Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rooney knackered, Capello IS clueless Mike Bassett: England all at sea on rudderless ship....

As far as England are concerned, the World Cup has been a mind-numbing experience so far; the opening week hasn't exactly been riveting, but Capello's team have given us two of the most woeful performances of any of the participating teams.

Earlier this week Kaiser Franz had the temerity to suggest that England have regressed under the stewardship of Fabio Capello - it is hard to argue with the German legend, following the dross served up by the Italian manager and those tasked with the job at hand.

As ever, there has been a great deal of blind optimism in relation to England's chances of winning the trophy they last won 44 years ago, and not even that damp squib of a performance against the USA in the opener dampened expectations of the media and your average Johnny England fan.

But if England were bad against the USA in that 1-1 draw, they were much worse against Algeria last night in what turned out to be another bore-draw, only this time there was no goals.

With little to shout about following Robert Green's howler of a goalkeeping error against the USA, and with nothing to get truly excited about, the media speculated when we'd see the competition's first 'surprise result': 'pre-tournament favourites' Spain provided the answer, when losing to Switzerland. Then in the second round of opening group games, Germany lost to Serbia. Just perhaps England had a chance after all? At least that appeared to be the common consensus among pundits and the English media.

There's no doubt these 'shock results' fueled supporter optimism, well at least it did if you're daft and you believe everything the media tells you in relation to England.

There's rarely a shortage of blind optimism where the England team is concerned: I'm sure it stems back to the days of the Empire when much of the globe was coloured pink, but blind optimism it is all the same.

Capello's honeymoon period had to come to an end at some point; in some ways, it's a great pity it has taken until now for it to happen, perhaps it if it had happened sooner then the clowns who run the FA wouldn't have been in so much of a rush to remove that get-out clause from the Italian's contract?

Capello's management during the World Cup has been akin to that of Mike Bassett, the spoof England manager in that hilarious comedy "Mike Bassett, England manager".

Agaisnt the USA, the Italian selected Robert Green, who it emerged is the goalkeeper who made the most mistakes in this season's Premier League. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Italian gambled when selecting Rio Ferdinand and Ledley King - both were plagued by injuries throughout the season; selecting the pair of them was a disaster waiting to happen.

Capello also made the major mistake of playing Wayne Rooney in just about every friendly and for the duration of most games - this at a time when the United striker needed resting, and for what reason? Rooney wasn't playing for his place in the side, he had nothing to prove to anyone. Rooney had a great season, scoring 34 goals in all competitions, but his last goal for his club was back in March against Bayern Munich. Sadly, injuries took their toll and so it was a disappointing end of campaign for the United striker and the club.

Ferguson had little option but to play Rooney in most games because there's a lack of fire-power at Old Trafford right now, but that wasn't really the case as far as Capello and England were concerned - there was plenty of other options.

At present, Rooney has the touch and subtlety of a rapist - he could have quite justifiably been substituted - but then again so could half of the England team that faced Algeria.

Nonetheless, this blog repeatedly warned that Rooney is in serious danger of suffering from burn-out; in fact we warned that the last thing Rooney needed this summer was the World Cup.

From a United perspective and being selfish, Rooney needed a damn long break from football. There has to be a serious danger that Rooney and United are going to suffer next season - which is why Ferguson needs to pull his finger out this summer and sign at least one quality striker. Hopefully, Javier Hernandez will prove to be that man. The manner in which the Mexican took his goal against France will have given everyone connected with the club a degree of optimism - let us hope it isn't unfounded...

So what else has Capello done wrong so far at the World Cup? Where do you start is a good question to ask.

The England manager played the captain out of position against Algeria: Gerrard was easily the pick of a bad bunch against the USA, but against the North Africans he was dispatched to the relative sanctuary of the left wing. Baffling.

