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Twelfth Man Crossover - Opinion on the Scotland Squad

We're delighted to welcome Glen Schreuder to the site. Glen is a contributor to The Twelfth Man, a platform whose mission is to 'become the home of fan media in Scotland'. They're doing this by partnering with fan media bloggers, podcasters and content creators up and down the pyramid. Glen kindly shared the following article with his opinions on the Scotland squad announced yesterday.

As Steve Clarke announced his latest squad for next month's Nation League games, it is on the backdrop of COVID and empty stadiums. The Tartan Army footsoldiers will be replaced by cardboard cut-outs in the north stand and flags behind both goals. There will be no Hampden Roar, instead the TA will be tuned in on to their TVs. Here I attempt to dissect the squad - let me know your thoughts - as the best thing about football is everyone has an opinion!

Scotland squads are always hot topics of debate, and this one proves no different. Lyndon Dykes, the former Livi man born on the Gold Coast, has opted to represent the country of his parents rather than the one of his birth. He is picked up top alongside Oli McBurnie, Lawerence Shankland and Oliver Burke.

Shankland has struggled with injury since the opening day, and both McBurnie and Burke won’t have played since the end of their respective seasons, so could we see Dykes handed his first start against Israel? I was surprised to see Shankland named in the squad given his recent injury, but I think Clarke will want a look at everyone possible before the all-important play-off Semi Final.

McBurnie has often split opinion amongst the TA, and Burke scored the late winner in Steve Clarke’s first game in charge. Both have their qualities but have not shown them often enough for the national side. Johnny Russell and Lewis Morgan were both victims of the quarantine rules and as a result will sit this squad out. We have lacked a prominent striker who can get us goals on a regular basis in recent times - hopefully one of these guys can stand up and stake their claim.

As we move to midfield - we are blessed with a fair talent pool of midfielders - I am glad it is Steve Clarke's job to shoehorn them into the team not mine. The good thing though is we are allowed our opinion, and here is mine. The formation we go with will be key to who plays. Going for a 4-4-2 will see more players missing out, so it has been widely mentioned we could see a 3-5-2 or as my friend Shaun mentioned why not a diamond 3-6-1.

There is title winning experience in midfield and we need to get the blend correct. If we are going 4 in midfield i would play Christie and McGregor on the wing, with McGinn and Armstrong in the middle. In a 4-4-2 i would then move Armstrong off the striker and have McTominay sitting. I am sure McTominay will have learnt and developed recently plying his trade alongside Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.

Armstrong had a profitable end of season with Southampton and hopefully he can continue that with Scotland. You could make a case for James Forrest of course. He scored a hat-trick against Israel in the last meeting between the sides. A player who often performs well for his club, I have felt often fails to transfer that onto the national stage.

Defence, this will probably be the biggest headache we have. We are lucky to be blessed with two world class left backs, but on the right-hand side we are lacking. We have to get our best players playing so i expect to see both Tierney and Robertson playing in the defence. Will Robertson be deployed as wingback if we go for a back three, or at left back with Tierney inside if a back four is preferred?

I feel sorry for Greg Taylor, but from what we have seen so far this season, he provides adequate cover in this area, unless he wants a gig at right back? What about in the centre, if Tierney is chosen at left side who do you play alongside? Scott McKenna went off ill on Sunday for Aberdeen and fitness may remain a doubt. Liam Cooper, who won promotion with Leeds, has looked steady on the international stage and gaining Premier League experience next term can only be an advantage for the national team. Declan Gallagher will also want to stake a claim.

Liam Palmer and Stephen O'Donnell will fight it out for the right back slot. The latter has worked his way back from injuries and got 90 minutes in the legs on Saturday and will want to kick on from there. One interesting suggestion that has arisen - Scott McTominay as a right sided defender in a back three? Some may say don't put squares into circles, but this would add good height into our defence, and he is certainly experienced enough to cope. It would be a bold shout though. In goals I’d expect Marshall to retain the number 1 jersey.

These games will be interesting for two reasons. Firstly, they will be behind closed doors, so what feel and tempo will they have to them. I thought the Nations League was a welcomed addition to the International Calendar ahead of friendlies. The only thing that lets it down is they are considered in the "Week of Football" and match days and kick off times are often not seen as convenient to many.

Secondly the games against Israel and the Czech Republic are the warm-up to the main event. The Play-Off semi against Israel. Clarke will i am sure be trying to work out his best team in these two games, so expect some tinkering, but i think this will give us some idea of how we will fair in the play off. Hampden might be empty but the optimism around the national team can start to build again.

Let’s hope we still feel optimistic about the national team after the trip to Prague.

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