Andy Walker: Scotland must improve ahead of play-off Euro 2020 play-off with Israel
The facts are these: Scotland are top of our Nations League group after the opening two games of the campaign ahead of the Czech Republic, Israel and Slovakia.
On a positive note, it means we are now unbeaten in five internationals.
But I honestly think I would struggle to speak to any Scotland fan who would come to the conclusion that after watching us play Israel and the Czech Republic in the last couple of games that we can look forward with any degree of confidence to our vital Euro 2020 play-off with Israel at Hampden Park next month.
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Watching Scotland play Israel at Hampden on Friday night was painful and the level of performance at the Andruv stadium in Olomouc against the Czech Republic left us scratching our heads.
Much has been made of the system, Steve Clarke choosing to go with three central defenders that allowed him to accommodate both Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson in the team.
In my view, it was certainly worth trying to see if Clarke could find the right blend but looking back at the shape of the team over both games and how we performed, it’s fair to say the system did not work.
Clarke again opted for three central defenders on Monday night against the Czech Republic with Liam Cooper on the left and Tierney on the bench. As expected, Robertson started again.
Like many others, my observation was that Scott McTominay struggled as a central defender, largely unaware of danger building up around him. McTominay certainly has all the attributes to be a central defender in time but it’s not often he plays there for Manchester United. I doubt he will get the chance to show the Old Trafford crowd what he is capable of in that position this season.
In my view, we did not have the balance or chemistry right in midfield. Granted, many of our players are still in their pre-season with the big kick-off to come this weekend.
But the greatest worry was the lack of chances created over the two games. In short, we were lucky. We had a goalkeeper in David Marshall in top form, forced into making too many saves and we were fortunate to get two soft penalties.
However, our only goal from open play in this double header was a real strikers notch.
Every Scot is now excited to see if Lyndon Dykes can maintain this promising start to his Scotland career, he really looked the part. Hard-working, elegant movement, good control and a desire to get into the box and on the end of crosses. But we did not feed him enough.
The idea that we were on a hiding to nothing against the Czech Republic does not wash. We should still expect to see a better team performance given the ludicrous circumstances surrounding the opposition.
The truth is that Scotland are capable of a much better level of performance.
All eyes now turn towards our Euro 2021 semi-final play-off against Israel, again at Hampden.
My gut feeling is that Clarke will revert to his favoured system of four at the back. If he does, Tierney is sure to miss out in favour of Scotland captain and Champions League winner Robertson. Arsenal’s Tierney is an exceptional player but if you have to choose one left-back for Scotland, Robertson gets the nod in my book.
In front of the four, Celtic’s Calum McGregor and Rangers Ryan Jack have the making of a good partnership against Andi Herzog’s side.
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