Squad Analysis - Russia (H) & Belgium (H) - Euro 2020
Steve Clarke today (Tuesday 27 August) unveiled his squad for Scotland's crucial upcoming home double header in Euro 2020 qualifying against Russia (Friday 6 September) and Belgium (Monday 9 September).
After 4 games in the group, Scotland sit 3pts behind Russia and 6 behind the Belgians, who sit atop the group. A loss against Russia would be a potentially critical blow to Scotland's chances of qualifying from the group, with attention shifting entirely to the Nations League Playoff secured by Steve Clarke's predecessor, Alex McLeish.
Let's take a closer look at the 24 men Steve Clarke has chosen for the task. The most noteworthy omission to the side is Celtic's Leigh Griffiths, with the Head Coach revealing that he wants to see Griffiths re-establish himself fully into the Celtic team after his recent career break before considering him for Scotland.
Portsmouth's Craig MacGillivray is perhaps a surprise inclusion in the squad, having flown under the radar down south. The 26 year old stopper from Perthshire has played his entire career in England. He joined Portsmouth in the summer of 2018 and has been ever-present since - keeping 19 clean sheets in 61 appearances for the south coast club.
Elsewhere, David Marshall will expect to retain the gloves after being given the nod in Steve Clarke's opening matches while Jon McLaughlin makes up the trio.
Leeds United Captain Liam Cooper could be in line for his first Scotland cap. He was ever-present for Marcelo Bielsa's side when fit last season, racking up 36 league appearances.
Grant Hanley returns to the side after playing every minute of Norwich's return to the English Premier League. Grant had the dubious honour of scoring the opening goal of the EPL season, unfortunately it was into his own net at Anfield.
Robert Snodgrass returns to the Scotland side. Last season he experienced a renaissance at West Ham under Manuel Pellegrini and has continued to see minutes this season.
Players from Scotland's representatives in Europe have already seen a lot of football with many impressing - Ryan Christie has 8 goals and 3 assists in 10 appearances this season while Ryan Jack's excellent form for Rangers has been rewarded with a call-up.
Scott McTominay's promising run of form from last season has continued, playing every game for Manchester United this season. Elsewhere in the EPL, John McGinn has taken to the league well, scoring Aston Villa's first goal back in the league away to Spurs.
James Forrest is another player who has already played a lot of football and comes into the Scotland side in excellent form. A tally of 5 goals and 3 assists from 9 appearances is an impressive return.
Ryan Fraser hasn't quite matched his form of last season yet while Oliver McBurnie already has his first EPL goal for Sheffield United.
Johnny Russell continues to win friends and influence people in the USA, on and off the pitch... https://twitter.com/SportingKC/status/1160358019743539200
The Tartan Scarf Age v League Minutes Matrix
Here, we look at the age profile of the squad v the % of league minutes each has played so far this season. Admittedly, it's very early in the season to be considering this kind of analysis, with some players returning from injury and others being shielded from league action to priorities European qualifiers.
It's reassuring to see so many players in their peak years (24 - 30) playing 50%+ of the league minutes for their club. This should help ensure they come to the Scotland setup in good form ready to perform.
McTominay, McGinn, Robertson, Fraser and Hanley all playing close to 100% of league minutes in the English Premier League bodes well for Scotland.
It would certainly be good to see Stuart Armstrong and Kenny McLean getting more minutes before the next international break in October.