Russia 4-0 Scotland: Five games, 14 goals, one big problem for Steve Clarke

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'Conceding 17 goals in the group is not acceptable'

Steve Clarke has taken charge of five games as Scotland head coach. His side have conceded 14 goals. Four of them came in 27 second-half minutes in Moscow on Thursday.

Only eight other nations in Euro 2020 qualifying have a goal difference worse than Scotland's -12.

Granted, four of Clarke's chastening five games were against Russia and Belgium, who are likely to be involved at the sharp end of the Euros next summer, but such defensive disarray was not expected under the stewardship of a coach renowned for his organisational abilities.

But why are things going so badly? And what does Clarke do to stem the shipping of goals? BBC Scotland asked three former national team stalwarts...

What went wrong in Moscow?

Scotland quelled Russia's advances for almost an hour in Moscow with a diligent and dogged performance. Then the hulking Artem Dzyuba levered aside Charlie Mulgrew and cannoned a volley past David Marshall and further goals by Magomed Ozdoev, Dzyuba again and Aleksandr Golovin followed in smart order.

Former Scotland striker Billy Dodds: "It all went to pot once we lost the first goal. What a finish it was from the big guy, but again we've lost a poor goal from a set-piece position, with Charlie Mulgrew culpable. We looked as if all shape and confidence had gone and gave away cheap goals. It was so easy for them. I didn't see it coming at half time, but we just wilted to be honest."

Former Scotland full-back Gary Naysmith: "The biggest concern is when Scotland lose one goal, they just fold like a pack of cards. Then comes the second, the third, the fourth. If I was a full-back in this side, at 2-0 or 3-0, you know the game's gone. Just get one of your wide players to sit in front of you and see the game out. When they lose one or two, the shape and discipline of the team goes and it can't be like that. You need damage limitation."

Former Scotland centre-back Willie Miller: "There was a lot of positive stuff in the first half - shape, organisation, communication and we did pose a certain threat, or a hope of a threat, going forward. There was a collapse in the second half in simple, straightforward, physical defending."

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'We're miles short at international level' - Sportscene analysis

Who has Clarke picked in defence?

In each of his five matches, Clarke has used a back four, with eight difference players filling those roles and four different combinations deployed. Among those, Greg Taylor, Liam Cooper and Mikey Devlin have all earned their debut caps in the absence of more established performers such as Kieran Tierney, John Souttar and Grant Hanley.

Defenders fielded by Steve Clarke as Scotland manager

Where does he turn next?

Scotland welcome San Marino on Sunday, which perhaps allows scope for the other two central defenders in the depleted squad to make their debut international appearances. Motherwell's Declan Gallagher, certainly, has been in fine form, while Stuart Findlay was central to Clarke's success at Kilmarnock. And what about the final two qualifiers next month and the tenure-defining Euro 2020 play-offs in March?

Willie Miller: "I'd play Finlay and Gallagher on Sunday. Why not? What is there to lose? Beyond that, do we look at the formation? Do we consider five at the back? If that's the case then you could have Souttar, Mulgrew and McKenna as the back three - and Tierney could play central defence too."

Gary Naysmith: "If it was four at the back, I would sacrifice Tierney and have him at right back, with Souttar and McKenna as the centre-back pairing and Robertson at left back."

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