Capello also selected Emile Heskey to partner Wayne Rooney. The big man played a part in the opening game when 'laying on' Gerrard's goal, but the tactic of lumping the ball down the middle hasn't worked. Worse still, there's zero creativity in the engine room. If Frank Lampard isn't breaking late into your opponent's penalty box, then he isn't worthy of a starting place - and of course England simply haven't been creating any chances and so Lampard is an unaffordable luxury.

The teams that have shone so far all have a play-maker - someone who makes them tick when going forward - someone who can open the door: Germany have Mesut Özil (are you watching Ferguson?); Uruguay have Diego Forlan (he couldn't control your regulation Premier League ball but has seemingly tamed the dreaded Jabulani); Brazil have Robinho and Elano; Argentina have the brilliant Messi; England have Joe Cole but Mike Bassett, aka Capello, has seen fit to leave him on the bench.

If there was an award for the most technically inept team, England and Capello would be in with a good shout of securing the trophy, they are that bad.
If, as expected, England come home with their collective tails between their legs then Capello should be sacked.

Before a ball was kicked I predicted England would be on the first plane home following the first knockout round. It looks like I was being too over optimistic, perhaps I'm becoming a Johnny Englander? ;0)


  1. I would suggest that the normal journalistic football/sporting vocabulary (technically deficient, poor touch, XYZ had a bad game etc etc) isn't necessarily appropriate. I think more appropriate nomenclature would be medical terminology.

    England played so so so badly that it is clear that something that is effecting their mental state. England exhibited such malcoordination in doing the most basic footballing skills that their abject failure can't have anything to do with tactics, formations, team selections and even dare I say it - tiredness. The environment that they are in, for whatever reason, is creating a team of nervous gibbering wrecks, all of whom are not even shadows of themselves on a bad day. This is Capello's responsibility, to create an environment designed purely to squeeze every last bit of ability from his players. This is his job. In this, he has failed on a monumental scale. I really wonder what it could be in the Capello regime that is having such an impact on ALL their mental states?

    They don't need a football coach, they need a damned good doctor.

  2. Julian,

    Tiredness will no doubt crop up in reports, and certainly as far as Rooney is concerned, there is a degree of truth in that. After all Ferguson flogged him near to death last season, because he was forced to (ignoring the fact it was the manager's own fault what with him screwing up the Tevez deal when opting to sign old 'lazy-arse' Berbatov instead)

    Capello did manage to squeeze every last drop out of Rooney, but that was in the meaningless friendly games!

    Ingoring tiredness, Capello has failed on just about every level where selection issues are concerned.

    IMO, Capello is a fraud if this is the best he can do...

  3. James,

    I totally agree that Capello's decisions were baffling:

    1) Ignoring Joe Cole in favour of SWP. Incredible...

    2) Choosing to play an archaic 4-4-2 with a non scoring center forward

    3) Not playing Rooney up front on his own in a 4-5-1/4-3-3 type system.

    4) Not changing the formation when a disaster was unfolding in front of him and just making Sven like ineffectual like for like replacements far too late.

    5) Choosing a load of really slow central defenders in his squad that compounds England's inclination to defend too deep (Wes Brown would have been great). Having Terry and Carragher, two of the slowest players in the world, paired together is just asking for it. It might have been a blessing in disguise that Carragher misses the next game, if only there was a center back with any pace to replace him.

    However, glaring though these mistakes might have been, it doesn't explain why England couldn't control a simple pass, or make a simple pass against a side that England's 10th XI would have no trouble with. It honestly looked like their drinks urn had been spiked with LSD, valium and vodka. I have not, with out the need for hyperbole, seen a professional team play this badly. Ever.

    I really think we need to search deeper than traditional football analysis for the root of England's problem. It must be some psychological condition, caused by the Capello created environment that they are living in, that is causing great players to play worse than school boys. I wish I was a fly on the wall at England's camp, but I am not and I have no idea what goes on there.

