Scotland’s World Cup qualifying tilt stumbled at the first real hurdle, then fell face first at the second. Here are three reasons why:
Strachan has failed to accommodate players in form
After the Denmark friendly in March Strachan said:
“At this moment the way we play is suited for the group of players we have had in the last couple of years. If there are great players that come in, then it might be like Sweden – they play with two up front because they have [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and he needs someone round about him. Fine, I will do that ”
First thought that springs to mind is if Ibrahimovic “needs someone round about him” up front then Chris Martin surely needs at least one partner, if not 5. But we played with one up in both games.
Strachan’s insistence that Griffiths can’t play competently as a lone front man role leaves the Celtic striker likely benched as long as the status quo remains. We are not in a position to leave a striker scoring 40 goals in a season and playing Champions League football sitting on the bench chewing gum till his jaw hurts. So why not play two strikers from the start?
We are not in a position to leave a striker scoring 40 goals in a season and playing Champions League football chewing gum till his jaw hurts at the back of the dugout however. So why not play two strikers from the start?
Mak and Hamsik highlighted our defensive disarray
As Marik Hamsik – an internationally renowned player and the fulcrum of an otherwise average Slovakia side – strolled into the box unopposed the lack of defensive organisation from Scotland was painfully revealed for all to see.
Rather than stand tall as Slovakia ramped up the second half pressure Grant Hanley and Russell Martin folded like a pack of cards. Calum Paterson was also left chasing shadows at right back as the home side overloaded his side of the pitch, taking advantage of some atrocious tracking back by Scotland’s wingers on the night.
Maybe a safety in numbers approach with a back five is the way to go. Wales have shown a 3-5-2 can work in international football and with our squad boasting good offensive full backs in the likes of Tierney and Robertson it could work for us too.
The caveat is the severe lack of quality in the centre-half position. We have struggled to pair two solid defenders as long as I can remember, never mind three.
Lack of club connections leaving Scotland lonely
Scotland’s starting line-up on Tuesday night featured 11 players from 9 different clubs, and the two paired at club level (Hanley & Ritchie and Bannan & Fletcher) have only played together for a matter of weeks.
It’s a sign of the times in Scottish football that no SPFL club had more than one player in the starting 11. Clubs have been left hamstrung by the talent drain that has seen a mass exodus of players heading south.
It may play a small part in the grand scheme of things but club teammates can bring a depth of understanding that is hard to achieve at international level. Intuitive partnerships can form at clubs and styles of play perfected that can then break to the surface and benefit their nation.
Spain squeezed the best out of Barcelona, Germany has benefited greatly from the Bayern production line, and of late England have replicated Spurs’ spine and playing style.
The Scottish game has to find a way of getting the most out of its big clubs.