How Fabio Capello Blew it, and Why He Should Be Fired

June 28, 2010 - South Africa - Football - England Press Conference - England Team Camp, Royal Bafokeng Training Complex - 28/6/10..England manager Fabio Capello during the press conference.

I am fully aware that I am late to the why-England-were-eliminated-party here, but as I’ve pored over the litany of explanations on the web, I’ve found that there is an unfair discrepancy of player blame vs. manager blame.

Sure, the England stars appeared lackadaisical and short on ideas, but these are the same players that excel for their clubs under different systems than England’s, so blaming them can only go so far.

Somehow, Capello has failed to get the most out of his players, and that rests with the manager.

1.) Formation Was it written somewhere in his contract that Capello must employ the traditional English 4-4-2 in order to manage the national team?

As has been exhaustively written, Steven Gerrard is a waste playing in an unorthodox left-side midfielder position. When England was steamrolling through a relatively easy qualifying group, everything was rosy. But forcing arguably your country’s best midfielder out of position simply to conform to an outdated formation is naive at best, criminal at worst.

Rather than marginalize Gerrard’s talents, Capello should have built a system that showcases his abilities. Gerrard’s unique (at least for the English team) versatility has always been his downfall for the national team, yet one would think that since the FA shells out £6 million a year on the Italian “genius”, he would be able to figure out one simple notion: cater your formation to your best players, not the opposite and marginalize them.

It amazes me that fans and blog-writers can figure out that the system employed in South Africa should have seen Gerrard somewhere in the middle, yet Capello only did so when his God-send Gareth Barry was out injured (more on that later). The sad part is there are a multitude of ways in which to do execute this:

Standard formation for top Premier League teams, replacing outdated 4-4-2 formation.

The above is just one example formation that Capello should have used in this tournament, but shockingly this was never fully implemented on a large scale by Capello nor his predecessor Sven-Goran Eriksson. In it, Lampard and Gerrard are utilized in formations for which they excel at club level (yes I know Gerrard had an off season this last campaign, but that could be attributed to injury and Rafa Benitez using him where? You guessed it, on the flank).

This is the primary system that Chelsea employed in the glory years of Mourinho, and the formation that Carlo Ancelotti reverted too after testing a midfield diamond. Manchester United has used it to great effect, with Sir Alex Ferguson realizing he lacked a second world-class striker to complement Rooney. Rooney went on to score 34 goals this past year for United, so it is hardly inconceivable that he would shine under such a system for England.

Because Capello was convinced that a Lampard-Gerrard central midfield pairing would not work (which barely anyone contests), Gareth Barry was always going to be in the starting XI as a holding player screening the back four. So why not allow both Lampard AND Gerrard to operate in their familiar positions?

For Lampard, the above system puts him right where he operates for Chelsea, allowing him freedom to attack the box with Barry behind, and positions Gerrard closer to Rooney where he needs to be because those two are the best England have on the ball. Gerrard could serve as a second striker in most attacking situations knowing that Lampard would carry out more defensive duties to help Barry if necessary.

Perhaps I am naive (also not inconceivable!), but does this not seem a formation that would get the best out of all the players on the field? It puts Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in comfortable positions that mirror their club responsibilities

2.) Personnel

Heskey, Heskey, Heskey. I still am not convinced starting the big battering ram was a wise choice, and it would be hard to continue to argue such after this tournament. Short tournament campaigns like the World Cup require goals to win, and Heskey simply wastes a spot.

It is shocking to me that Capello would take a nomad footballer in the doldrums of his career and put him in the biggest show on Earth. Does he seriously think Emile Heskey is good enough to make his squad, let alone configure how he would use Wayne Rooney, England’s great hope, based on Heskey? It is complete crap. No one can sit there and look me in the face and say that Peter Crouch could not do as well as Heskey in opening up space for Rooney. Crouch provides more options than Heskey. He drops deep to open up space, he can play as a target man late in matches, and, oh wait, he actually scores goals (21 goals in 38 England matches to be exact)!

England's Joe Cole looks on from the bench..FIFA World Cup 2010 Group C..Slovenia v England..23rd June, 2010.

But Capello’s worst personnel decision was leaving Joe Cole to rot on the bench. England have almost no technically gifted footballers other than Cole, and Capello’s asinine decision to start an inexperienced (yet promising) James Milner over Joe Cole is indefensible. Why start yet another strong, direct type of player when pretty much the whole team is comprised of such guys? Cole brings much needed guile, style and creativity that, like John Terry famously pointed out, is one of few Englishmen that can actually open up defenses. Cole was the player of the 2006 World Cup for England, and was completely misjudged and misused by a stubborn and incorrect Fabio Capello.

3.) Man Management

While Sven-Goran Eriksson gave England the Baden-Baden WAG fiasco, Capello gave England boredom and a misplaced authoritarianism. Capello must have forgotten he is no longer a club coach, and while his attempts at Mussolini-esque autocratic rule throughout qualifying (where he sees the players once every so often) were met with enthusiasm by the British press, such attempts failed him once he had England for over a month where personalities can clash.

Granted, John Terry’s attempted “coup” was ill-advised, but it underscored the feelings of many England players at his managerial style. It highlighted that there was a major chasm between players and management, and perhaps severe lack of communication. The blame must rest with the manager for not having the full faith and confidence of the players. There was a lack of unity in the team, and while the players should never go blameless for such disharmony, the manager should be pointed at for not getting his messages across.

At the end of the day, the aforementioned three reasons are enough for Capello to be fired by the FA. He didn’t do his job. In fact, he did worse than the much-maligned Eriksson, who took his team to the quarterfinals in every major competition.

Capello comes off as a stubborn disciplinarian whose tactical acumen (at least at international level) was grossly overrated. While the players could have and should have played with more confidence and clarity, much of England’s failure was down to poor planning and poor managerial execution of solid game plans. In the Germany match, Capello played into their hands. He should have matched their formation with a similar one like above, and should have had Gerrard in a central role (where he excelled against the USA) throughout the tournament.

In the high-stakes world of international tournaments, if you underachieve as Capello has (especially at his exorbitant salary), you should get the sack. Perhaps it is time for England to go back to an English manager.

It is almost as if the FA concede that England are not good enough to win a World Cup without a foreign, tactical “genius.” Well, a Swede and an Italian have gotten them nowhere. Maybe it’s time to go back to square one.

[polldaddy poll=3410500]

22 thoughts on “How Fabio Capello Blew it, and Why He Should Be Fired”

  1. I don’t know if Capello should be sacked really, has he done any worse then McClaren or Sven. He has admitted he made mistakes but it’s not totally his fault when you have over paid, over hyped pre-maddona’s like he had who basically refuse to show up and play for England. He can only motivate them so much. The England players need to grow up and decide if playing for England is what they want or not, if not retire and let the younger players in. Capello should be held accountable for his mistakes but it isn’t totally on his shoulders the abject failure of England.

  2. I agree it is not entirely on his shoulders, and I’ll agree that he should be held accountable; by being fired.

    It is time for England to start fresh and start over. They will be poor for a little while as Lampard et al fade away, but perhaps this will be the best thing for them. Get and English manager who lives and breathes English football and improve the youth systems from the ground up.

    1. While that sounds good and well, do you really think the FA is going to chance the way they do things? They still have yet to complete the National Training Center in Burton and have not seemed inclined to change anything they do. It doesn’t matter what manager they bring in, until English players learn to play with technique and understand tactics this will happen every tournament they qualify for.

  3. While I agree with the idea of the formation.
    I would change the personnel.

    Johnson Upson Terry A. Cole

    Lennon Barry Carrick Gerrard


    Green is far better than James, one mistake doesn’t make him a bad keeper.
    Lennon brings a threat and speed, and Rooney would not convert the Milner crosses. Gerrard can play on the left, just look at Iniesta.

    England really need to change the philosophy of their play, they have great passers of the football and can play with more possession and more pressure when they lose the ball. The wing backs need to be more used.

    Capello is the man to get it right.


    1. For Spain, Iniesta may be listed as a left-side midfielder but when you watch Spain play in this tournament, Villa stays wide left primarily, Torres plays central striker who drifts right on occasion. Iniesta and Xavi have the freedom to roam anywhere on the pitch they want to because they have Busquets and Xabi Alonso behind them maintaining a semblance of structure and shape.

      Spain’s is more of a 4-2-2-2.

