With the opponents in the Scottish Cup final now known, we decided here at IN to have a look at how the Scottish teams are set up to compete in Europe.
As we all know, Aberdeen, who have been happy to be serial losers for years, have done next to nothing to help Scotland’s coefficient in Europe.
This means Aberdeen will compete in the third tier UEFA Conference League, where (if the English league finishes as is) they could play…. Liverpool.
No, I’m not joking, the competition in England is so strong, even Liverpool are struggling to get a place in the Europa League.
But, even if Aberdeen are not drawn against a big European name in the early rounds, I do not see them going far. Their style of play leaves them far too open, and the opponents who are tactically aware will set themselves up to take advantage of their weak midfield.
For those who are unaware of how the new competition operates, there is no direct entry into the group stage of the UEFA conference League, for the lower level clubs…no surprise there.
And just like in the Europa league, where the big 5 just could not accept losing really did mean losing, we will again see teams from the upper levels being rescued and given a second, or in some cases a THIRD chance to win a trophy. Yep, losing only means losing if you’re at the bottom of the pyramid.
The fact is the parachute system was wrong then, when Scotland dragged itself down to 26th position, and it remains wrong now.
This is because all these multiple parachutes mean all the money stays with the top teams, and it’s this money that will ensure we will never again see a time when we see four feared, Scottish teams in Europe.
To see what I mean, in this year’s inaugural Conference league we will see a massive 8 third-placed teams from the Europa League group stage parachuted into the first round after the Conference League group stage. So, even if Aberdeen do do the impossible (for them) and both qualify for the Conference group stage and then get through the group stage, they will then be competing against a Champion-level team that played in the Europa League group stages, and it will be journey over, just as the big hats planned it.
Looking now at Hibs and St Johnstone, where it is still has not been decided who will play in the Conference League and who will play in the Europa League, it is obvious that St Johnstone have far better tactical awareness, but they still need a better attack, to progress far in Europe.
Outside of Rangers, amongst all the remaining Scottish teams in Europe, St Johnstone have the best defensive group mentality, which is not a bad thing.
One only has to go back to how Dundee United used to play, to see how far a team with a good counter-attack can go, and I really think St Johnstone could surprise a few European teams in the Europa League. But, In the end it will all be down to who they get in the summer transfer season.
And now we most importantly come to Rangers and whatever reincarnation Celtic will become after their summer holidays. Here I truly can say nothing about Celtic, because we just don’t know what they plan to do over the next few weeks, or if they even have a plan.
In contrast, Rangers are competing against teams in the Champions League that we know we can beat, and there is the much-needed return of Ryan Jack to our team.
Being honest, the critical role of the defensive midfielder just cannot be underestimated in developing an overload at the back that then allows defenders a way out against a team that is trying to press us hard.
As soon as a team shows it can transition fast from a defensive posture to an attack, and our opponents are just chasing shadows, the entire dynamics of a match changes, and even the very best teams turn cautious.
We have seen it before with Villarreal and the three top teams in the Portuguese League, and we will see it again, against the teams from Italy, Germany and England, but only if we get a good defensive midfielder.
Within the current Rangers team, the only player I see who could perhaps fill Ryan Jack’s position is Nathan Patterson, but that would be a very big ask to change his natural position. So, we really need to bring in extra cover for Ryan Jack, ASAP.
Yep, it’s strange days when a defensive midfielder has become the most critical part of our recruitment drive, but If we get this summer’s recruitment right, former Leeds hero Gary McAllister will have no reason to fear a return of the Battle of Britain.