After the US game I wrote, “Glen Johnson confirmed that he is good going forward but vulnerable in defence, and like the centre-backs he will be cruelly exposed later in the tournament, if there is a later.” After the Algeria game I repeated, “The defence is a disaster waiting to happen…”
The defence against Germany was a shambles. If the Germans hadn’t exposed them, Argentina would have done. The midfield failed to dominate a single match. We missed Beckham terribly. Milner was the only one of three wingers who could cross a ball successfully.
The jury is no longer out on Lampard and Gerrard. They cannot play together in the same team. Four managers have tried and failed. There is an argument that Gerrard could have played close behind Rooney. We will never know, because Capello never tried it. The strikers were a total failure, except for Defoe’s goal against Slovenia, and Rooney’s shot against the post later in the same match.
Should Capello continue as England manager? Obviously not. England played abysmally in every game, scoring three goals and conceding five. They had the easiest group in the tournament. Had they scored a single goal against Algeria, they would have had the easiest possible run through to the semi-finals, and they couldn’t even manage that. They were playing in perfect conditions: cool weather in the first World Cup played in the winter for years, two evening matches, all perfect for English football. The goal Robert Green let in, Gareth Barry trying to catch a German player leading to the third goal, the appearance of Emile Heskey in place of Defoe when England needed to score three times: these are all unforgettable images of incompetence.
Capello alone can’t be blamed for the hype that surrounded a mediocre team. Or for the injuries that ravaged his squad. Not just those who couldn’t come: Hargreaves, Owen, Wes Brown, and, most missed of all, Beckham, but also the walking wounded: Rio Ferdinand, Gareth Barry, Ledley King and Rooney. None of these players were fit enough for a long tournament.
But there are things he can be blamed for. The refusal to try Gerrard with Rooney. To play two of England’s few top players out of position was a mistake. Crouch is the only striker who has scored consistently for England in 2010. He should have been played against Algeria when goals were crucial. Joe Cole never started a match. Instead, Gerrard was played on the left, even though he didn’t want to play there and hadn’t the discipline to stay where he was asked. Heskey’s confidence was clearly shot after the miss against the US—bringing him on at the end of the Germany game was England’s worst moment of the World Cup. Carragher was too old and King too unfit to play in defence. Dawson was at least young and mobile. Surely, he should have been tried or failing that Upson should have played more with Terry. They didn’t start together in either of England’s pre-World Cup friendlies.
Capello had several key failings. One, tinkering. England had only three friendlies in the six months before the World Cup. In those three matches, Capello started with two goalkeepers, eight defenders, eight midfielders and four strikers. Let’s not even count all the substitutions. He tried players who clearly were not fully fit and in some cases not remotely up to international standard. Walcott played in all three friendlies and never even made the squad. He was one of only two players who started in all three games. Heskey didn’t start in any of these games. No wonder they looked as if they’d never played together when the World Cup was under way.
A greater failing was Capello’s inability to take on the big problems. He wouldn’t address the problem of Lampard and Gerrard. He must have known Barry wasn’t fully fit, so why did he risk him against Germany where he had a nightmare game? If Rooney wasn’t fit, why play him in all four games? 4-4-2 clearly wasn’t working against anyone, so why not try a different formation?
Finally, there was the question of morale. He couldn’t inspire the team. Why did they always look so miserable and fearful, except at the end of the Slovenia game? Was this to do with Capello’s austerity regime, or perhaps his inability to speak good English? England went off the field at half-time against Germany, 2-1 down, still in the game. The first ten minutes of the second half were just as lacklustre. They weren’t fired up by a tremendous team talk. Great managers transform their teams at half-time, by brave substitutions or changes of tactic, by inspirational talks. Capello did none of these.
And now the final farce: the FA can’t even make a decision. They say they need two weeks. To do what? To raise the money to buy him out? To find a replacement? To make up their minds? It’s pathetic. Capello doesn’t deserve this. Fire him now and then dismiss the people who run the FA: people responsible for the Wembley overspend, that dreadful pitch, the embarrassing 2018 campaign, the appointments of Keegan and McLaren, the ridiculous financial deals with Sven and Capello, the record of ongoing failure at major tournaments, the failure to tackle structural problems in English football, such as the lack of a winter break, the size of the Premiership, and the financial mismanagement of the top clubs.
It is time for English football’s 1789. The ancien regime is rotten through and through.