    We of course have heard murmurings of a very strict regime; team sheets only revealed 2 hours before kick of; players scared of their manager and perhaps unable to approach him; boredom... It is interesting to note that by far the best performance we have seen so far was from Argentina, whose manager passionately kissed each player as a father might, before the last game. Does this emotional bond with the manager release players from the burden of fear? I am no psychologist, but is fear of Capello translating to fear on the pitch? Ferguson is a well known strict boss, but players laugh and joke with him and he is approachable for any reason. Can Capello joke in English? or Italian for that matter?

    Perhaps it's the fact that players, who are used to being with their families on a daily basis are simply missing their loved ones?

    Perhaps they need to have a good drink and let their hair down?

    I can't help feeling that the root cause is somewhere embedded in Capello's basic management ethos of extreme emotional distance from his players and rigid discipline that is not enabling his players to relax on the pitch. It is interesting that great managers such as SAF and Mourinho (to name but a few), have incredibly close relationships to their players. SAF is routinely referred to as a father figure. Mourinho's players would die for him. I think the most endearing simile that the players might use for Capello is that he is a "headmaster figure". This stern approach might work for relatively pressure free qualifiers, where players are away from home and club for just a couple of days. But a WC tournament of week after week in a hotel during the most high pressure sporting event in the world might just require something a little more personal from the manager. Where Ferguson and Mourinho are masters at man management, knowing exactly what to say to each individual player before a big game to get the best out of them, I can't imagine Capello having the faintest idea or inclination.

    I really don't know, but I would love to hear a psychologists take on this rather than all the predictable football pundits' takes.

  4. Julian,

    That's a great reply. The thing is this other people are asking similar questions about the Capello regime - so you're not on your own with this line of thought.

    I totally agree with your points about team selection and the mistakes made.

    Regarding, Maradona, the way he cuddles and kisses his players seems to suggest, to me at least anyway, that there most definitely IS a togetherness which is all important at the big tournaments. In sharp contrast to Argentina, we have France and speculation suggests the players are picking the team amidst all sorts of rumoured fall-outs.

    I don't want to come across as a racist, but I'm not convinced about appointing a manager who doesn't speak English that well - though it hasn't done Ferguson much harm :0).

    But Ferguson is a tough son of a bitch, but he's a very fair manager where selection issuses are concerned.

  5. So let me get this straight. It's Capello's fault that the England players can't perform??

    He has managed Real Madrid twice and his own national team and he has done nothing but succeed. Then he comes to England and becomes unstuck. Ok I agree that some of his decisions have been a bit off, Shaun Wright-Phillips' inclusion in the squad, no Darren Bent, the goalkeeper situation. But these are all world class players aren't they? Or are they?

    They may be but they are nowhere near able to play football the way it is supposed to be played (ie. short passes, movement off the ball, adequate technical ability). When is England going to wake up and realise that the whole youth system in the country needs an overhauled.

    Trevor Brooking and Howard Wilkinson have been saying it for years, but no one will listen.

  6. Sportsmark,

    Capello cannot be blamed because of the poor quality at his disposal but he can be blamed for the following:

    Over playing recovering Rooney in meaningless friendlies.

    Failing to play Gerrard in his most effective position.

    Failure to realise England needed Joe Cole who is capable of unlocking tight defences.

    Selecting Green and not giving Hart enough chances because he is the best option.

    Selecting Ferdinand and King when it was obvious both are heading for the knackers yard.

    There's probably a whole lot more... all in all, Capello has made a right balls of it IMO.

  7. Like you guys I was crying out for Capello to bring on Joe Cole but in all honesty I doubt he would have changed a thing... 1 man cant carry an entire team - look what its doing to Rooney.
    I really wanna see Cole play just so the guy has a chance but when the rest of the squad is playing like this maybe its best he doesnt. Id much rather sit here insisting that it would have been different if he had played rather than seeing him play just as bad as the others.

    Oh and great post Julian. James, get this guy writing for you :D


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