Whilst the nation continues to analyse England’s 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany with a fine-toothed comb, the powers that be have announced that Fabio Capello’s position as manager will be reviewed over the next two weeks. With Capello’s predecessors Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren also unable to get the best out of the nation’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’, the finger of blame must indeed be pointed at the players too. However, in failing to qualify for the quarter-finals, Capello has failed to vindicate the FA’s decision to pay him £6m a year. Was Capello the main reason why England performed so dismally at the World Cup?
Despite Capello’s illustrious background and the good work he carried out during qualification, I cannot help but feel that he was tactically inept at the World Cup. Like his predecessors, Capello suffered the affliction of believing that using all your star players, irrelevant of where they are positioned, would constitute a good team. Frank Lampard, an attacking midfielder, who benefits at club level so much from having hard-working defensively minded midfielders behind him at Chelsea, looked unsuited to his deep berth with the national side. Yet again, Steven Gerrard was a victim of his versatility, being consigned to a role on the left-hand side of midfield.
Unfortunately, England perennially look like a side who struggle in possession. For reasons unknown to myself, many of England’s illustrious names do not look comfortable when with the ball. As such, the side should’ve been set up to press and to harry the opposition. In opting to line up in an increasingly outdated 4-4-2 set-up, Capello let his midfield get outnumbered, and the unfortunate absence of Owen Hargreaves meant that he had no natural ball-winner to pressurise the opposition into relinquishing possession. Gareth Barry lacked the drive, determination and pace to effectively fulfil this role, and the manner in which Mesut Ozil found space and time with the greatest of ease highlighted how badly Capello got it wrong.
The likes of Spain, Brazil, Argentina and Germany have all had relatively successful World Cup campaigns thus far, and not a single one of them uses 4-4-2. Whilst it is arguable that their success is attributable to the more talented crops of players that they have at their disposal, their respective managers’ decisions to correctly use their finest talents highlight one of Fabio Capello’s flaws. Kaka is used in his favoured role for Brazil, and Lionel Messi is given free reign for Argentina. Following the final whistle on Sunday, Harry Redknapp stated “We need to produce a player like Ozil.”
But we do – and we use him on the left in a 4-4-2. Instead of using Steven Gerrard in the position where he is most effective (in the middle, behind Wayne Rooney), he was deployed out wide. The criminal misuse of Steven Gerrard bears an uncannily similar resemblance to the woeful treatment afforded to Paul Scholes earlier on in the noughties.
Whilst the players were to blame for their showings, the manager is entirely responsible for team selection and tactical preferences. It is clear that Capello got both of these hideously wrong on Sunday, and he must take responsibility for his mistakes.
Should Capello stay, or should he go?
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