Scotland possible team for awkward Armenia clash: McGinn, McTominay, Adams and Hendry out, Turnbull, Campbell, Brown and Souttar in
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Scotland and Steve Clarke.
Not merely that an away day against lowly Armenia in the, relatively, lowly Nations League is a must-win for the national manager to avoid disquiet reaching screeching levels. More concerningly, for the awkward assignment in Yerevan so many of Clarke’s go-to players have certainly gone somewhere. Alas, that place is off the boil. Not a player in Scotland colours enhanced their reputations in the excruciating 3-0 filleting by the Republic of Ireland on Saturday. However, for such as John McGinn, Che Adams, Scott McTominay, Jack Hendry, Ryan Christie and Billy Gilmour, the fruitless toils in Dublin were mere a continuation of their inability to produce truly convincing displays throughout this international window. And in most cases, form struggles that follow-on from those encountered with their clubs last season.
Matters may be taken out of Clarke’s hand when it comes to the availability of some among this band after his admission he has “significant” injury issues for the Armenia encounter. Even without any fitness concerns, though, it is difficult to make a case for handing any of them starting berths on Tuesday evening. Yes, even the darling of the Tartan Army, McGinn. The appetite and attitude of the Aston Villa midfield is beyond question. His actual productivity? Not so much.
The 27-year-old was posted missing when not missing a crucial – glorious – headed opportunity in the World Cup play-off defeat to Ukraine almost a fortnight ago. And even in the breeze of a 2-0 win at home to the Armenians last week, he wasn’t quite his usual driving self. He has exhibited the sort of jadedness that has appeared to have similarly afflicted such as Adams, Hendry, Christie and Gilmour. These players should be taken out of the firing line. As a result, Clarke should look to the fringes of his squad to provide some freshness. Absolutely no point in him operating with an enlarged squad and then not making use of the greater numbers.
This is where Allan Campbell and David Turnbull could come in; the former offering graft while the latter provides craft. Off the back of an encouraging first season with Luton Town, a debut for Campbell alongside Callum McGregor in the centre of the pitch would inject some much-need energy into that area. His eye for goal, meanwhile, could make Turnbull suitable to be deployed as one of the two attackers – Stuart Armstrong the other – behind the main forward in Clarke’s favoured 3-4-2-1 shape.
Who takes over that central striking role from Adams is one of the head-scratchers, admittedly. With Lyndon Dykes injured, there is no real experience in the only credible alternatives of Jacob Brown and Ross Stewart. Stoke City frontman Brown’s four international outings have all come from the bench. However, he has been in the set up for the past seven months and warrants an opportunity. Especially since the fact that his last 11 club appearances yielded five goals suggest he is in decent nick. At the back, new Rangers signing John Souttar could be permed with Scott McKenna and Hanley (Liam Cooper has left the squad for his wedding), if only because at least he is not tainted by the weekend debacle. Sums up the pickle Scotland have found themselves in.
Possible Scotland team (3-4-2-1): Gordon; Souttar, Hanley, McKenna; Ralston, Campbell, McGregor, Robertson; Armstrong, Turnbull; Brown.
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