Scotland: How does Alex McLeish stack up a year after first game in charge?

By Stefan Bienkowski BBC Sport Scotland

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Alex McLeish's first game back in charge of Scotland.

His second stint began with a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, and he has suffered a further six defeats during his 12 months in the job.

Since replacing Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager in February 2018, McLeish has been under constant scrutiny to prove he can end the 22-year wait for qualification for a major finals.

However, the jury is still out on the 60-year-old with just four wins from 11 matches.

So are Scotland improving under McLeish or are we once again going nowhere, fast? BBC Scotland takes a look...

Placing in the world

There's no doubt McLeish deserves credit for reaching the play-offs of the Nations League ahead of Israel and Albania, but besides that there has been very little to help Scotland push up the FIFA rankings.

In fact, things have got worse.

When McLeish became Scotland manager in early 2018 the national team were ranked 32nd in the world. Yet since then they've dropped as low as 42nd, to then rise slightly to today's ranking of 40th.

In January 2017 Scotland were even further down the rankings in 67th place, wedged between Benin and Guinea-Bissau. Yet a run of eight games in which Scotland won four and drew three hauled Strachan's side up to 32nd.

Points and goals

To properly assess McLeish's record since returning to Hampden, we need to go a little further back and compare the national team's performances under his predecessors.

For example, Scotland are currently averaging just 1.09 goals per game in McLeish's second stint in charge. Not only is that considerably less than the average during his previous spell - 1.44 - but it is also the third lowest return since Scotland last reached a major tournament.

What is perhaps even more concerning is that Scotland's defensive record under McLeish has shot up to 1.64 conceded goals per game. This is not only considerably worse than the 1.1 goals per game conceded under Strachan, but also surpasses the rather abject performances under Craig Levein, George Burley and Berti Vogts.

After 11 matches, the national team are averaging just 1.09 points per game. To put that in context, it is not only around half the return they picked up when McLeish first took over in 2007, but is also the second lowest return for a Scotland manager since 2002.

Burley, with an average of 0.86 points per game, spares the current Scotland manager from the wooden spoon.

More players, less consistency

One of the reasons for McLeish's ineffective restart as Scotland manager could be the manner in which he has chopped and changed his squad so much.

Although he has had to contend with injuries, he has also searched high and wide for alternative options in a number of positions as the nation transitions from one generation of players to the next.

Indeed, as we can see in the table above, McLeish has already called upon 46 players over just 11 games. Not only is that almost double the 26 players he stuck with during his first stint in charge, it suggests he's well on course to quickly surpass the 58 Strachan used during his four-year tenure.

In fact, when we break it down to different players called up per match, McLeish's average of 4.18 is higher than any of his last five predecessors and considerably more than Vogts' 2.48 - despite the German coach's notorious reputation for handing out call-ups on a whim.


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