Fabio Capello earns 6 million pounds a year. That’s £500,000 a month, over £115,000 a week and nearly £16,500 a day. There were nearly 85,000 people at Wembley on Saturday to watch England’s lacklustre performance in their 2-2 draw with Switzerland, and the majority of them could only dream of earning in a year what Capello earns in a week. Yet, despite this variance in income the majority of those in attendance could have called the England coach’s bungles right from the off.
The most glaring error was the decision to leave Ashley Young on the bench. Capello’s supporters would say hind sight is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately for Fabio he doesn’t seem to have many of those. Young has been one of the inform players during the second half of the Premier League season and he has been one of, if not the, stand out player for England in recent matches. The decision to leave him out was preposterous and lacked any shred of common sense.
Capello should have started Young on the left hand side of the front three giving him the licence and freedom to drift in and support Darren Bent. Instead he opted to start with James Milner. This was a cautious move akin to the stereotypical political stance of the opposition’s government. If you sit on the fence for too long you will end up with splinters in your back side. After such a tactical folly Capello will be counting his bank notes this week with an uncomfortable sharp pain in his rear end. Milner is of course a useful player but he is much more defensive minded. He simply doesn’t have the pace and attacking verve of Young.
Milner would be much more of an astute pick for an away day where a solid performance and a point may be deemed a good result. But with England being in the position they were before the game, sitting on top of Group G already six points ahead of Switzerland, this should have been a day for going for the jugular and capitalising on such a solid position.
Credit must go to Switzerland, they played well. Gokhan Inler and Xherand Shaqiri were particularly effective, but Wembley should have been a fortress. It was far from that. The fans were disheartened and England’s conservatism allowed Switzerland into the game. They were granted far too much time and space giving them the confidence to find their feet. Thich in turn led to them penetrating England’s ineffective armour twice in the space of three minutes grabbing two opportunistic goals.
Only when Young came on after the interval did England show any conviction and adventure going forward. It is true the non-selection of Young shouldn’t be the only point of discussion on what was dismal performance all round, but such decisions can act as a catalyst for negativity.
Capello had his squad together the best part of a week before the game. It’s his job as head coach to utilise that time to get his players focussed and in the right state of mind for the match. True, all of the players are professionals who play at the highest level week in week out, but it is still up to the manager to set the tone whether that’s in drills on the training ground, in team meetings, one on one discussions or team selections. From the outside looking in it seems Capello is lost in international management and he seems disconnected from his players and the fans. He says the wrong things at the wrong times and he appears to lack authority. If we can see this what must the players within the squad think? Such a lack of authority and direction only breeds negativity in the camp. This was transferred on to the pitch and it was clear to see during a woeful first half performance.
When Capello was appointed in 2007, then Chief Executive Brian Barwick sang his man’s praises. ‘He is a winner’ said Barwick, suggesting Capello had the metal to get the best out of England’s underachieving golden generation. Where is this metal now? After Saturday’ s match Capello came out to face the press saying his players were exhausted. This is garbage. These men are finely tuned athletes. They play and practice hard but their bodies are looked after with the utmost care and attention. They are primed for battle by teams of people from dieticians to psychologists to physical trainers.
Even if the players were weary either mentally or physically after what has undoubtedly been a long hard season, it is up to the manager to either prepare and motivate them so they are ready to play, or rest them for somebody who is in better physical or mental state. Capello is the manager, his job is in his title. It seems he is not doing his job.
Steve McLaren was given the heave ho for being disconnected amid accusations he couldn’t get the best out of his players. His umbrella moment sealed his fate and it appears Capello is going down the same route. Must we wait for another Mr Bean moment before England can move forward, or can the top dogs for once act proactively rather than reactively.
On a positive note, The FA are doing some good things currently. Gareth Southgate has been appointed as head of elite development for the FA and he is currently lobbying county FA’s around the country advocating the need for smaller games and smaller pitches in an attempt to improve technique at grassroots level. The thought is that if kids grow up playing in smaller spaces with less time to react they will learn to manoeuvre the ball more effectively. Finally it appears changes are being made to the way our children learn the game, something which can only bode well for the future. Maybe we will have Iniesta’s and Xavi’s of our own in 20 years time.
As for the current crop, it’s clear changes are required there too. As the FIFA flag fluttered forlornly under the Wembley arch on Saturday, some home truths were delivered to this current set up. Forget Blatter, maybe England require some top down restructuring of their own. Capello out.
By Robert Fawdon
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