What went wrong for England?

The inquest has well and truely started into England’s embarrassing capitulation against Germany yesterday. All day I’ve heard that Capello is to blame, or it’s the players fault, and even the FA have been blamed in some quarters.

Personally I think they all have a collective responsibility. The disallowed goal didn’t help, but I’m not going to let that paper over the cracks of what was one of the most awful performances from probably the most shambolic team (mainly the defence) I have seen in years, if not ever.

The manner of the goals conceded was a joke. Centre-backs pulled out of position like school boys, no midfield cover from the out of sorts Gareth Barry, it was unbelievable.

The Germans seen us coming, I’ve said it before on this blog that I believed Capello would have to change his tactics when he got to the latter stages of the world cup. It’s ok playing 4-4-2 against the teams we came up against in the qualifying round, and even the first stage of the world cup (not that you would have noticed), but you can’t afford to surrender the midfield to teams like Germany, Spain, Argentina and Brazil like England did yesterday.

Just about every person I’ve heard speaking about it, former players, managers etc, all said that Capello would need an extra man in midfield to get anywhere in this competition. Capello refused, whether out of stubborness I don’t know, but Joachim Loew certainly seen England coming and new exactly what to do to counter our system.

Capello had his warnings, Algeria out passed us just over a week ago.

Capello’s excuse that the players were tired, both mentally and physically was a disgrace, to say that was laughable. If anything they went into the tournament with no form to speak off, but I’m not buying the tiredness excuse.

And in the case of Adam Johnson, in form, but left behind by someone who apparently knew better. Also left behind was Theo Walcott, I can understand why, but I said at the time I’d have taken both.

So what of the suspects who played their part in England’s dismal showing.

Fabio Capello – Picked a denfensive looking squad. Went back on his word not to pick injured players, or players not playing for their first teams. Apparently refused to listen to his players misgivings and imposed an iron fist regime over them.

I got the impression he created a bad atmosphere in the camp. His decision to not name the team until just before getting on the bus didn’t go down well with the players either.

He also seemed too rigid with his 4-4-2 formation, and failed to make game changing substitutions, instead choosing like-for-like replacements. Got his team selection right against Slovenia, but on the whole he got too many big decisions wrong at the world cup.

Including his reluctance to use Joe Cole and Peter Crouch. The decision to bring Shaun Wright-Phillips on against USA down the left flank was strange, as was the choice of Emile Heskey ahead of Crouch on Sunday when England badly needed goals.

Also made some wrong calls before the start of competition, including his Capello Index. Failed to solve England’s left sided problem, and the Gerrard-Lampard conundrum over the last two years.

And he seemed to go into the world cup not even knowing what his best side was, it was hard to work out what he was doing in the two friendlies just before he named his final squad.

The FA – Who the hell had the brainwave to give Capello the extra two years on his contract before the world cup? If they do want him out it will now cost them upwards of £12 Million, so we are now in the situation where Capello could be kept on so the FA don’t have to look stupid by paying him off.

Did they learn nothing from the experiences with Sven Goran Eriksson?

The Players – From as far back as March the only England player showing any decent form was Wayne Rooney, while Frank Lampard had his usual consistent season with Chelsea.

The inexperienced James Milner and Joe Hart also had good seasons, but apart from those few, most were either injured or out of form.

Emile Heskey, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Theo Walcott and Peter Crouch couldn’t get in their own club sides. Aaron Lennon, Joe Cole and Ashley Cole were either injured or coming back from injury. