After the recriminations the clearest message is that Capello failed. He took the wrong squad and deployed them in an absurd fashion. He should be sacked.
England lined up in the same pigheaded manner they did against Slovenia. Gerrard still wasted on the left. A midfield two open to the Germans three. Many in the local bemoaned the player’s inability but this failure is squarely one of the manager. In fact he had the answer in the qualifiers when he lined us up 4-2-3-1 with fast attacking players wide. Here he shrank into his own preconceptions of England’s ability. Throughout the tournament he has stuck to the same formation that clearly did not work. He watched Emile Heskey flounder, a contribution of one pass in five games is a shocking indictment of the manager’s judgement.
For those of you who blame the players consider whether any of these players line up 4-4-2 with their clubs. Do any of them routinely lump it for a target man? This tournament was not a shambles because England do not produce good enough players. We know these players are world class because we watch them do it every year in the Champions’ League. Most of this squad have been measured in that competition against the best from Argentina, Germany and Brazil and have frequently mastered those players for their teams. The difference is simply formation and preparation.
Ashley Cole emerges from this World Cup with his head held high as having single-handedly defended England’s left hand side. Which is in itself a further indictment because Capello managed to create a system that hampered one of his best attacking talents by overloading his defensive responsibility. But the tactical mess goes deeper than just isolating Cole. All of these players play in squads with five in midfield, with cover for each position. Very few of the press commentators back home endorsed Capello’s 4-4-2 simply because of its obvious limitations. Attacking and defending in straight lines against fluid attacking play and packed midfields is doomed and obviously doomed. Don’t forget that the Italian coach watched these tactics fail against the USA, he saw the same set-up crash against Algeria and stuck with the same for a scrappy 1-0 against Slovenia. Not good enough to win that group should have convinced him that a change of formation was vital against the Germans.
Instead we got more of the same. Watching his side flounder his response was to bring on Cole on the right and persevere with Gerrard on the left.
Capello’s tactical master plan not only included Heskey but the introduction of the hapless Shaun Wright-Phillips. The players he left at home speak volumes about his inability as a coach. Theo Walcott blows hot and cold but at least he has a hot, Wright-Phillips was simply out of his depth. Shaun’s club mate, Adam Johnson had a fantastic season with Manchester City and kept Wright-Phillips out of the side but wasn’t on the plane.
Similarly, scratching around for cover for Gareth Barry, he called Michael Carrick and Scot Parker into the provisional squad. He ignored Parker, a far superior replacement for Barry, and took Carrick as a spare part.
Still his players tried their best in the lopsided mess Capello calls tactics. Out manoeuvred in midfield we at least scored two, although only one was given. We hit the bar, as Frank Lampard continued his ultimately futile attempt to score at a World Cup.
The rest was ridiculously easy for a talented German side presented with all the space they needed in midfield they simply accepted the gift. In scoring four Germany managed more in one game than Capello’s England side managed in the whole tournament.
If Capello had set out deliberately to undermine his squad he couldn’t have done it better. Joe Cole was scathing after the match, saying that there were issues that needed to be addressed before the next Euro qualifiers. Much was made of John Terry’s rebellion before the Slovenia game but it has become clear that the senior players missed an opportunity to force the manager’s hand. If they had backed John and forced the tactical changes, that everyone but Capello could see where urgently needed, perhaps we would have had a fighting chance.
As it is Fabio Capello single-handedly shot the last chance many of these players had at a successful World Cup and should be removed from the England post whatever the cost.