Glenn Moore: No role for Owen on Capello's first night

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The Independent Football

Some managers like to do their talking off the pitch. Fabio Capello is not one of them. Having already declared he does not have enough faith in his new language skills to deal with a media he trusts even less than his English, he last night confirmed the suspicion that he will not be offering up too many headlines whatever tongue he speaks in.

One he was particularly keen to avoid seeing repeated was "Arrivederci Owen". When asked why he not only omitted the fourth-highest goalscorer in England's history, but did not even summon Owen from the bench, Capello replied: "I think about substitutions according to what happens on the pitch. All players are equal."

He could have pointed to Owen's lack of match-sharpness and thus made a defence of him; he could have noted that Peter Crouch fitted his 4-5-1 cum 4-3-3 system better. But maybe he did not mention the latter because, if Capello persists with this formation, there is no room for Owen. A large part of the Newcastle striker's game involves preying on the shoulder of defenders and looking for a flick-on. He is not a back-to-goal, hold-the-ball-up player.

Capello was equally careful when responding to an interrogator who mentioned supporters' cries for David Beckham. Capello smiled, then said: "That does not influence me at all. I am happy for fans to chant David Beckham's name because he is a very good player. I know him very well, but the things I do have nothing to do with my personal feelings for a player. I reason about things and every decision is borne out of that."

If logic, rather than hunches or reputations, is to be the determining factor in selection it will be making a welcome reappearance. There was sound common sense too when the man whose goal secured Italy's first victory at this arena observed: "Wembley always generates pressure on the players and they could not play as they wish at first. We need to take the weight off our shoulders. We were quite nervous at the start, worried obviously. We probably still have at the back of our minds the failure to qualify for Euro 2008."

Maybe at the front of our minds too. As Kobi Kuhn, the Swiss coach, said: "The English team has to redeem itself in front of its spectators and its new coach in particular."

Capello added: "Winning is always good. It is important for the morale of the team but we need to analyse carefully every game. I saw them playing with their clubs and I wanted to see if they could do the same things here under the pressure at Wembley and some of them impressed me, they played very well, but we have things to work on. One of the things I was pleased with is that we did not give them many goalscoring chances. The goal was probably the only mistake."

Only in one area did Capello court controversy. It was noted that the likes of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard played all or most of the 90 minutes, which has not been a regular occurrence in mid-season friendlies for years. He said: "I believe I can rotate players up to a certain extent, but I need to understand things and get to know players so [club managers] can't expect me [to take players off early]."

Coming from Italy, where the federation runs the Azzurri and Serie A, Capello may not be aware of the Premier League's power. If he plays the stars for 90 minutes in Paris next month he will be.

Gerrard, captain for the night, did not appear to mind. He said: "We're happy, but we know we can play a lot better. He wants us to be difficult to beat and exciting going forward. It's going to take time but there's a long way to go before the World Cup qualifiers and I'm sure we'll be better by then."

Rooney, who spent the first hour playing as a lone forward, but looked much more at ease supporting Crouch from the left after the Liverpool striker was introduced, said: "We adapted quite well to the system considering we only worked on it for two to three days. This was a good platform for us."

The player likely to look back on the night with most satisfaction, despite a patchy personal performance, is Jermaine Jenas, who scored his first international goal. He described the match as "one to remember", especially as had not expected to play. "You are always surprised when you're not a regular in the team," he said. "My first goal at Wembley, first goal for England. I'm delighted."

Was Capello? It was hard to tell from his sphinx-like expression. One suspects he was relieved to win, pleased with many promising aspects of the performance, but the perfectionist is well aware that there is much to be done.