Well Fabio Capello’s great start as England boss just got greater, and against all the odds with a win over Germany in Berlin. The side that were many people’s tip for the Euros and undoubtedly one of the best teams in world football at the moment were overcome by an understrength England side at home. Obviously they were missing key players too, but from the sound of things (no coverage over here) it was a confident and dominant performance which should have been reflected in the scoreline, as Bent missed a sitter and their goal was a typically English defencive error.
Of course this leaves Capello with a few decisions to make. He took the withdrawal of many of his major stars, including the two who have been grabbing international headlines of late, Rooney and Walcott, in his side and replaced them with young and hungry players. But what’s more he put out a side that seemed to me (from highlights) to be one of the most cohesive and unified England teams we’ve seen in a while.
Because while England have got the results under Capello, there have at times been frustrations, and failure to really punish teams, to be able to create moves that break the opposition down. Yesterday though, against one of the world’s best and most organised teams, England’s ‘shadow squad’ looked a frequent threat, and probably should have scored more, as I mentioned above, Bent’s chance stands out.
I would suggest here that Capello has a choice to make, but he doesn’t. It is obvious that as soon as the ‘big guns’ like Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney, Walcott and Ferdinand are available again they will waltz straight back into the side. In terms of talent that is fair enough, and many people, while applauding last nights performance have maintained that Capello would be wrong to even consider leaving out the players mentioned above, when they return.
I’m not so sure though. I think that Capello does have a choice. Those players, though they are the most talented England players around, are not the England team, and do not have a divine right to be a part of it. The England team should be the best team composed of English players possible, not the best English players possible composing a team.
I think that we have perhaps seen in the last few years the struggle to try and find a way to make a team of individual stars. All of the above mentioned players are some of the top players at their clubs. They’re used to being the best, dictating games and generally having things their way. Gerrard is the prime example. He is Liverpool, and until Torres arrived, he single handedly at times carried them through their campaigns. For England though, there is not that responsibility. they are forced to try and co-operate with others, to adapt from their life of idolatry to become one of the team. And it hasn’t worked.
The prime example of this is the Gerrard/Lampard debate. Everyone can see that for their clubs, both players are magnificent. They are up there with the best players in the world and in a fantasy team, a central midfield partnership of Gerrard and Lampard is every managers dream. But we operate in reality, and in reality, the two don’t co-operate very well. There isn’t room for two Capain Fantastics in one midfield, or at least, no one has so far been able to make room.
But yesterday the England team was made up of team players. The likes of Barry, Carrick, Wright-Phillips, Defoe and Downing. All these guys are top players too, but they are not superstars. Though they are among the best at their clubs, they are not held worldwide with universal admiration. They play for real clubs and they play as part of a team. And it is this ability to play for ones team mates, to function as part of a whole rather than as a series of separate entities that made last night a success.
So whether Capello can resist bringing in his stars for England’s next friendly against Spain will be interesting indeed. Many people in the media have suggested that he will not have a choice, but they are the same media who criticised Steve MacLaren for being ruled by the dressing room, amid rumours that the ‘senior players’ picked the team. But I think that Fabio Capello doesn’t have ‘senior players’ and that he does, therefore, have a choice, whether the press like it or not.
I will respect Capello’s decision, whichever he makes, but in a way I would almost prefer to see a hard working and committed England team take to the field against Spain than a series of overpaid superstars who happen to, this time, have Three Lions on their chests. The Three Lions are in our hearts, and they should be in the players’ hearts too. Last night in Berlin the Lions were roaring again, but whether the Kings of the jungle can overcome the Kings of English football remains to be seen.