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ENGLAND: Capello’s critics will allow themselves a wry smile

Beckenbauer, Cruyff and Saachi will all say we told you so as England lurch from drama to crisis.


By Guest Writer Danny Ohio.

It’s hard to remember a time when we have seen the great Fabio Capello look as bemused and bewildered as he did in Cape Town on Friday night as his England players limped home to one of the most embarrassing points they will ever win in their careers.

For nearly 20 years we have been accustomed to Don Fabio’s calm and steely demeanour and his “My way or the highway” approach which has brought him successes at some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs. But on Friday night the Italian once hailed as the man with the keys to finally unlock the collective potential of England’s golden generation stood forlorn in his technical area, flapping his arms in frustration, his face contorted with rage.

It is not the sort of behaviour we are used to seeing from Capello and it is plain to see that he knows his team needs something and something quick. Yet Capello’s critics – of whom there are many – will say that what happened on Friday was that the fundamental flaws of his approach to the game were laid bare on the biggest stage of all. What England lacked in the Green Point Stadium was what all of Capello’s teams have lacked during his time as a coach – imagination.

Despite winning domestic league titles with every club he has managed, many have accused Il Capo’s sides of lacking imagination, performing in a functional rather than inspiring manner – an accusation another successful coach Jose Mourinho knows all about. He famously lost his job at Real Madrid for the uninspiring way his team went about its business. The writing was on the wall almost from the off, with the Bernabeu faithful bored to tears and the marketing men unable to sell his pragmatic pie and mash to those who had grown accustomed to foie gras. Even during his highly-successful tenure in Milan he was barracked for being too defensive – and in a league as defence-minded as Italy that is some claim.

Capello supporters would call his approach functional, critics would say it was boring and some have been doing exactly that, with Johann Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer questioning how far England can go with him at the helm. Cruyff blasted him for the predictable and plod-hopping nature, while Der Kaiser accused him of hit and hope tactics. Now these and others in the game have been levelling different claims against Capello’s style long before he took the England manager’s job and they will continue to do so until the day he retires.

However, until the World Cup and the debacle against Algeria in particular, England fans had never really had a taste of it. The first thing Capello did was to restore confidence and belief into a group of players who had hit rock bottom under Steve McClaren. His disciplinarian approach and unrivalled pedigree was just what England needed and the results through the qualifying stages showed just what a good job he did.

Yet even the most ardent Capello fan would admit that the performances, while effective, were not exactly in the same league as Spain, Brazil and the other ‘favourites’ England are inevitably mentioned with at every tournament. A large part of the shine was applied by Wayne Rooney’s sparkling form. Now the Rooney machine is broken and his critics will say that England look just like every other Capello team.

When things are going well, calls to change the 4-4-2 you have stuck to so religiously during your career are few and far between. But when you’re system is repelled – and repelled with relative ease – by the likes of the US and Algeria, then questions are going to be asked.

On Friday England needed what Arsenal needed at the Emirates against Barcelona earlier in the season – a spark. The Gunners were being thoroughly outclassed by Barca until Theo Walcott came on, frightened the Barca back line to death and, crucially, lifted everyone in his own team with his energy and pace. Yet Don Fabio didn’t have that. And when the time came to decide between throwing caution to the wind and switching to a more fluid 4-3-3 system, he decided to stay with his trusty 4-4-2 and hammer square pegs into round holes.

The problem is however, that at club level Capello’s teams have been able to play themselves back into form over a four of five game stretch. England do not have that and Fabio knows the pressure is on him like never before.

There is no question, Fabio Capello is one of the greatest managers of all time but England expects and what England expects if for their team to be able to negotiate a qualifying group with the USA, Algeria and Slovenia without any problems.

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