Sport Soccer

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Capello comes up smelling of roses

Wales 0 England 2

Henry Winter

After Fabio Capello finally got England playing the right notes again, he now wants to prove he has a second string to his bow.

The England manager claimed he would make 11 changes for tomorrow's friendly with Ghana at Wembley, inevitably reigniting the captaincy debate after John Terry returned to Chelsea.

In releasing five of the starting XI who overwhelmed Wales -- Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson and Wayne Rooney -- Capello has shown a sensitivity to those still involved in the Champions League.

"There will be 11 changes because I want to respect the clubs," said Capello.

Clarification of this from the FA drew the reply that this meant a completely new starting XI, and not simply five changes to Cardiff and six subs coming on. Unless he changes his mind, Capello could use 17 of his remaining squad members, a party reduced to 20 with Kyle Walker's return to Aston Villa with a minor knock.

So there should still be the likes of Jack Wilshere, Andy Carroll, Ashley Young, Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent, Scott Parker and Joe Hart to admire, whether starting or arriving in the second half.

If there is a twinge of frustration it is that Capello has eschewed the opportunity to summon a centre-half like Manchester United's Chris Smalling, giving him a taste of senior action.

Ghana must be taken seriously: they came through a tough Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Sunday with a 3-0 victory over Congo and reached the World Cup quarter-finals last year. They also boast such talents as Asamoah Gyan and Michael Essien, and will also enjoy the passionate backing of 20,000 supporters.

For the B-team exercise to be worthwhile, Capello must continue with the system deployed to such good effect against Wales.

A return to the desperate World Cup dog-days of 4-4-2 must be resisted; off with the straitjacket, on with the made-to-measure glad rags of 4-3-3 please.

It cannot be stressed enough how weak the hosts were on Saturday.


Yet there was a fluidity and balance to England's 4-3-3 that deserves persisting with, not least because it was the system important players craved during the World Cup. Capello has finally come round to his players' way of thinking.

With Parker holding, Wilshere pulling the strings and Young's pace taking him behind Wales' abject defence, England were far too good.

Even Terry had time and room to step out, beginning the move that led to James Collins tripping Young and Lampard converting the penalty.

Glen Johnson then triggered an attack down the right flank, and Young crossed for Bent to score his third in as many internationals from close range.

Young's impact was considerable, the Aston Villa flier rivalled only by Parker and Wilshere as man of the match.

Capello hailed Wilshere, Carroll and Theo Walcott as "three really important players for the future of England," but clearly Young is too. Parker also has a significant role during this Euro 2012 campaign.

Capello insisted he had not picked the West Ham midfielder before because "we played another style"; the Italian felt that Parker could get outmanoeuvred in a 4-4-2 system.

"This time we played different with three midfielders," said Capello. "Parker is playing very well. I respect him, I know the value of this player."

He was certainly reminded of the 30 year-old's capabilities in Cardiff.

At 25, Rooney is even more central to England fortunes but his international season is over, as a second yellow card precludes his involvement against Switzerland on June 4.

His stupid, tetchy challenge on Joe Ledley duly ensured an early start to the summer recess.

Asked whether Rooney had been warned before kick-off about the yellow peril, Capello replied: "Usually we did this, but this time no."

"It was because Rooney is too generous, every tackle he wants to win," added Capello, who removed the striker in the second half.

"I changed him because of the second yellow card -- he would be sent off."

After a fortnight of criticism over his handling of the captaincy, an episode that the FA privately conceded was a public relations disaster, Capello left Cardiff, breathing slightly easier. "It is a normal job," he shrugged.

No it isn't, but the Impossible Job can become more "normal" when a manager uses his players properly.

Arrivederci 4-4-2. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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