Five reasons why Don Fabio's iron rule has turned England around

The secret to Capello's transformation of an underachieving side has been a strong hand, decisiveness and tactical self-assurance, writes Ian Herbert


1. Knowing how to play Lampard with Gerrard

Fabio Capello has had the intuitive grasp of both players' potential to deploy Lampard in the more defensive role and Gerrard the more offensive. But, as has been increasingly evident in the past few games, the England manager has enough trust in the professionalism of an individual like Lampard, and his feeling for the rhythms of a match, to know that there will be times when the Chelsea player wants to operate outside of the system and surge forward. England's left-side problem no longer exists because Capello has effectively abolished it in his new designation for Gerrard. The Liverpool man occasionally operates in front of Ashley Cole and when the opportunity arrives he heads off inside and Wayne Rooney will switch with him. Flexibility within a system: that is what Capello has delivered. As Lampard said yesterday: "It's just about timing and it's working very well."

2. Making big decisions

The defining one came in September last year when, perhaps tempted to deploy David Beckham on the right in Zagreb against England's nemesis, Croatia, Capello opted for Theo Walcott instead. The hat-trick he scored that night destroyed Slaven Bilic's side and was the decisive moment of the qualifying campaign. Sometimes, the eye-catching decisions are the easiest. It can take a stronger individual to call back someone from the wilderness, and risk ridicule, than to send him there. Capello proved that in bringing back Beckham when at Real Madrid and in sticking with him for England now. He may be getting on but Beckham has a talismanic quality in the camp.

Where individuals have been ignored, there has been logic to it. Michael Owen, the fourth-highest scorer in history for England, has not been in Capello's plans, even when Carlton Cole and Emile Heskey withdrew after March's game against Slovakia, because his form has not warranted it. Another big decision.

3. Discipline

The obvious one. No takeaway meals, sometimes no mobile phones, good timekeeping, taking breakfast together, keeping to the playing system agreed in training and, as he put it so early into his regime, instilling "the advantages of a Mediterranean diet over ketchup and chips." Suddenly a player's drive to The Grove hotel in Hertfordshire is one with a hint of healthy anxiety attached. The players have acceded to Capello's demands because leadership instils confidence and this has been a key to a qualifying tournament which reached its apotheosis on Wednesday. Confidence is everything in Capello's England because his players trust him and he has taught them to trust themselves. Never mind conjecture, regard what Capello's jubilant players said yesterday. "When you have confidence you play even better," – Aaron Lennon. "We're confident now," – Lampard. "Everyone's confident and positive," – Jermain Defoe. And at the heart of all that is his discipline.

4. Understanding Wayne Rooney

Rooney has delivered Capello's side to South Africa in such spectacular style but this hasn't happened by osmosis. While Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren generally left Rooney to it, Capello has been an assiduous observer of the player in training. He, more even than Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, has stopped Rooney exerting needless energy by marauding all over the pitch and has told him to be be more selfish. Rooney assumes better goalscoring positions now and interplays better with others. Observe how the Manchester United striker discussed his pursuit of a record World Cup qualifying goalscoring tally of 10 yesterday: "There are two games left. I'm sure the manager will take me through different things and parts of the games," he said. That's Capello – always on his shoulder, nurturing and cajoling the man on whom next summer depends.

5. Having five emerging players

It has not all been down to the manager. Individual performances during the campaign have demonstrated quite how much has been thrown away in the past four years. To the regalvanised presence of Lampard and Gerrard there has been added the consistency of Gareth Barry, on the fringes of a regular place when Capello arrived, but now someone who offers the defensive shield which has permitted Lampard to go forward. Walcott was a boy when Eriksson took him to Germany in 2006 but he has come of age as an international in the qualifying campaign and so, on Wednesday night, did Aaron Lennon. No one could doubt's Eriksson's judgement in not naming Defoe in his final squad three years ago but he is a prime contender for South Africa. Neither is it without good reason that Capello raves about Glen Johnson, who has nine months to develop a defensive game to match his attacking play.

News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions