Yet another successful qualification campaign out of the way and England’s passage to Euro 2012 secured you’d think fans across the country would be rejoicing. Not since 2004 and that fateful night in Lisbon have the national side contested a European Championship fixture with the image of Steve McLaren and his umbrella have been removed from the minds of the nation after the disastrous Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Unfortunately for England supporters Fabio Capello has failed to lift the despondency that consistently surrounds our under achieving national team. Despite finishing top of the group fans have been under awed by a series of lacklustre performances that resulted in Capello’s capacity to manage England being ushered into the spotlight once again. Last year’s World Cup nightmare in South Africa brought forward serious interrogations over his position but ultimately the FA felt he deserved a second chance. Regrettably for those who were eager for him to be ousted from the Wembley manager’s office he’s yet again provoked debate over his inadequacies. Many already written off England’s chances of making a major impact in Poland and Ukraine next year and it’s not hard to see why. Last nights draw in Montenegro was indicative of Capello’s reign with Wayne Rooney’s petulant sending off contributing to the side squandering a comfortable two goal lead. Yet again he is the subject of scathing criticism from the stands but looking deeper just what exactly has the 65-year-old done to attract so much derision?
Players operating out of position
One of the main gripes that fans have about Capello is his penchant ask players to operate out of their comfort zone. Last night’s game was the perfect example with Phil Jones, who plays predominantly as a centre half for Manchester United, was asked to slot in at right back. For a manager of his experience the logic in asking a 19-year-old making his international debut to play in a position he is unfamiliar with is completely non-existent. It proved to be a poor decision with Jones looking uneasy for the entire 90 minutes he was on the field. It makes you wonder why he persists with this philosophy of asking players to perform in positions they are unacquainted with. The fact he replaced Chris Smalling, another central player, at right back is bewildering considering the specialists he called up. Micah Richards and Kyle Walker were both in the squad but failed to even make it off the bench. Regardless of their fine form this season Capello overlooked both of them. Surely it would have been a safer option to give Richards the number two shirt ahead of Jones. The Manchester City fullback has performed well for his club and more importantly has experience at international level. Even Jordan Henderson has suffered at the hands of the Italian after his debut in a holding midfield position against France last November went pear shaped. Despite playing much of his football on the right of midfield he was cast into a role which requires a certain level of defensive steel and know how. Unfortunately for the Liverpool youngster he was criticised for his performance and hasn’t been near the senior team since. How is it plausible to ask a player to function in an unfamiliar position but still expect success? It’s not and aslong as Capello continues to adopt that way of thinking England will continue to falter. The fact is Capello isn’t doing what is best for the team or the players he is shunting into different positions.
Another major flaw that continues to hang over Capello his is preference for certain individuals. Throughout his tenure he has constantly professed that he would pick players who were in form and performing well at club level. Whilst that’s a legitimate method to base selection on and there are particular players who deserve a chance based on their domestic form it’s quite clear that some are unable to replicate that form at international level. There are a few who constantly flatter to deceive for England, the main culprit being Theo Walcott. I’m not saying the winger is a bad player and he has had the odd moment for England but he’s never been consistent enough to warrant that right wing spot. Despite possessing blistering pace Walcott simply doesn’t have the attributes to operate as a winger with his erratic crossing, lack of strength and absence of necessary skill to trick his way past defenders seeing him go missing from games more often than not. I don’t see the harm in giving Adam Johnson or Stewart Downing regular opportunities to establish their presence on the wing rather than standing in for Walcott when he picks up an injury? Both have performed exceptionally at club level in the last couple of seasons yet Capello continues to see them as fringe players. Ever since the Arsenal man’s exclusion from the World Cup squad it seems like Capello has been apologising and keeping him sweet by selecting him whenever he is available. Another thing I always found baffling was the decision to shunt Steven Gerrard out to the left wing despite his peerless displays in central midfield for Liverpool. Why? Because Frank Lampard was apparently too indispensable to drop. Don’t get me wrong Lampard is a top midfielder but if it was a straight toss up between him and Gerrard for the central midfield position, the latter would win everyday of the week. His new favourite seems to be Bobby Zamora. A mediocre striker in his 30’s who is keeping out Daniel Sturridge who, in my opinion honest opinion, deserves more of a chance to establish himself in the squad. The Chelsea man is bang in form at the moment and is a young, hungry and supremely talented footballer. Unfortunately his path is blocked by a man who two years ago was much maligned for his inability to hit the net. I wish Capello would simply grow a pair and start picking players in form like he said he would.
