The Capello experiment works at last

by Charlie Coffey

Monday, November 14th, 2011

England’s narrow 1-0 victory over Spain proved that Fabio Capello’s Italian influence can force England to play without the cavalier tendencies that cause them to be knocked out of every major tournament.

Rather than arrogantly attacking the World and European champions at Wembley, England played with rare discipline and composure. The result was that a team of inferior individuals frustrated and eventually beat a team containing the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta; players with a level of technique that England seem unable to reproduce.

It is hard to imagine an English manager employing three holding midfielders at home. Had the tactic failed, Capello would surely have been berated for negativity, yet now he has given England hope that they can change their style and prosper against the best footballing sides. Yes, the victory was fortunate, but England’s tactic of stifling instead of trying to outplay a Spain side that enjoyed around 70% possession eventually paid off.

The performance was Italian in conception and nature. Since the 1960s Italian football has more often than not valued defence over attack, the effect of which can still be seen in the low goal-scoring rate of Serie A compared to leagues such as the English Premier League and La Liga. Capello proved as manager of sides such as AC Milan and Real Madrid that he can attack when it suits, but he can also defend if he the situation demands. Unfortunately this is England’s best chance of beating a side such as Spain.

The performance was one of the first times in recent memory that an England played with an obvious and well-executed game plan. The inclusion of selfless and mentally strong players such as James Milner, Scott Parker and Phil Jones (who was played as one of a trio of deep midfielders) helped the team to keep their shape. While absent players like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard may be better natural footballers, the often selfish urges that force them to abandon instructions and drift to seek possession often damage the structure of the team when without the ball.

England are still well down the pecking order of favourites for the European Championships. This was, after all, just a friendly game, and England rode their luck on more than one occasion while scoring from one of just two chances, at home. However, when compared to the previous two games against Spain in which England chased shadows and were soundly beaten, this 1-0 win offers valuable evidence that England now have players who are can follow instructions, and, crucially, a manager who realises that England need to change tact to beat superior opposition.

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  • jake

    If Greece can win the Euro’s playing this way why can’t England?

    As for Steven Gerrard, sorry but he is the most over rated International player in Europe. Scott Parker is a team player and works effortlessly for his team mates where as Gerrard plays stupid 40 yard Hollywood balls which look great when they work, but they hardly do.

  • dexylongshot

    In Fabio we trust.

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