Gordon Strachan and Antonio Conte; an unlikely double-act?

Neil Renton

Scotland boss Gordon Strachan is hopeful that he can turn around his country’s fortunes and he’s pointing to the example of Antonio Conte. But there are many, many differences between the two sides and managers.

Early in the season, Conte was under pressure after losing to Arsenal and Liverpool; this was to extent that bookmakers stopped taking bets on him being the next manager to leave.

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He was open and admitted that Chelsea deserved to lose those matches but instead of wallowing in pity, it changed their outlook. Conte used the losses to revert to the 3-4-3 formation that had worked for him so well at Italy and Juventus.

He always had a ‘Plan B’ that he wanted to put into place after ‘Plan A’ failed to work. Not only that but he had a wealth of talent at his disposal.

He was patient with his players and worked with them to iron out their problems. This is a Chelsea team where club legend John Terry is restricted to FA Cup appearances but no one seems to care.

Eden Hazard rediscovered the form that made him one of the best in the world. Diego Costa turned his bookings into goals. Victor Moses became a force of nature.

Strachan’s team selection and formation have been, at best, baffling, at worse, embarrassing.

Hull goalie David Marshall has been a brilliant servant but was somehow replaced by Craig Gordon in the defeat to England. Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths couldn’t earn a place despite his club form and when he did play he looked ineffective; Ikechi Anya was brought in as a full-back instead of a winger.

He might not have the best of players to pick from, but he’s not using them to the true ability. And he’s failed to explain why things haven’t worked, instead focusing on positives that don’t actually exist.

The results are there to see with only three competitive wins since January 2015, two of them against Gibraltar. And a lack of wins have led to a lack in self-assurance.

There’s also passion. When you watch Conte on the sidelines you can see what it means to him. He runs around the touchline, hugging fans and punching the air in delight.

Whilst there’s no denying Strachan’s a member of the Tartan Army, he needs to install that into his team. Conte’s players would run through a brick wall for him. Strachan’s barely move from their zonal marking positions when it matters most.

Strachan’s answer is to arrange a pointless friendly before Scotland face Slovenia in March. With this being towards the business end of the domestic league, there’s a chance players may miss this through ‘injury.’ Don’t be shocked if they make a miraculous recover in time for their next club game. That will leave him no further forward with the preparation for the qualifier.

Scotland players have no confidence or belief. And it’s unlikely they’ll have a World Cup to go to.

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