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This is a massive problem and certainly contributes to the clueless performances that are becoming increasingly common from England. When Capello first arrived in 2007 he laid down the gauntlet claiming he’d be able to speak English within a month. Four years later and despite some minor improvements it is still difficult to understand what he is saying during interviews. Worryingly though if the general public can’t fathom what he is jabbering on about it brings up serious questions about his adeptness at communicating to his players. I don’t know about you but an England manager in my book should be a leader first and a man manager second. How is a man who can barely speak the language of the nation able to be those two things? How is he supposed to recite his instructions clearly and accurately? How is he supposed to fire up his players before a game? How is he supposed to put his arm around a player and rebuild their shattered confidence? How can he do all those things if he can’t speak the language?When he first arrived it was said he adopted the school head teacher approach. I can’t see how he can demand that sort of respect if he can’t even communicate properly to his players. Does he merely just delegate his instructions to his coaching staff for them to pass on to the players? If thats the case then his job is merely to pick the squad and the team on a match day. The fact he is unable to man manage and direct his players in the correct way is evident on the pitch. When Rooney got sent off against Montenegro there was no instruction from Capello on what they should do. The team eventually descending into a shamble’s as they sacrificed the 2-0 lead they built up before they were ended up a man light. I think the case for an English coach grows stronger with every passing game purely on this basis.
Wrong players, wrong time
Any manager that thinks Jamie Carragher, Ledley King, Stephen Warnock, Emile Heskey, Joe Cole and Matthew Upson are good enough to compete against the best players on the planet then no wonder England fans are continue to condemn Capello. All six were chosen for last years World Cup squad much to the bewilderment of fans across the nation. The subsequent failure to match the performances of teams like the United States or Algeria in the group stages and thrashing at the hands of Germany forced Capello into rethinking his selection policy. He obviously realised his mistakes in leaving out the likes of Darren Bent, Leighton Baines, Adam Johnson, Scott Parker and even his ultimate favourite Theo Walcott. Surely Johnson would have been a better option than Cole who had a torrid season at Stamford Bridge? What about Bent who couldn’t stop scoring for Sunderland but was discarded in favour of Heskey who scored five goals during the whole 2009/10 season? It almost got even more farcical with the desperate attempt to bring Paul Scholes out of retirement for the finals falling flat on it’s face. Great way to undermine and crush the confidence of the midfielders already in the squad. Begging a player in his mid-30’s, who retired a year later, to spearhead his midfield is indicative of Capello’s reign. I’m not saying Scholes is a bad player but at his age a World Cup campaign is well beyond his past powers. It didt stop in South Africa with numerous fixtures seeing him to make some rather perplexing choices. His incompetence when it comes to picking players for the occasion is an ongoing issue that continues to frustrate. Gary Cahill and Phil Jones, inexperienced when it comes to games on the magnitude of the one against Montenegro, were unwisely selected head of players more adroit at international level. Their weakness’ showed with Jones struggling at right back and Cahill displaying his vulnerabilities in the centre. Why were Phil Jagielka or Micah Richards not considered? His tendency to choose players new to international football for big game situations has become all too common and it’s harming England. Whilst the younger players deserve their chance and aren’t tainted by the failures of those before them, when the time comes Capello needs to realise when the seasoned internationals are needed and when they aren’t.
Passion? What Passion?
This last point took a lot of mulling over but I ultimately decided that discussing Capello’s tactics ‘nous’ would be better left to one standalone piece. In it’s place is something that I think is a real issue for the mumbling Italian and that is his lack of passion. In four years i’ve never seen him as being a man who could instil some flaming ebullience into his players when the moment requires. Can you really see Capello storming into the dressing room with England 2-0 down and crying out for his players to go back out onto that field and give the performance of their lives? Being a foreigner and having never managed in England before taking the job my standpoint is that he doesn’t fully appreciate and understand the position football holds in this country. Performances in the World Cup were symptomatic of that with the players lacking in motivation and Capello simply looking on from the touchline unsure of what to do. He is a man that hasn’t got the first clue on how to command a dressing room and galvanise the players inhabiting it. Watching the lifeless and insipid displays in South Africa was difficult and i’m not placing 100% of the blame on Capello’s shoulders. But truthfully his culpability is more than half with the players crying out for some inspiring words to reignite the fire in their bellies. Unfortunately for them and the fans that fire doesn’t exist within the constraints of Capello’s skin. A good international manager should have the skills and knowledge to allow them to bring a group of players together and get them buying into their philosophies and ethos’ from the word go. Enthusiasm will only take the young players coming into the squad so far before they are sapped of confidence and in need of a mental boost from their boss. If they are expecting that from Capello then they should prepare their disappointed face. The image of him holding the air within the Wembley walls with a rousing speech before a big international fixture is a nice image but one that could only exist in dreams and fairytales. His lack of man management expertise and ineffective motivation techniques will contribute more to England’s downfall than anything else.