Lee Dixon: Capello's stubborn streak cost England but we should not rush to judge him
Tuesday 29 June 2010
With England there is always the danger of a knee-jerk reaction. If you had taken a vox pop around a gloomy BBC studio on Sunday night, Fabio Capello would have been gone but this two-week cooling-off period offers a chance to form a proper review of his tenure.
Nevertheless, it can not be encouraging for the Italian that his employers have said they will take time to decide his future. If you were him, the lack of any clear support would not offer any confidence over your future in the job.
His record needs to be seen, and then judged, from the start, not just the disappointment of the last couple of weeks. England arrived in South Africa with plenty of positives and I had nothing but praise for the way he had revitalised a squad that had fallen a long way. Do not overlook the state of the national side when he took over. After the previous regime the standing of the side had slipped drastically and the strict discipline that Capello insisted on was crucial in turning things around pretty quickly.
He is a good manager – his record at club level over a period of time stands alongside most of the top coaches in the game today. But maybe he has needed more time to learn at international level. Not when it comes to qualification, when you only have the players for three or four days and the novelty value of a new man and new ideas lasts longer. The difference between that and a tournament, in terms of finding form and momentum, as well as how you run the camp, are huge. But he is an intelligent man and if he can show that he has learnt from this, then perhaps there is a case for him staying as there are benefits to continuity. he is a talented manager.
Now for the downsides. His decision-making in South Africa has been disappointing; he has not fielded players in their best positions – how many times do I have to keep going back to Steven Gerrard? And his substitutions have been verging on the bizarre: Heskey, the non-scoring striker, for Defoe when you are desperate for a goal. And Peter Crouch, with his scoring record for England, left sitting there in his tracksuit.
The attitude and spirit in the camp has not looked right and his stubbornness can be so frustrating – back to Gerrard again. It's difficult to think of a successful team in international football that uses a rigid 4-4-2. There are moments in a game when teams will drop into two ranks of four when they do not have the ball, but all the leading nations are playing variants of 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1. There is no fluidity to England and that comes directly from the system they are being asked to play.
So is it all the manager's fault? Only partly. The lethargy of England's performances was so hard to understand (and I'll explain why in the piece below), but what is not difficult to grasp is the football lesson Germany gave us. It was embarrassing. We were ripped apart time after time and yet the manager made no effort to change the system.
You cannot dump every failing on Capello's doorstep. The players have to take responsibility too. How many of them will have arrived home this morning satisfied with the way they performed? They lacked leadership in Bloemfontein and again that is difficult to comprehend with John Terry, Lampard and Gerrard in the line-up. The decision making on the pitch, as well as off it, was poor. How many times have you seen Terry get dragged out of position – as he was for that terrible first goal – when he plays for Chelsea? The communication between the centre-halves was very poor and it was little better throughout the side.
There are deep problems with the game in England, the way we bring players through compared to countries such as Germany and Holland, the coaching structures all the way from grass roots upwards. The list is a familiar one. These issues have to be addressed but must not be allowed to paper over the cracks of the disastrous performance in South Africa by experienced players – five of the line-up against Germany have played in a Champions League final – and a manager who had promised so much more. The system cannot take the blame.
If Capello goes, and the indications are that he will, then the best candidate to succeed him is Roy Hodgson. In the past the FA have been too quick to look abroad, but Hodgson's credentials are impeccable, among them significant experience of international management. He is the right man for the job.
Winter break would help but tiredness does not explain England effort
Wayne Rooney looked shattered in every game. He doesn't look like he enjoyed one kick in South Africa. England have looked tired from the start and even the Slovenia performance has to be weighed against how bad the opposition were.
But tiredness, and the long English season, is no excuse – the statistics do not back the claim that our domestic season takes so much out of the England side. If you take the leading German players, they have played as many games over the last season as Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney.
When Rooney really plays he has that devil in his eye, a look of schoolboy naughtiness – he is happy. But he has been nothing of the sort here. At the root of the problem is that it does not seem as if he is fit. Yet compare him to Arjen Robben who is also not at the peak of fitness either but has still plucked a vital goal out of somewhere at a key moment for the Dutch, a side that relies heavily on the Bayern man. Rooney had so many hopes on his shoulders and he has finished well short of fulfilling them.
I spoke to Clarence Seedorf about England players such as Rooney looking so worn out and he is a big believer in the winter break. In his experiences it definitely helped refresh him. But are the Premier League going to agree to go without their Christmas and New Year fixtures? I don't think so.
* Dutch don't look great – but at least they're still in it
The Dutch were nothing special yesterday. They have a few issues defensively to sort out and if teams can stop Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder they look pretty functional. But they have been getting better slowly and, as Seedorf let us know, they are still in the tournament.
* Argentina not the only side struggling at the back Argentina have been the stand-out team of the tournament so far and have the best attack. They too have defensive issues – that is something of a theme of this World Cup. There are few sides who look really solid at the back and plenty of teams now left in the tournament with plenty in attack. It promises a good last couple of weeks.
* Germans have what it takes to win game of tournament The Germany v Argentina quarter-final next Saturday has the makings of the game of the tournament. England rarely managed to show up the frailties in the German defence – Per Mertesacker lacks pace in the middle and Argentina have the speed in attack to exploit that. But Germany were very impressive in rising to the occasion against England and I just have a sneaky feeling that they might do it again.
* No excuse for Fifa not to bring in goal-line technology Fifa's opposition to goal-line technology is ridiculous. There is no point in leaving it to the human eye when the technology is there and all too easy to use. It took a few seconds for us to see the replay of the Lampard "goal". It would make next to no difference to the flow of the game. There is no reason not to introduce it.
* Expect Portuguese to sit back and rely on Ronaldo Spain's game against Portugal tonight is one I am really looking forward to, although I expect Portugal will try to stifle their neighbours rather than try and take the attack to them and lean on Ronaldo to provide the spark.
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