Strachan Has Scotland Purring Again!

SFA

When Gordon Strachan was announced as the new Scotland boss, the fifty-seven year old banged on about finding a system that suited his players and not force his squad into a style.

Well fast forward twenty-one months and you can totally understand why it was so important for Strachan to find that system. It helps everything, especially getting the most out of the players and have them proud to be Scottish again.

The fact that it can be easily changed from functionally sound to vibrant depending on the opposition, is a huge bonus.

Against Georgia, we played an attack minded 4-2-3-1 formation. Every player on the pitch knew their job and played their part in securing a 1-0 victory, our first in this European Championship qualifying campaign. The team worked hard, passed their way out of trouble and into promising positions. Unlike previous pools, this Scotland side didn’t panic when up against a defensive, stubborn outfit like Georgia.

The Scots started brightly, with the wings being exploited. The wing-backs would skip beyond the wingers and the forwards would come in and receive the ball.

Goalkeeper David Marshall didn’t have any real problems to deal with. When the Georgians attacked they usually failed to see the goal or get shots on target. It’s fantastic to think we also have Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon in reserve for this campaign.

It’s fair to say we could still do with more classy central defenders. That said, Russell Martin and Grant Hanley have built up an efficient partnership with a good understanding. They may not be sensational as individual defenders but both work well as a defensive unit. It will be interesting to see how they cope with Robert Lewandowski on Tuesday night. But lets all remember we’ve seen worse!

The full-backs often played more like Brazilians than Scots. Both Andrew Robertson and Alan Hutton bombed forward whenever possible and didn’t struggle with their defensive duties. Having a natural left-back has been brilliant for the ‘Tartan Army’. The Hull City man Robertson may only be twenty years old but he has the head of a veteran. His constant crosses in from the left had the Georgians flapping and that helped create the eventual winner. Hutton’s recall to the Aston Villa starting eleven has been fantastic for Scotland, its that kind of luck that can help make or break an international campaign!

The two holding midfielders did well in marshalling in front of the defence and getting the ball to the creative players. Scott Brown has matured into a fine international player and deserves the captains armband. He still makes the odd mistake but he’s usually the first to rectify them. Still needs to keep his discipline in check, especially with bigger games to come. James Morrison also worked hard in a slightly deeper role than he’s used too. Impressed by getting his head down and keeping the ball moving forward.

Ikechi Anya offers a valuable commodity, with his burning pace. Had a quieter game against the Georgians, but showed away in Germany that he can be an outlet that create problems for any opposition. For too many years now Scotland lacked real pace in attack or in the wings, Anya now gives us that. In the away ties against Ireland, Poland and Georgia that could be vital as Scotland build on counter attacks.

Shaun Maloney offered his team creativity. He always looked for space and seemed happy with the ball at his feet. A smart player who has plenty of competition for his role with players like Ryan Gauld, Charlie Adam and Barry Bannan ready to fill his shirt given the opportunity.

Number ten Steven Naismith worked his socks off as he has done ever since Strachan took over in 2013. Has started really well for Everton this season and is has becoming a huge asset for the Scottish national team too. Links up well with all those around him. It’s equally impressive that he’s managed to stop moaning every few minutes, it was a habit that often ruined his game. He should have scored before being subbed but perhaps he’s saving it for midweek.

Striker Steven Fletcher did well without too many clear cut chances. Ran around and won a few flick-ons. Still not fully confident after his recent lull in form at club level but at least he’s working hard. Definitely our most complete forward who can cause defences trouble with his smart runs and his bullying nature.

It was unimaginable a few years back to think that even a 90% fit Darren Fletcher would sit on the bench during an international match. Yet Scotland are now strong in most positions and don’t need to rely on the Manchester United man. Also don’t forget we had ¬£7m James McArthur sitting alongside him. The strength in-depth is fantastic compared to most squads in recent eras.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all rosy for Scotland. They allowed Georgia a chance to get back into the game by giving them too much possession in the final twenty minutes. The Scots hung on but really should have killed the game off during the second half. We also have a tough group with Ireland and Poland capable of killing off our hopes. Ireland have won two out of two with an easy win over Gibraltar and a fine away victory over Georgia. Poland also thumped minnows Gibraltar before an excellent 2-0 win over world champs Germany.

Scotland gave a good account of themselves in Germany before losing 2-1 in Dortmund. The narrow win at Ibrox over Georgia was expected. So Tuesday’s fixture in Warsaw will be a fine opportunity to see just how well Scotland have progressed under Strachan. The Polish side will be¬†confident after the result over rivals Germany and are an impressive outfit who are strong, hard to breakdown and have a world-class striker in Lewandowski.

The fact that Scotland will travel over to Poland and still fancy their chances of getting something out of the game, shows just what Strachan has done. He’s allowed the supporters the chance to believe again and Scotland are playing with a style that we can be proud of, we won’t be playing a 4-6-0 formation this campaign.

We may not have that world-class match winner yet, but once again Scotland play to their strengths and as a solid team!

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