Picking Scotland’s Euro 2020 Squad
After 22 years, it finally happened, Scotland have qualified for a major tournament.
It has been a frustrating time to be a fan of the Scottish national team. Over the years, the side has picked up a habit of doing very well in qualifying for a major tournament before bottling it at the last minute.
It became a curse much like England in penalty shootouts – it just kept happening. But also, like England in penalty shootouts, the curse had to end at some point.
After the heroics in Belgrade last week, many Scots will now turn their attention to the Euros next year, with England, Croatia, and the Czech Republic looming ahead in the groups.
Many Scottish players will now be vying for a place in Steve Clarke’s 23-man squad. We’ve all seen early predictions for Gareth Southgate’s England squad, so let’s attempt to create a Scotland squad.
Assuming all players are fit, this is who I would pick for the Scotland side for next June:
- David Marshall
Scotland’s hero in the penalty shootout. Unless his form at Derby drops, his heroics in Belgrade will have guaranteed him the number 1 spot in the team.
12. Jon McLaughlin
His performances so far this season for Rangers should already guarantee his place in the squad.
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He was integral in helping Rangers to 7 consecutive clean sheets at the start of the season. While Allan McGregor was out injured for a few weeks, Joe McLaughlin kept up his form to keep the Rangers legend out of the side for some time.
23. Robbie McCrorie
In recent games, Craig Gordon has been picked as the third goalkeeper in the squad. However, I think that while helping Scotland achieve this historic feat is important, Steve Clarke needs to keep the future in mind.
Robbie McCrorie has pulled out some impressive performances for Livingston both this season and last in the Scottish Premiership. He’s often considered the future number 1 for parent club Rangers.
A place in the Euro 2020 squad will help McCrorie develop further and may kickstart his career for the national side.
2. Stephen O’Donnell
The Motherwell right-back seems to have secured the starting right-back role for the national side. Steve Clarke knows how to play him to his strengths given their history at Kilmarnock.
The 3-5-2 formation will give O’Donnell a licence to bomb down the right wing. All he has to do at the Euro’s is ensure he isn’t caught out on a counter attack, as he’ll have to contend with players such as Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, and Borna Barasic on the opposition’s left-hand-side.
3. Andrew Robertson (C)
An obvious pick. Scotland’s captain, and often regarded by many as the best left-back in the world currently.
5. Declan Gallagher
O’Donnell’s Motherwell teammate and captain has impressed in the middle of defence. So much so, that he reportedly has a few Premier League admirers ahead of the January transfer window.
His aerial presence helped keep Aleksander Mitrovic at bay in Belgrade. Many will hope he can pull similar performances to keep out Harry Kane.
6. Kieran Tierney
The Arsenal defender is now comfortable playing in a left-sided centre back position after being deployed there under Mikel Arteta. He no longer needs to compete with Robertson for a starting left back spot.
15. Scott McKenna
The Nottingham Forest man is cut from a similar cloth to Declan Gallagher – a physical centre back with a top-quality aerial presence. He will likely start on the bench but will provide more than adequate cover at the back.
16. Liam Cooper
The Leeds captain will also bring some Premier League experience to the team. His strong passing ability and aerial presence will give Steve Clarke another valuable option at the back.
20. Ross McCrorie
This one may surprise some. The twin brother of goalkeeper Robbie, Ross McCrorie has put in some exceptional displays for Aberdeen and the Scotland U21’s this season.
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While naturally a centre-back, he can also be used at right-back and in the centre of midfield. His versatility could come in handy if injuries pick up or a change in formation is needed.
He has yet to pick up an official cap for the senior side, but I believe his first cap will come very soon.
4. Scott McTominay
Manchester United’s holding midfielder, Scott McTominay has usually been deployed in the middle of defence under Steve Clarke this year.
There does seem to be method to the madness though – McTominay has proved useful to help play the ball out from the back and adds height and strength to aerial duels.
He can also push up to midfield when Scotland need to adapt and overwhelm the opposition’s midfield. However, I still have doubts over his defensive abilities, considering the shocker he had against Israel on Wednesday.
I would prefer it if he were deployed in midfield and alternated with Jack and McGregor in the starting 11.
