Lee Dixon: A win is not enough. Capello must think again and find some style to lift this team
World Cup Dossier
Friday 18 June 2010
We're a week into the World Cup, and Fabio Capello still has to find answers to as many questions as he had at the start. It's not unfair to say that the marginal calls he has taken so far – taking the gamble on Ledley King's fitness, starting with James Milner on Saturday when he had only just recovered from a stomach bug, and backing Robert Green as England's first-choice goalkeeper – have largely backfired.
But if Capello is going to try anything different, it should be against this opposition. Tonight's game is as good an chance as Capello will get to put England's problems right. Should we win? If we can't, then everyone might as well get on the plane home. Capello needs more than that. The performance is important – if they can win with some style, it will have a bearing on the rest of the tournament. Players in every position, will be happy and confident, with no fear or doubts. That would change everything.
England fans have started arriving here in Cape Town and there is already a buzz. Imagine the effect if England can win by three or four, Rooney grabs a couple, Heskey scores and Lennon knocks in 15 great balls. So what does Capello need to do to get England firing?
Rob Green: stick or twist?
One decision Capello did get right was backing Green at half-time on Saturday. I would have taken Green off, and that was certainly the majority view around the BBC studio in Cape Town, but in hindsight the manager was right to leave him on. Green paid back his manager to some extent in the second half and made a good save, but that does not mean the issue is settled for tonight. The decision on the keeper is the biggest one Capello faces. Does he stick or twist?
Green is said to have impressed Capello and the rest of the squad in training this week, which seems to point to him staying in place. But I think he should make a change and start with David James. James was given the No 1 jersey to begin with and if he had been fully fit for the US he might well have started. If he is called in, you can guarantee he will not suffer big-game nerves. James may have made some high-profile mistakes in the past, but he is not a player who gets the jitters and, crucially, he has the experience.
Neither will James have a problem if he finds out two hours before kick-off that he is playing. That is the question mark over Joe Hart – nobody knows how he will respond to playing on an occasion like this, and finding out at such short notice. Doing well in games like these is how players build great careers, but then again, for Capello, is this the time and place to take this particular risk?
Is Carragher fast enough?
Capello seems certain to start with the back four that finished against the US, with Jamie Carragher alongside John Terry in the middle – otherwise what was the point of sending Carragher on? But there is a concern about the lack of pace in the centre. Fortunately, the return of Gareth Barry to anchor the midfield will help shield Terry and Carragher. Barry's presence should mean that Carragher does not have to get so tight on attackers, which is when he becomes vulnerable. Carragher remains a strong reader of the game – and he needs to be, now that he has lost pace. He was caught out against the US, when he was turned after getting too tight, but Algeria and Slovenia are unlikely to offer the same threat. The US was the toughest fixture in the group.
There may be more of a concern with Carragher later in the tournament when England come up against more mobile attacks. That would worry me. Capello has gone for Carragher ahead of Michael Dawson as the Tottenham man is still wet behind the ears at this level, although I would like to see Dawson come into consideration against a team whose forwards like to spin into holes behind the defence.
But for the next two games, at least, there should not be anything to worry about.
Who plays on the left?
My preference is for five across midfield, encouraging Steven Gerrard, who had a good game against the US, to get forward as much as possible. But I can't see Capello going with anything other than his favourite 4-4-2.
Barry's return is important both looking forwards and backwards. He provides a barrier in front of defence, and allows Gerrard to go forward, and to the left, where he was so good in qualifying.
England did not get enough going forward against the US and need more from the midfield. Aaron Lennon got into good positions so many times, but his delivery needs to be more consistent. He could do better. Frank Lampard was quiet, but he too can be liberated by Barry's return.
I can't see a start for Joe Cole, not in a four-man midfield. If he comes in where does Gerrard go? Certainly not on the right.
Did Heskey do enough?
Rooney was also quiet against the States and, although Emile Heskey's overall performance wasn't at all bad, as a striker has to score goals; he missed the best chance. Rooney looks off the pace at the moment – he does not seem quite himself. Rooney is better off playing a lone role.
Still, the Italian didn't become the man he is by chopping and changing. When managers get to this stage of their careers they have regimented thought processes. He prefers to play two up front, so against Algeria Jermain Defoe deserves a run. If there is ever a time in a World Cup to see what a player can do, it is against a side like Algeria – their back four do not look convincing.
Our other experts have their say: What is the one thing England must put right?
James Lawton: Find the most from Rooney
England must concentrate their minds on the central challenge facing any serious minded team. They must apply the classic rule of all winners. They must exploit their greatest strength.
His name is Wayne Rooney and the failure to properly supply him, at a time when the Americans were ripe for dismissal was, Robert Green's misery apart, the most critical failure in Rustenburg. It cannot happen in Cape Town tonight. If Rooney is properly enabled, if he gets the ball when he is in position to receive it – which is pretty much all the time – England will re-join the contenders.
Sam Wallace: Get behind Algeria's full-backs
England need to stretch the play and get the ball in behind Algeria's full-backs tonight. They looked at their most dangerous last Saturday against the States when Aaron Lennon got round the full-back and crossed the ball. They have the pace in the team to do it. Nothing is more depressing than watching England struggle in a game and try to score with a barrage of long-range shots. If they can switch the play quickly and overwhelm Algeria we will see the best of England.
Ian Herbert: End the talk about the Jabulani
England's goalkeeper, whoever it may be, must learn to cope with the swerving Jabulani ball struck from outside the area. Should the England goalkeeper push a swerving ball away or risk trying to collect and potentially spill? Bearing in mind their record of just one goal in five during the World Cup warm-ups, Algeria do not pose a huge goal threat but striking from distance may be their best bet. In training in the Green Point stadium last night, Robert Green – the most likely starter – fumbled two consecutive balls fired at him at pace. Deal with this better and England should be home and hosed.
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