Sunday, 13 June 2010

Fabio Capello - J'accuse

I blame Fabio Capello pure and simple. Not Robert Green, though he shouldn't be in the squad let alone starting (see below). Even without Green's mistake, we never looked like scoring a crucial second goal. What follows is a list of errors in selection and system.

1) Goalies - we have selected two keepers from the bottom four teams in the Premiership, teams with the worst defences in front of them. It's true we're not exactly blessed with many quality keepers to select from, long gone are the days of Shilton, Clemence and Corrigan, but Paul Robinson has rebuilt his career in a defensively solid mid-table Blackburn side and merited inclusion. But Joe Hart should have been blooded in England friendlies so there was no excuse about throwing him in. After all he was the in-form keeper, with more clean sheets than the others put together and voted in the Premiership team of the season.

2) Glen Johnson was one of the few players to emerge with any credit from last night, though he still troubles me defensively. I want to know where was Ashley Cole bombing forward on the other side? Ashley is arguably one of the few world class players we have in his position, for there aren't many in other teams who are better than him. But he was very quiet last night. Seems Steve Cherondolo of the US not only managed to silence our left wingers, but also our surging left back.

3) And while we're on wingers, Wright-Phillips looks so lightweight and Lennon didn't do enough. I can't believe we didn't take Adam Johnson and possibly Theo Walcott as well, although that is more debatable. The one time Lennon got his afterburners on in the second half, he pulled it behind the two strikers, which can happen, but the midfield couldn't get up there in time to latch on to it. If you're going to play two conventional wingers, then you need two out and out speedsters. The one cutting in from his wing to feed on the production of the other, only someone with the same pace can keep up. I know why Capello rejected Johnson & Walcott, they don't track back enough. Well he played Milner for that very reason and had to pull him off before half-time because he was getting so roasted. Two out and out speedsters tear teams apart (assuming both are on their games). One speedster can be doubled up on and nullified.

4) Central defence, Terry was fine, but with Carragher next to him they are so vulnerable against pace. If King is injured, then Dawson, another man in form for his club but left untried by Capello, must come in to counterbalance Terry's lack of pace. Ledley King, as much as I respect him as a quality player, lasted 45 minutes. Shock horror.

5) Which leads me to Capello himself. The criticism levelled at Ericsson and Mclaren was that they had no plan B. Last night Capello hamstrung himself by having to make 2 early substitutions, neither which were to change our attacking options, meaning he only had 1 substitution left to change things. He had no flexibility to put in any Plan B. But that was his own fault for his initial team selections.

6) Central midfield. Gerrard started immensely, but once America equalised he lost the stranglehold on the centre of midfield he had. But more of an indictment was yet again he and Lampard failed to mesh in midfield. Shock horror. See Ericcson and McLaren passim. I can't believe we haven't moved on and evolved our team. America are a kick and rush team much like England. Lots of pressing, ball in the air more than any of the previous 4 games. So the fact that we couldn't retain the ball against a mirror image team of ourselves is the biggest indictment of many here. We can't blame the weather, we think we can press and play our natural blood and thunder game that we see every match in the Premiership. Well against America we failed to, so god knows what it will be like against a team who protect the ball like Spain or Argentina. This is a football culture thing, even if our clubs can't do it, Capello should have instituted such a culture through his training methods. Anyone who had watched the Mexico, Argentina or France games, even allowing for the misplaced passes in evidence in all 3, were watching a totally different game from the helter-skelter England V USA match. The first 20 minutes zipped by in a flash, but you simply cannot sustain that pace for 90 minutes which is why England never ever give a 90 minute performance at a World Cup game.

7) I absolve Heskey from criticism, I thought he had an excellent game. I'm still not sure I'd set my team up in such a way that would include him, but he certainly justified his inclusion in THAT team playing that way; ie flick ons and fight ball. Where the justification for him is that it brings out the best in Rooney. Well no fault of Heskey's, but it didn't yesterday. Rooney was only slightly less anonymous than Lampard. Messi is labelled world class and stamped his authority on Argentina's game yesterday. Rooney didn't. You need clever players around Rooney to play him in, or to be on his wavelength when he sees a pass mere mortals don't. This is calling out for Joe Cole. Capello was thinking so defensively by bringing Wright-Phillips on for Milner rather than Joe Cole. When we substituted Heskey, we brought on the same, but less effective in the air Crouch. What was the point of that?

What distresses me is that Capello was brought in to do three things that his predecessors failed and has achieved none of them. He was supposed to take away the fear factor in England players, but they looked so inhibited last night. He was supposed to have Plans B,C & D as a tactical genius. Well last night he managed to back himself into a corner with no options left to change things. And he was supposed to change our playing style into tournament-winning football, which means keeping hold of the ball. We didn't have a holding/defensive central midfield player on the pitch last night, possibly the only one of the 32 teams in the competition not to. Some like Argentina have two.

I blame Capello


Aislinn O'Connor said...

Moi, j'accuse aussi!

I couldn't believe the omission of Adam Johnson from the squad, and in all the fuss about the Robert Green mistake one fact's been largely overlooked - there were 10 outfield players on the pitch, who only needed to score one more goal between them to win the game.

They couldn't do it.

What concerns me most is that so little seems to have changed under Capello - we're still talking about players who can't anticipate each other's actions, lack of flexibility in adjusting to the opposition's tactics, a readiness to find excuses and, above all, a lack of confidence and swagger, which a team needs if it's to rally its supporters and wrong-foot the opposition.

I hope the Algeria match (just starting now) will prove me wrong, but as of now I'm not impressed at all.

Sorry, Don Fabio, but as far as selection, strategy, tactics and motivation are concerned, the buck stops with the Manager. Always.

Linda said...

So, you like soccer ;^)

I'm in for the Italians. Got money on them. Peace...

Sulci Collective said...

I think I actually hate soccer! It's like an abusive spouse