      Capdevila – Puyol – Pique – Ramos
      Xabi Alonso – Busquets
      Xavi – Iniesta
      Torres – Villa

      Xavi and Iniesta roam around at will to create their magic, and Villa has been an absolute sensation cutting in on his right foot to score his goals.

      1. And Spain can pull this free flowing game off well because they have a team of incredibly talented players throughout the entirety of their squad. That is fundamentally where I think that England are different, they lack this totally flexible ability at the international level. For instance, Villa is the opposite of Messi to some effect, able to play all across the front line and score goals from either foot. The Xavi-Iniesta-Alonso combination of playmaking and passing is unparalleled today, so I hardly think it’s fair to think that any three players in the England camp can combine nearly as well as the aforementioned trio.

        I look at it like this for England’s failure: while Capello may have been a stickler for the little details and knick-knack things like making players eat together and early on, the anti-WAG policy, his overconfidence, almost arrogance, to the huge issues is what sank the England Lusitania. If Capello stays on as England boss, then he is going to need to swallow his pride and change the way he approaches the job if England want to have a shot at Euro 2012.

  4. sven done better with near enough the same team didnt hear ppl whinging about technique then 1|4 finals twice with sven lost on pens an a freak ronny goal so yeah the highest paid manager in the world cup who couldnt adapt to tourny footy needs to go,i dont care about the failings of the eng team even scotland wouldnt have lost like that

  5. Ok you make some valid points… But Capello did NOT play a standard 4-4-2. He had the right and left back playing forward, with Barry as cover. It was actually closer to Sven’s Diamond but without the wide players playing wide.

    His main problem was not formation… although using using a RB and LB as your wide play is recipe for disaster. and having Rooney play the ball over the entire pitch and having Gerrard cover the left and Miller the right was that basically every players was trying to push the ball through the middle. Thus every defender tracked to the middle and just collected it from England and countered. Germany made a meal of this.

    But lets face facts here. England lost because each player wanted to be a hero. There was no interwork after that first goal against the USA. I saw it in the run up match v Japan. Capello is a good manager. He has won on every level…

    His selection was poor, his tactics narrow, but that was the team he selected. Walcott, Young, Parker could have helped. Selecting King was a huge mistake. and the back line never was solid after Rio went down. Terry played his heart out ( and I HATE Terry) but was trying to do too much…

    I could go on and on. But the thing is… this World Cup could actually help England. They will now be pressed to add young players, and use the German method of selection. Kill the idea that certain players have a spot for life, and to move to this next step…. England need to keep Capello. They need to learn from this and not start over.

    1. He did not have the left and right back “Playing forward.”

      A. Cole makes so many more forays into the box with Chelsea than he did with England. In fact, I would say that the fullbacks were too reserved and didn’t provide the necessary width sacrificed by a central midfielder (Gerrard) playing on the left.

      Fabio got his tactics all wrong and should pay the price.

  6. My only criticism of Capello is that he didn’t truly understand what English players are good at, instead preferring to employ them in a more tactical style of play which to be honest, doesn’t suit them.

    I can see what he wanted and why he played players in certain positions. Heskey was the target man and essentially more mobile than Crouch for the way that Capello wanted to play which seemed to exclude very much wing play. Cole while a great attacking threat is significantly less effective when having to track back and you can’t have all of Gerrard, Lamard, Cole and Lennon/SWP getting forward without a thought for the counter attack.

    The players and formation mean little, what’s more important is what you do with it.

    France played with a supremely talented team, in a modern 4-2-3-1 and went out in the group stages. THe US played with a limited team, in a 4-4-2 but worked hard on their crossing runs and movement off the ball and caused many teams a lot of trouble.

    Everyone seems to come up with players and formations we should have tried but at the end of the day if the fundamentals, such as movement, posession in tight spaces and ability on the ball are not good enough, you are going to lose. And lose England did!

    Lets not forget who they lost to. It is not the Germany of old, dour, defensive and efficient. Germany overhauled their youth development 10 years ago and only last year the rewards were evident with them holding all the European youth titles at the same time. Some of the youngsters have already come through into the team in the last two world cups with some technical but attacking football. They may not be as big names on the world stage but as a team they were infinitely superior to England.