7. John McGinn
McGinn’s Box-to-Box style of play works both ways for Scotland. While valuable at winning the ball in the middle of the park, the Aston Villa man will be the more attacking threat in Scotland’s midfield trio.
That could be running at the defence, shooting on sight, or finding openings to create goalscoring opportunities from.
8. Ryan Jack
Ryan Jack is the unsung hero in the current Scotland setup – he often goes unnoticed, but his workmanship can be valuable to any side he is a part of.
For both Rangers and Scotland, he has proved to be vital in winning possession in the middle of the park and then quickly distributing the ball to the wings for a counterattack.
He will likely be the anchor for the Scotland midfield to win balls for McGinn and McGregor to take upfield.
10. Callum McGregor
Celtic midfielder McGregor’s strengths in the side lie in his pass accuracy, defensive tracking, and dribbles up the middle of the park. His playmaker style will compliment McGinn’s Box-to-Box style and Jack’s deeper ball-winning role.
14. Kenny McLean
The penalty hero that got Scotland to Belgrade. The Norwich man can be inconsistent but can provide good creative cover to McGinn and McGregor.
17. Stuart Armstrong
The Southampton midfielder can provide an attacking threat through the middle or on the left-hand side. His experience in the Premier League will also prove to be helpful against teams with superior midfields such as England and Croatia.
19. Lewis Ferguson
Another outside shout for the team, young Lewis is having a breakout season at Aberdeen this season.
The Dons midfielder, son of former Rangers midfielder Derek Ferguson and nephew of former Gers and Scotland captain Barry, is currently the top goalscorer in the Scottish Premiership.
If he can continue his club form, he could easily be challenging for a spot in the squad for next June.
22. Billy Gilmour
This would be the perfect opportunity to give the bright Chelsea youngster some experience in the senior squad. He has already impressed for the Blues in the Premier League, having broken into the senior squad at just 18.
He is no doubt a future star for Scotland and this would be the perfect way to help him gain national team experience for the future.
9. Lyndon Dykes
The “kilted kangaroo” – Dykes’ no-nonsense physical style has proved to be a breath of fresh air for the national side. The QPR hitman will start up top for Scotland, and could prove to be a goal threat if he has enough balls played to him.
11. Ryan Christie
The Celtic maestro has become Scotland’s creative talisman up front in recent games – no doubt he’ll be starting.
13. Callum Paterson
The Sheffield Wednesday man is Scotland’s Swiss army knife. He can be deployed as a striker as he has done at club level but can also be used in midfield or at right back, his original position at Hearts.
18. Lawrence Shankland
I have high hopes for the Dundee United striker. His goalscoring record since 2017 has been nothing short of remarkable at club level. He’s scored 50 goals in 61 games for Ayr United and 26 in 35 for the Tangerines.
If he can continue this form for his club for the rest of the season, I could see him being called up as Lyndon Dykes’ understudy for the Euros.
21. Ryan Fraser
While a winger by trade, I can see Fraser being deployed at Right Wing Back in Scotland’s current 5-3-2 formation. His high assist tallies in the Premier League will provide another useful attacking option on the right wing.
However, if I were in charge, I would play a 4-3-3 and deploy Fraser in the right-hand side of Lyndon Dykes, with Ryan Christie on the opposite side.
Just missed out
A few key players miss out on this side, in particular Leigh Griffiths, Oli McBurnie, and James Forrest. These players have been left out for a number of reasons, including inconsistent form, lack of club playing time, and some off-the-field issues.
Formation and Line-up
Steve Clarke usually plays a 5-3-2/3-5-2 formation with 2 wing backs. I would prefer that they play a 4-3-3 style however to allow for some more flexibility.
Scotland are not going to be the stronger side in any of their group games; they will need to adapt to other teams as opposed to forcing their opponents to adapt to them. A 4-3-3 would allow for this flexibility as it allows the wingers to drop back defensively or move into the box to allow the full backs to push up the wings. It’s a fluid style that works for teams such as Liverpool, Manchester City, and Rangers.
In light of this, my preferred starting 11 will be different to Steve Clarke. Here’s what I’d like to see against who I’d expect Steve Clarke to start: