Beckham is wrong – Capello is as much to blame as the players

by Charlie Coffey

Friday, July 16th, 2010

This is the last one, I promise. With two extra weeks to write about England given the early exit to Germany, almost everything has been written about the team and their coach. The barbs have been thrown at all angles, but Don Fabio, hiding behind the substantial shield of his £12 million pay-off clause has survived to fight another qualifying campaign.

Now the dust has settled and the World Cup has concluded in inevitable Spanish victory we can look back at England with retrospect and without anger clouding the judgement. The players are definitely to blame to an extent, but they were heavily affected by three factors that undermined the team’s performance before a ball was kicked in South Africa, in my opinion.

The first two are linked and surround the fear that was etched on the faces of previously unflappably confident players. Firstly was the ‘Mr Capello’ culture that must have made the lads feel like they feel like they were back at school. I can safely say that will the exception of Frank Lampard, who apparently has an IQ bigger than his arse, the England squad weren’t top of their respective classes. Whether Jamie Carragher went to school at all is highly unlikely. A regression back to those days cannot have put the players in the best mental state to perform.

I’m not asking for a McClaren-style chummy coach – a manager must maintain an air of discipline after all – but the best coaches have a blend of friendliness and discipline to relax players yet keep them on their toes. Under Capello’s watch the England hotel must have been like the dormitory in Full Metal Jacket.

Secondly, the decision to announce the team just two hours before kick-off cannot have helped. I honestly can’t see how it would have. If you think you’re not playing and you’re picked you have two hours to get your head straight instead of two days, and then you have to focus on your performance or, in Rob Green’s case, shit yourself and drop the first daisy-cutter that rolls into your gloves. In Green’s defence he had no idea he was playing in what was his first game for England in a major tournament. If you think you are playing then find out you are not this must lead to extreme frustration.

The third reason is an apparent tactical naivety by the one coach that was supposed to smooth this traditional sticking point. No more good old English 4-4-2, we were led to believe. Instead England were again one of the only nations still showing faith in this tactic – which is more-or-less medieval in international football – and one of the only teams playing without the seemingly mandatory pair of holding midfielders. Capello flirted with a 4-3-3 against France in Paris early in his career but soon reverted to the 4-4-2 as soon as it didn’t work, instead of persevering with his players, many of which play 4-3-3 with their clubs anyway. England battered Croatia with 4-4-2, so it’s bound to beat Brazil, isn’t it?!

The players are to blame in some instances, like John Terry and Matthew Upson failing to deal with a simple straight kick from Manuel Neuer for Germany’s first goal. However, the approach Capello took to the World Cup meant that a. there was a general atmosphere of fear, b. Rob Green’s nerves cost England an easy route to the semi-finals c. Our rigid two banks of four were shattered as soon as we faced a decent team playing a flexible system. Sorry Becks.

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  • Robin

    Personally I would have picked the English Tottenham players who were playing fantastic at the end of the season and built a team around them. Dawson, Huddlestone, Defoe, Crouch & Lennon for a start (I am a Sunderland supporter so I would have taken Bent).

    I guess King would have been in my starting 11 as well. But. who cares now. England were really poor and Germany shone (by far the most entertaining side).

  • Toby

    Capello made a series of terrible decisions up to and during the World Cup. When he took the job he claimed he would pick players based on form and wouldn’t choose injured players, why then did he phone Jamie Carragher, woefully out of form all season, and beg him to return to the international fold, why did he take a cripple on the plane (King) and why was another player whose club form had been awful all season made the captain.
    Theo Walcott should have definately been there, just ask a certain Lionel Messi. Indeed at half time v Germany Gerrard off, Walcott on could have been a perfect substitution and may have got England back in the game.
    It seems that being in the England job turns even the most qualified and intelligent people into total idiots. I think we should have an X factor style Manager contest. Ferguson, Wenger, Beckham and Simon Cowell would make up the panel. Several rounds would see the usual lunatics whittled out with computer simulations and some kind of World Cup for the chosen few. As a twist at the end current Premiership managers who fancied a pop would be allowed to enter some kind of final challenge. The panel would then choose one potential manager each and the public would vote for their favourite.
    We might end up with Harry Redknapp or we might end up with Barry from Nuneaton either way they probably wouldn’t do any worse than Don Fabio.

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