Fabio Capello is baffled by the fatigue his England players displayed against Switzerland and fears there may be no solution to a problem he considers endemic to this country and its heavy training culture.
Capello thought the 12-day break between the end of the domestic season and Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier had re-energised his players but the gulf between their performance in training and the anaemic start against Ottmar Hitzfeld's experimental side left him admitting he had no answers to what he perceives as summer fatigue. "I don't know. You know the medicine?" he asked.
His captain, John Terry, insisted yesterday that tiredness was not the problem at all. "We're certainly not going to come out here and use an excuse like that," he said. "We've had 50, 60 games this year so another game's not going to make any difference at all." This view is borne out by statistics which show England's performances in June – the critical month of the tournament cycle – are relatively good. The nation's win percentage in June since the turn of the Millennium has been an above-average 57.6 per cent (19 wins out of 32). November and August are worse.
But Capello, who has not lost striker Peter Crouch to retirement despite suggestions to the contrary yesterday, is convinced that England have a problem with June fixtures which reaches back many years and stems from the nature of club training – with its emphasis on physical contact and high intensity – as well as the sheer volume of competitive football. He is considering selecting players on scientific assessment of their freshness, rather than reputation, if England do manage to qualify for next summer's Euros in Poland and Ukraine. Macedonia's draw with Bulgaria on Saturday evening means a draw in Macedonia will be enough for England if they beat Wales and Bulgaria in early September.
The fitness of Jack Wilshere for next summer is already a critical issue, with Terry declaring on Friday that the 19-year-old – comfortably Capello's best player against the Swiss – should not appear in the Euro under-21s tournament and get his last chance of a proper break instead. But the Football Association's director of football development Trevor Brooking questioned Wilshere's decision yesterday. "No matter what people think about individuals, it is about playing for your country," Brooking said. "You turn up regardless. I would have turned up if I was number 23 in the squad. There appears to be a reluctance with one or two youngsters to get that tournament experience. Icome from a generation where I could not contemplate such a thing."
Capello, who will this week look at possible training bases in Poland before attending the Euro Under-21 tournament in Denmark, will be pleased to know Crouch has no intention of retiring, despite not even granting him a place on the England bench on Saturday. He felt that he and Crouch parted for the summer on cordial terms. Frank Lampard's half-time substitution was tactical, although the manager is reflecting that he should have stuck to his initial inclination to deploy Lampard's replacement Ashley Youngin a central role from the start.
Capello's assessments for next summer could draw on the Global Positioning System his staff started using lastSeptember, in which a pod embedded in a holder worn under players' shirts revealed those suffering fatigue. The International Rugby Board has given teams dispensation to wear the pods during games for the next three years but Fifa regulations prevent that happening in football
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