Saturday, November 12, 2016

Five thoughts from Wembley

It wasn't a bad performance
If we were to look at this as a one-off game, or if Scotland had come into this with six points already on the board, then I think most of us would have been fairly satisfied.  Whilst it would be a stretch to say that the Scots played well, their attitude was excellent and they gave everything, at least until the third goal.  Had this been Strachan's first game in charge, we might even have been filled with optimism.

But context is everything.  This was another disappointing result in a long run of disappointing results (Malta and Gibraltar excepted).  And the fact that a mediocre England ran out such impressive winners is hard to stomach.  This won't be remembered as a glorious failure.  It was just a failure.

Celtic trio were a huge disappointment
There was definitely an air of "to hell with it" about Strachan's team selection, particularly the decision to play Leigh Griffiths up front.  Left on the bench whilst in the form of his life last season, the wee man got the nod at a time when he is starting only sporadically for Celtic, in a game where we actually would have benefitted from having a more physical striker who could hold up the ball.  Griffiths buzzed around energetically, but got very little change out of Gary Cahill and John Stones and selfishly chose to shoot from distance when he should have played in Robert Snodgrass for a great chance.

Griffiths' Celtic teammates didn't set the heather alight either.  Craig Gordon was faultless for the goals, but James Forrest offered little on the left flank, backing up general opinion that he should never be played on the left flank.  Scott Brown snapped at some heels but that was about it.  There was nothing to suggest we couldn't have got a better shift out of James McArthur.  Brown's apparently one-off return smacked of ego, a player who wanted to tell his grandkids he'd played at Wembley in a World Cup qualifier. We would probably have been better off without him.

Lack of defensive organization is all on the coaches
All six of the goals conceded against Slovakia and England were the result of crosses - pretty damning when Scotland's centre-backs seem to be largely picked on their heading ability.  Grant Hanley has twenty-seven caps.  Just try and digest that for a moment.

Christophe Berra was no better than predecessor Russell Martin, but there's a case for absolving the central defenders of some blame.  The team simply aren't organized enough to prevent the crosses nor deal with them when they arrive.  The blame for that has to go on the coaching staff.

Strachan's early success as Scotland boss came with a very pragmatic approach; two defensive-minded midfielders sitting in front of the back four to protect them (one of which was usually Charlie Mulgrew) and the use of pacey players like Ikechi Anya to play on the break.  The metamorphosis into a side which tries to keep the ball and adopt a proactive approach has been a disaster.  Playing such an attacking side at Wembley was such a crazy idea that it might just work.  Of course, in the real world, it was never going to.

Will Strachan resign, or must he be sacked?
With several months before the next match, now is the opportune time to change coach.  Strachan must go.  The question is whether he will do the honourable thing and quit, like he did at Southampton, Celtic and Middlesbrough, or he ends up on gardening leave sucking the SFA coffers dry like his predecessor did.

Goodness knows who would replace him.  One decent candidate, Paul Lambert (I use the word 'decent' loosely) was available after the Slovakia game but has since been employed by Wolves.  Alex McLeish appears to be the bookies' favourite; do we really need to go backwards to go forwards?  David Moyes is an enticing prospect, if he was to be dismissed by Sunderland.  I'd love the SFA to think outside the box though.  Could we throw money at Ian Cathro or Marcelo Bielsa?  If only...

Scottish football needs big change more than ever
Decades of poor planning are coming home to roost for Scottish football, with the biggest issue being the lack of quality players available.  In six and a half years, Stewart Regan has overseen numerous failures at first team and under-21 level; he has also completely failed to change Scottish football for the better in any way.  He can't even keep a Performance Director for more than five minutes.  And he has now twice given an international manager a new contract even though it was clear he was a lame duck.

When it comes to youth academies and facilities - unarguably in need of an enormous revamp - Regan claims he is hamstrung by the attitudes of the clubs.  Well, if he's incapable of eliciting change, then someone else needs to have a go.

Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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