled to cover more grass than the midfield three of  Beni Baningime, Cammy Devlin and Calem Nieuwenhof if they were let loose on the turf to frantically search for their plot.

The central midfield at Tynecastle Park doesn’t always get the plaudits it deserves. In fact, it is this area of the park that most drastically divides the Gorgie faithful, but I firmly believe Hearts have one of the strongest bases to the centre of midfield in many years.

READ MORE: The Hearts right-back role, a short-term solution and possible transfer priority

So, what do the trio contribute on the park?

First and foremost, they pride themselves on what they do off the ball. The dirty work goes a long way to endear the trio to the Jambos, and the dirty work is what they do best. Devlin sits second highest when it comes to both interceptions and successful defensive duels, with Baningime also featuring highly. Nieuwenhof ranks a bit lower than average which is understandable, given the few months he took earlier in the season to adapt to the new league.

We see a similar pattern when looking at defensive duels, with all three sitting above average for the number of duels that they are involved in. Baningime holds the number one spot in the league for the number of successful duels won, bettering his opponent over 76 per cent of the time, while Devlin also ranks highly. Even though Nieuwenhof wins around 55 per cent of his duels, this leaves him below average on this metric which again can be credited to adapting to the speed of the league.

Without a specific 'lost balls' metric, you have to be creative with how good a player is at retaining the ball. The trio have a passing accuracy that ranks from 82 per cent for Nieuwenhof to 90 per cent for Baningime, with Devlin placing between the two. These are highly impressive numbers, and the variation of the three players' accuracy most likely comes from the type of passes that are played, which we will examine shortly. Devlin and Baningime also both rank highly for their successful dribbles, showing their impressive ability to retain the ball.

When it comes to types of passes played, Devlin plays almost as many forward passes per 90 as the other two combined and ranks highly in comparison to all other central midfielders in the Premiership. Not only does he play an abundance of forward passes, but he does it with a high level of accuracy. These balls might not be World Cup-style passes but are at least attempts to get the ball forward on the pitch, something that has perhaps been lacking at times this campaign.

A pass is classed as progressive if the receiving touch is at least 30 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are within a team’s own half; at least 15 metres closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are in different halves; or at least 10 metres closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are in the opponent’s half.

READ MORE: Jorge Grant's Hearts progress: The inside track on Hearts nearly man

While a forward pass could take the team a metre further up the park, a progressive pass shows a pass that truly moves the team forward.

All three players are accurate with their progressive passes but it is Devlin who plays the highest number of progressive passes, something which he doesn’t get enough credit for.

Lastly, we look at progressive runs. Whilst there isn’t a metric for successful progressive runs, we can compare them to successful dribbles. A progressive run uses the same distances as mentioned with progressive passes, with the only difference being the ball is dribbled instead of being passed. Devlin isn’t known for his willingness to drive forward with the ball, so it’s no surprise that Baningime and Nieuwenhof rank better in this metric, and aren’t too shabby in comparison with the rest of the league.

What is missing?

As can seen on the above graphs, at least one player excels in each of the metrics, but what are the team missing? The answer is a cutting edge in the final third, and that’s exactly the type of player that is needed to complement these three.

Nieuwenhof ranks highest when it comes to shot assists (passes in which the receiver takes a shot) and passes to the penalty area. This number of higher-risk and lower-percentage passes correlate to the Aussie's lower passing accuracy.

We see from this graph that several players far exceed the Hearts players' numbers. Two of those will be arriving at the club in the summer: Yan Dhanda and Blair Spittal. The recruitment makes perfect sense with the return of McKay also going a long way to plug help in that aspect.

There’s been something missing since the days of Paul Hartley – a goal-scoring midfielder. With neither Baningime or Devlin contributing a goal or assist in the league this year, it is left to other areas of the park to contribute goals. Nieuwenhof has started to produce further up the park adding goals and assists to his game in recent times. From watching him in Australia, this is something that will become more common as he grows into the Scottish game.

Again, the two incoming midfielders improve that side of things.

The question is though, is a goal-contributing central midfielder required? A player like this would certainly complete the midfield.

READ MORE: Why Hearts agreed Blair Spittal deal: Versatility, technique, intelligence

On the contrary, can Hearts fans accept that the role of the central midfielders at Tynecastle isn’t to produce further up the pitch, but instead to be solid, hard-working, and contribute off the ball and in their own half? Depending on the formation, this could allow two wing-backs more freedom to get up the park and would take a lot of the defensive duties away from the attacking players. With less pressure to get back and defend, knowing the strong midfield and defence is providing a solid foundation, the attacking players should be able to thrive in the final third.

Whether it’s a central midfielder to complement what Steven Naismith already has at his disposal, or a more attacking player to add to what the team already have in the final third, Hearts are only one player away from having the complete midfield.