The Pure Fitbaw guide to Scotland beating Israel in the Nations League

A slow burning apathy, lacklustre communication and suggestions to try new people in different positions; the end of a relationship or the build up to a Scotland match?

Either way it’s a date with Israel this Friday night. Here’s a quickfire report with some detail on how we can beat them and what team I’d pick to do so.

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In their Euro 2020 qualification group they came fifth out of six teams, losing five of their ten matches and finishing behind Slovenia, Northern Macedonia, Austria and Poland. As well as watching matches from that group I asked Israeli sportswriter Oren Josipovich a few questions;

So, some key conclusions from Oren’s replies: the new manager might not change much, defence has been bad, they’re likely to start Zahavi and Dabour up top and Manor Solomon (plays for Shaktar Donetsk, scored in the Champions League v Man City & Atalanta) is a danger. I also spoke to Andrew Miller, our European Fitbaw expert, to get his views on Real Valladolid’s new Israeli signing Shon Weissman;

So, the attackers are a bit of a concern. However, I don’t think Israel are very good overall.

  • The defence does not like to be pressed. The centre backs sit quite flat and deep when they have the ball at the back and the midfield double pivot are very passive and unhelpful. Goalkeepers Marciano and Harush are both not very confident or good with the ball at their feet. If we close the defence down aggressively we can force errors. This is a reason for playing aggressive and willing guys like Dykes, Christie and McGinn. It’s also, given the Israelis might try and escape this by launching it long, a reason not to play a two man centre back pairing including Kieran Tierney.
Israel’s own press can be fragmented and open a lot of space if bypassed
  • Israel often press in a very fragmented way until you hit the centre circle when they’ll drop off. If our goalkeeper and defenders have the ball it is likely their front two will push up high and their midfield and wingbacks can also be enticed forward but their centre backs will want to stay quite deep. This means if Scotland can evade the initial pressure and move the ball quickly there could be loads of space. Based on this and the fact Israel tend to play two up up top in a 3-5-2 I’d also start with 3 at the back to help us have a numerical advantage to bypass that first line. I’d also start McLaughlin instead of Marshall due to his slightly better ability with his feet and his significantly higher inclination to actually use them to pass short or medium distances.
Example 1. Israel retreating into 5-3 set up with the front two staying high
Example 2. Israel retreating into 5-3 set up with the front two staying high
Example 3. Israel retreating into 5-3 set up with the front two staying high
Example 4. Israel retreating into 5-3 set up with the front two staying high
  • If you keep possession Israel drop into a 5-3-2 and the two up top generally do not come back to defend. The pictures above are all separate examples from different phases of a match and there was evidence of this in several of their matches. Scotland need to be aware of the risk of the counter attack due to this but it also means we can create overloads and dominate numerically. I think this is another reason to opt for 3 at the back but with one of the central defenders, likely Tierney, able to step forward if the opportunity permits. It is also a reason to have a natural right wingback in that role instead of Tierney so that we can stretch the pitch and attempt to get behind their wingbacks. In addition I think it is a reason to have our better passers such as McGregor and Armstrong selected in order to quickly switch play from one flank to the other. Armstrong could make forward runs to stretch the opposition or tuck in when we have the ball to give varying ways of making space for Robertson . Finally, having a dangerous – if at times wasteful – long distance shooter like Christie playing against a defence that retreats like this could prove useful.

Here’s my team. Gallagher instead of McKenna because of right/left foot balance and for a bit of continuity because we’re going to want to keep him in against the Czech Republic due to their set piece threat. See you again on Monday to talk about that.

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