Despite Scotland’s 2-1 win against the Czech Republic last night there is still cause for concern ahead of the Euro 2020 play-offs.
The result far outweighs the performance, but like Friday’s game with Israel, last night’s win in Olomouc could easily have been a defeat for the Dark Blues.
It’s a good result – but the performance was very patchy and particularly defensively it wasn’t good enough.
There were too many holes and it was too easy for the Czechs. They hit the post twice, Stanislav Tecl missed a sitter and Scotland goalie David Marshall made two or three very good saves.
At the other end, the Czech keeper was seldom tested. When you consider that it tells you a lot about Scotland’s performance.
Yes it’s good that Steve Clarke’s team found a way to win and are sitting top of Uefa Nations League Group B2. But when you delve a little deeper and look at the performance, there are a lot of worrying questions that need answering before next month’s European Championship play-off semi-final with Israel.
Scots boss Clarke went with a three-man defence again, which again included Manchester United’s Scott McTominay.
One of the problems with three at the back against the Czech Republic and Israel was that McTominay is naturally a central midfielder and not a centre-back and that has shown in his displays.
Unfortunately I don’t think he has got the natural defensive instinct required to play in central defence for Scotland.
That instinct is only something that can be acquired from playing in the position regularly and that’s not something McTominay does for his club. Playing in a two-man central defence in a back four is in my opinion easier for someone who is adjusting to the position, but McTominay has been asked to play on the right of a back three and it hasn’t been easy for him.
But, as a whole, the back three didn’t look entirely comfortable last night either and I think using this shape is very much still a work in progress for Scotland.
The problem for Clarke is that having something that’s a work in progress isn’t what the nation needs when the next game is such a crucial fixture – and one that could take the Dark Blues within one game of returning to a major finals.
Clarke has used three at the back twice now and there are still gaps and it’s not yet functioning as he would like.
To stick with it against Israel next month would be a gamble.
It can go one of two ways – they can continue to work on it and it may pay off, or it may not work as he wants it to and it could cost Scotland a place in the play-off final against Serbia or Norway.
If you look at the chances the Czech Republic had last night that they didn’t take, the Scots can’t continue to offer up those opportunities in future games because they will be punished for it.
Lyndon Dykes was the positive to come out of last night’s game as he got his first international goal.
The former Livingston striker used his physicality to lead the line well, he held the ball up well and also showed his ability to link the play.
On top of that, Dykes showed the striking instinct to be in the right place to get Scotland’s equaliser.
That’s the only chance he’s had in two games and he’s taken it, so that’s a big positive.
There are still raw edges to Dykes’ game, but he looks like somebody who can develop into the complete, all-around striker Scotland need.