Sunday, October 14, 2007

Alex McLeish: A Revised Opinion

James McFadden has been inspirational for Scotland in our internationals this season. 3 goals in 3 games has made him the hero de jour. But Scotland now has another hero. He's been fearless, flexible and adaptable under pressure and adversity, and has led Scotland from the front and to the top of Group B. When Alex McLeish managed Motherwell he inherited a strong team from Tommy McLean, and although he had an amazing start in his first season, coming second to Rangers in the Premier League, I wasn't the only Motherwell fan who thought that he had been trading on past glories. But his tactical acumen since he took over from Walter Smith has been absolutely spot on. His management of Scotland has been characterised by adapting both his formations and team perfectly to suit the game and a series of well-timed substitutions. His classic 4-4-2 formation against Lithuania last month was followed by the nous to play McFadden alone up front against France in Paris in a 4-5-1 (rather than the more obvious choice of Gary O'Connor), while yesterday saw him switch again to a 4-4-1-1, dropping Graham Alexander (who has played in 7 games in this campaign - more than anyone with the exceptions of Gordon, Weir, Hartley and Fletcher) for the better attacking option of Naysmith on the left. His substitutions have also been employed effectively. He brought on Craig Beattie late against Georgia and he got the winning goal. Introduce Maloney against Lithuania, his first touch was an assist for the goal to put us in front. Yesterday saw another good tactical move when he replaced a semingly injured McCulloch with Christian Dailly to allow us someone to sit in front of the defence rather than making a straight swap on the left side with Maloney, which effectively negated Ukraine's tactic of allowing one of their three forwards to drop deep to recieve the ball. If our manager can pick the right team with the correct tactics in the last two games our players have shown that we have the ability to qualify, no doubt about it. Over the past year McLeish has shown he is definately the man for the job.