    Capello isn’t a bad manager, I don’t agree with most of the things you’ve said about him except for one thing. England aren’t continental, they aren’t as technically and tactically brilliant on the ball as other countries such as Brazil, Spain, Germany etc. So until you do get better in that aspect you should stick with an English manager and do what you do best which is playing English football with fast wingers, getting to the line and playing it around the back of the defence.

  7. I agree with the formation but i disagree with having Gareth Barry playing in that position. He is not a holding player. I dont care what anyone says or thinks, he is NOT a player who can play that position. In Man City, he played on the outside, he never played there. That was De JONG’s position. That is also why they were chasing Flamini in Jan.’10TW(TW=transfer window) but got Pat Vieira, and are now close to signing Yaya Toure. Gareth Barry is not the answer and i know that Capello knows that. Reason why, you may ask? He doesnt win challenges, he doesnt go into tough tackles and he’s not a ball winner. He tries to be a finess player. I m not crazy, just look how he play, hardly the physical type.

    Simply put. If he was a holding player(DMF) he would play that position for his club. Instead, that role would be best suited for a player like James Milner.

    He looked sloppy against Cherundolo and hes not a very good attacking back on the outside. So I think for Milner, he has the grit and the tenacity that the role demands, he just needs to learn his tactical position, and be disciplined. I am confident of that.

    I think, i really believe, that the Gerrard-Lampard combo, could work, if you would have Frankie Lamps play that holding role. He needs to learn that role. He’s a natural instinct attacker and loves to go back to the Def-line to get the ball and make the pass to link the forward play, but also has “Xavi-esqe” smarts to get it to Rooney, the follow the play in a support capacity and have clear shots from outside the box. Play Stevie and Rooney in a 1-2 FW-AMF combo to switch to a 1-2 FW FW connection and you got firepower all day. Keep the flank play on 1 side to get to the line, either Lennon-or-Cole and the other flanker is not a flanker but instead used as a cover player to track back and cover the center role as a destroyer in instances that Lamps goes up to kill and couter-attacks, but also provide support for shots and possessions; you dont need two(2) speed guys on the field at the same time, you need another possession player with a defensive mentality.

    Heres my scenario and setup

    —————–Joe Cole—————Milner//Barry—-
    —————– ———Lamps————–


  8. the problem for England all tournament long was that they lacked consistent width in every game. I don’t watch all England games, but every single game I saw at this world cup they lacked wide play. I believe it was a major mistake to not take Adam Johnson and/or Theo Walcott, or not play Joe Cole more. But the major problem in my eyes for England has been this. You have to drop either Gerrard or Lampard to the bench. they simply can’t play together. They are both fantastic players at club level, but it’s because the club teams are centered around them.

    that’s my opinion. But these things come and go in cycles. There will be fresh, young talent coming through and playing and things can change in a 4-year period.

  9. England’s problems are a lot larger than a mere re-shaping of the tactical formation. It will not solve the fact that England seem to lose themselves mentally in high-pressure situations (such as constantly not being aware of the counter-attacking threat during the Germany match) and cannot or refuse to play patiently. There is no evidence that, again in the Germany match, a 4-4-1-1 formation would have solved England’s fundamental inability to hold possession and prevent Germany’s attacking threat from destroying them, as it did.

    Hopefully, the new class of players like Rodwell, Wilshire, Gibbs, Walcott (if he gets his head straight,) etc. will be able to overcome these mental issues and be able to use their talent in the most efficacious manner.

    1. Preach Josh, dear leader – The reason England failed, at least 80% anyway, is mental, not tactics, not lack of technical ability, not because they didn’t give a damn. The players were simply terrified on the pitch, Cappello compounded it with his headmaster rituals. The players were simply not enjoying their football, Gerrard was captain in name only. The irony of how different things would have been if three players – two aging and one crocked (Scholes, Heagraves, and Beckham) were in the squad.

