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A far-too-early attempt at predicting Scotland's Euros squad (take two)


hislopsoffsideagain

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 We already tried this in January, but it seems reasonable to update it after the recent international break. Not that there are many changes - the number of 'certainties' has gone up from twelve to sixteen, mind - but the emergence of Che Adams was the big talking point.


It will be interesting to see what strategy Clarke uses when putting together his twenty-three man squad. Many international coaches have in the past just picked two players for every position, but a more progressive plan would be to call up versatile players in order to free up squad positions for players - particularly attackers - that could offer different sorts of threats. Most likely the manager will stick with the core that has got him this far. The only outfield squad members not to even get off the bench in those three matches were Declan Gallagher, Andrew Considine and Greg Taylor.


So here's how I see the current state of play...


GOALKEEPERS

CERTAINTIES: David Marshall, Craig Gordon

PROBABLES: Jon McLaughlin

MAYBES:

LONG SHOTS: Liam Kelly, Scott Bain


Given there's little reason for Clarke to ditch McLaughlin as the third choice keeper - there isn't an exciting youth project to take along for the ride instead - I could have put him as a certainty as well, but where would be the fun in that? Marshall could be blamed for goals in both the Austria and Israel games and he seems to have lost his place in the Derby County team in the last few weeks, and so his position in the starting lineup is very much under threat from Gordon. It is depressing to think that Scotland's best goalkeeper is actually 39 year old Allan McGregor, who retired from international football two years ago.


FULL- BACKS

CERTAINTIES: Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Stephen O'Donnell

PROBABLES: Liam Palmer

MAYBES: Greg Taylor

LONG SHOTS: Paul McGinn


Aaron Hickey would have been an intriguing wild card option had he not wrecked his shoulder recently. Tierney is listed here but if Robertson is fit he will start as a left-sided centre-back; that could lead Clarke to pick Taylor as 'backup left-back' but personally I think that would be overkill. Right-wing back continues to be an area of weakness. Ryan Fraser started there against the Faroes but using him in that role against quality opposition would be more cavalier than we would expect from Clarke. Would James Forrest, who has played that role more often at club level, be an alternative? More likely the boss sticks with his beloved O'Donnell who rarely impresses but also rarely lets Scotland down. Palmer is likely to come along as the backup, though could be a casualty in order to fit in a more versatile player like Callum Paterson.


CENTRE-BACKS

CERTAINTIES: Grant Hanley, Scott McTominay

PROBABLES: Scott McKenna, Liam Cooper, Jack Hendry

MAYBES: Declan Gallagher

LONG SHOTS: Andrew Considine, Paul Hanlon, Ryan Porteous


This is the position I've reshuffled most since the last time I did this exercise. Gallagher has dropped all the way from 'certainty' to 'maybe'. He hasn't started a club game since the end of January and that's come at the worst possible time for his international aspirations. Clarke seems to like a powerful guy who's good in the air in the centre of his back three and Grant Hanley looks very much like the first choice in that role right now, with McKenna probably the second. Is it really necessary to take Gallagher as well? Tierney and Liam Cooper would sort out the left-sided role, which would leave team mascot-extraordinaire Considine on the sideline. Given he started two of the recent qualifiers, one would have to assume Hendry is very much in the equation, though he'd be a sub if McTominay plays in defence rather than midfield.


MIDFIELDERS

CERTAINTIES: John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Ryan Jack, Kenny McLean

PROBABLES: John Fleck

MAYBES: David Turnbull

LONG SHOTS: Billy Gilmour


Jack dropped out of the recent games because of injury, and Scotland seemed to particularly miss him against Israel. I would still expect him to start alongside McGregor and McGinn in midfield for the opening Euros game. McLean played well against the Faroes. Fleck's club form has improved considerably over the last few months and he is the closest we have to a direct replacement for McGregor. Turnbull is unlucky that this area is a relative strength for Scotland but a strong finish to the campaign could yet swing things in his favour.


ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS/WINGERS

CERTAINTIES: Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie, Ryan Fraser

PROBABLES: James Forrest

MAYBES:

LONG SHOTS: Ryan Gauld


If Forrest can get in half a dozen matches for Celtic between now and the end of the season then he's too good to leave out. The other three are sure picks, though it's still not clear how to get the best out of Armstrong in the current system. For all the plaudits Gauld is getting for his performances in Portugal, he's still not getting picked for his country.


FORWARDS

CERTAINTIES: Che Adams, Lyndon Dykes

PROBABLES: Oli McBurnie

MAYBES: Kevin Nisbet, Leigh Griffiths

LONG SHOTS: Oli Burke, Callum Paterson, Lawrence Shankland


Adams quickly showed that he is by some distance our most talented forward. Dykes is still the target man of choice, but he was better at doing the defensive work than providing a goal threat in the recent qualifiers. Clarke continues to show faith in McBurnie, but the Sheffield United man is utterly bereft of confidence. If I were the manager I would be thinking about which forwards I would want to have on my bench if I needed a goal late in the game; for that reason alone I think Griffiths should be picked but Nisbet seems to be ahead of him in the queue. Burke, Paterson and Shankland have work to do after missing out on the last squad.



Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. 

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