Arrivederci Owen? Talismanic striker set to miss out in Capello's first England team

The beginning for Fabio Capello – the beginning of the end for Michael Owen? Last night Owen looked set to be the next high-profile victim of the Capello regime after England's highest current goalscorer was left out of training formations in favour of a new striking partnership between Wayne Rooney and Joe Cole.

It will take a brave man to predict Capello's first England team to face Switzerland tonight – and that includes the players. They will be told the line-up only around 4pm today when their coach leaves for Wembley, but The Independent understands that the closed-door training ground practice matches threw up interesting clues as to how Capello is thinking. Owen is not the only first-teamer whose position in the first XI has been thrown into doubt.

In training, Matthew Upson has looked like Capello's favourite, ahead of Jonathan Woodgate, to partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence. Wes Brown has been played in the training first XI in the right-back position rather than Micah Richards. And on the wings, David Bentley and Ashley Young – without a start for England between them – are the favourites. But not even the players know for sure. This is Capello's England; a brave new world where nothing is quite as predictable as it once was.

Yesterday the England manager was giving very little away, apart from naming his captain for this game as Steven Gerrard and announcing that, unlike previous regimes, there would be no golf for the players on afternoons off duty. "I'm not a Messiah," Capello said, in response to size of his task. "I'm just someone who tries to achieve results through hard work."

Tonight we will see how that work manifests itself in a line-up that looks like it could be along the lines of 4-1-4-1, adapting to 4-1-3-1-1. What looks certain is that Owen Hargreaves will be called upon to play in front of the back four with Gerrard alongside him, if a little more advanced, in the centre of midfield. That would free Joe Cole to play ahead of the midfield as a link to Rooney, who would effectively be a lone striker. It is not a role the Manchester United man likes that much – as his red-card performance against Portugal at the last World Cup bears witness.

It is fair to say that the message coming from the England camp is that Capello has had a profound effect on his squad even in such a short space of time. Many of the old certainties have been taken away – even the identity of the goalkeeper tonight is a mystery, although David James is the favourite. Ashley Cole is thought to be the first choice left-back. Stern, uncompromising – some would even say a touch scary – Capello has made an impression despite the limited English vocabulary at his disposal.

Of course, it is always the way with English football that each new regime brings hope precisely because it bears no resemblance to the one that preceded it. Nevertheless, it could only be a good thing that Capello has treated his squad like a group of men under his command rather than – as his predecessor, Steve McClaren, once did – throw himself heartily into the keep-ball sessions like an embarrassing uncle eager to impress a group of disdainful nephews.

Like rebellious toddlers, Premier League footballers require a clear set of boundaries and, while he would not go into detail on the new set of rules revealed yesterday, Capello made no secret of the fact that discipline was an important part of his management style. "I love this job and I believe we also have some obligations towards the fans," he said. "We need to work and we need rules to work by in an orderly fashion. Because we work together for so few days we need strict rules. If we follow those rules, we'll create a group and a specific winning mentality, which is what I want.

"I believe that three days is not a long time to stay in the hotel and create a group mentality. If everybody leaves as soon as training finishes, three days isn't enough to get to know each other. It's important to spend time together. On Thursday they can play all the golf they like," the manager added.

Capello is not yet speaking English to the press and there was a Pinteresque pause before every answer yesterday as he took stock of the simultaneous translation in his earpiece. With his players, however, he has spoken English and made them watch the worst moments of the failed Euro 2008 campaign on video. He has made it very clear to the players that everything they have done in the past, and continue to do, will be studied closely.

"There's been very good games where England played like England and others where they didn't play as they should have," Capello said. And it would have been churlish to point out that the bad ones were actually the games where England were playing like England. Anyway, on the whole Capello said he preferred not to look backwards. "Basically, I'll be showing them the mistakes and telling them that they can learn from their mistakes and improve," he added.

David Beckham, the former England captain whom Capello has dropped, said yesterday that it would have been "unfair" for him to be picked because he was not fit, which was certainly a change of tune from last week when he said he was ready for international football.

Capello's most interesting insight into the current state of the team was on the theme of "playing bravely" – especially away from home. "When we're away, we need to be more confident in our strengths and braver in the way we play." Which translates roughly into: I've seen the video of the game against Russia in Moscow and no team of mine will collapse like that.

The Italian is not the sunniest personality ever to pick an England football team and there will undoubtedly be a time when the novelty of an unsmiling, uncompromising taskmaster wears thin as the Capello creed is imposed on the team come hell or high water.

For now, however, the tough guy is everything England want. Although there will surely be a few big names on the team bus this evening who will not be so thrilled about Signor Capello.

The last word is not lost in translation

He pledged to be fluent in the language within a month of taking over the England reins, but yesterday journalists were still using headphones to listen to the words of wisdom of the new national coach.

"I will not speak to you in English until I am happy I have learnt all the expressions I need," Capello said through an interpreter. "You have a way of twisting words, so I will speak to you in English later on."

The Italian used only one word in English at his press conference – when asked what the players called him, he replied: "Boss."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?