  10. drop gerrard for carrick. more evened out team then, barry is a box to box, lamps is an attacking central mid and carrick is a ball playing def mid of sorts. All 3 are good in possession, have better passing range and accuracy then gerrard and would provide a more stable support for englands attack.


    that requires decent wingers/attackers do be able to work off the stable midfield pair, something england doesnt really have.

    you could play something like rooney-defoe-j.cole and have milner off the bench if needed but that attack looks shit even on paper. which is why gerrard is in the team, because he is a great second striker, possibly the best central attacking second striker in the world outside of possibly kaka. if anything the team should have been moulded to suit gerrard game and built around him because gerrard is so positionally and tactically inept that he needs a free role to work.

    play a 4312 to support gerrard, that way you still have barry-carrick-lampard in the middle, flank support from the wings and if crosses are needed you have a lefty and a righty in there to spray and pray.

    england needeed 3 midfielders in the park minimum, gerrard has shit passing range but his first touch, shooting and ability to play off the shoulder makes him an instant danger one he recieves a ball near the box which forces a central player to either mark him or a defender to step up which opens up space for rooney or defoe. as england were set up gerrard was always marked and the midfield always was a player down.

    barely any team plays with more then 3 “attacking” players, usually 2 wingers and a striker or 2 strikers and a AM or 1 striker and 2 AMs, only the defensive teams play with 4 attackers because they use 2 strikers to counter and the wingers are more to congest the wide areas and passing lanes between CBs and FBs.

    capello fucked up, but it was a fuck up needed to hopefully get england playing smart football.

  11. If you want a good read about why England fail at international level go to The Mail online and read Martin Samuel’s article he wrote today. He offers good evidence that English players lack football intelligence even if they are very talented. Probably one of the better articles written in the aftermath of Sunday’s performance.

    I believe that Capello is an easy scapegoat to what ails England. The problem runs deeper than the manager.

  12. get a grip, overrated & over hyped team ever. stop making excuses. first two goals against Germany tells you what kind of players england have.. stop blaming capello

  13. Guys
    Let it go, this is as good as it gets for England. Just an average team who might make it to the quarters, to fix this problem, you need to start from scratch. Have a good coach and give him 5 years to see what he could do

  14. Giving a manager five years or a hundred years won’t help if the FA doesn’t address the grass roots issue. They continue to be chock full of a bunch of bumbling idiots full of their own self importance, chasing skirt and securing TV rights of fantastic proportions. When their necks are on the block (like now) they make false promises. It’s now going to take them two weeks to decide Capello’s future, especially after they stupidly removed a break clause which would have allowed them to part company after the finals. Has any one of them (except for Trevor Brooking, which even he appears to toe the party line) ever kicked a football in anger?

    After failing to qualify for the last European Championship the FA (Brian Barwick then the Chief Executive) promised to take stock of the entire football culture in the UK ‘from root to leaf” he said (or something like that). But alas Barwick fell out with the FA Chairman Lord Triesman and negotiated a 450,000 pounds exit settlement. Not a bad days work when his only achievement was hiring Steve MccLaren and claiming he was the FA’s “first choice” after a very public courting of Luiz Felipe Scolari the then Portugal coach.

    Then of course we have Lord Triesman being forced to resign earlier this year after getting caught on tape with a woman he supposedly had an affair with, making damaging suggestions that Russia will attempt to bribe referees at the tournament to help Spain, who in turn will vote for Russia to hold the 2018 World Cup instead of England. Remember Shag Gate when Sven and Mark Palios were caught shagging the same secretary? In fact Sven seemed to shag anything that moved, which probably led to his departure from Notts County after he couldn’t find anything worth remotely shagging within a hundred miles. I wonder how his Vuvuzala is holding up in the Ivory Coast? or perhaps we’ll see it at Fulham soon.

    So we have a Football Association boys club who are interested in TV money and shagging. The national team has no hope until the system is overhauled with proper training and coaching facilities and there is a system for young promising kids to be streamlined and groomed. They used to rely on the big clubs bringing young footballers through the ranks. Well not any more when it’s easier to buy a young (foriegn) established player that someone else has spent time and money on.

    The FA needs to be staffed by ex players (of note) who understand the game and have the experience to get to grips with the Premier League bring them to heel and reorganise at roots level. David Beckham has recently become very ministerial, is saying all the right things and hob nobbing with the Royal family. Is he being groomed for the job?

  15. I’m with Roy Keane on this one…. Capello is great actually. What it is is that the individual players of England just suck as a group. Few were having good years and just sucked it up. They would have sucked for whomever. Jesus Christ couldn’t have gotten them to play any better. The World Cup is also hard after these days and there are plenty of countries with as good as players as England. Making it out of the groups is some kind of an accomplishment, in and of itself now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *