Gordon Strachan hoping for result from ‘wide boys’
THE fascination with Gareth Bale this week has deflected from the fact that Scotland have a glut of creative wide players of their own from which to choose tomorrow night.
Conceivably, there are eight players from which manager Gordon Strachan could select his options on either flank for the visit of Wales, with Dundee United’s Gary Mackay-Steven being the latest talent to break into the national set-up and provide further competition.
Former Scotland winger Pat Nevin believes that it is the adaptability of those creative players that has led to so many being included, and those that can fill a number of roles will be more likely to get the nod.
“There’s a lot of perceived wide players,” said Nevin, “but it is a lot more subtle than that. The lads he’s picked are a lot more adaptable. It’s all about the system that Gordon wants to pick and having all these players gives him the option to change and adapt to the game.
“And it’s not just about having wide players, it’s about having creative players. Wingers are no longer just the stylish players, they are there to create and do so from different areas of the park.
“In British football we love to pigeonhole players. Take my career, for example. I never played as a winger until I turned professional and then it became ‘oh there’s a wee lad, stick him out wide’.
“Gareth Bale is a classic example: before this season every-body would have described him as a winger, but you certainly can’t call him that now. He attacks from different areas.”
It’s a squad selection that Nevin believes somewhat mirrors Strachan the player. The two played together at Scotland level; both were wingers, with Nevin progressing up the career ladder, ultimately winning 28 caps, and Strachan soon to enter the twilight of his career. However, the latter was never comfortable with the tag as ‘winger’, often describing himself as a right-sided midfielder who could do far more than hang out on the touch-line.
“What I knew of him, if he’d been asked to play the ‘No 10’ role then he’d have bitten your hand off to do it,” Nevin added. “He wasn’t a lightning-fast player but he was able to beat people with his skill, and if you have that it makes it a lot easier to play in a central area as well.
“He’s a positive player so his selection partially reflects that, but it isn’t as simple as that. Gordon knew the defensive side of the game very well. Those players will not be going out there completely gung-ho.”
The home support will not be expecting all-out attack against Chris Coleman’s side tomorrow evening but Strachan would do well to implement a greater emphasis in attack than his predecessor. A winning result, the first of the campaign, would be warmly welcomed but with qualification seemingly lost there will be a far greater examination on the style of play than the result.
Starting with the 4-6-0 debacle in Prague, there was an air of cynicism that followed team selections and the manner in which the Scotland starting XI was set out during Craig Levein’s reign. Any hope that the current campaign would bring about a change in attitude was quashed after the home draws with Serbia and Macedonia in the first two games, with Levein’s critics once again vocal about the manager’s perceived negativity. Adopting the philosophy of the previous incumbent would not win Strachan any friends in his first meeting with the vocal Hampden Park crowd.
Early indications from the new management set-up, with Mark McGhee and Motherwell manager Stuart McCall joining Strachan as assistants, are that they wish to approach the match with a positive mentality, with pre-match media speculation surrounding the possibility of a lethal front-pairing in Jordan Rhodes and Steven Fletcher.
This would mean a dumping of the 4-5-1 preferred by Levein in favour of a 4-4-2. However, the number of creative players in the squad leads Nevin to believe that the new coach may wish to ultimately work away from the classic British system.
“The players he has selected gives him ability to adapt to the game,” he added. “It gives him the option of going with the 4-2-3-1. Gary Mackay-Steven is a great example, he’s viewed as a winger but he has often played in the 4-2-3-1 at Dundee United.
“It gives greater flexibility with the two attacking wide players able to drop back and occupy a more defensive space when Scotland do not have the ball. It’s a formation that a lot of the top European clubs are using now and it may be something he wants to work towards in the future.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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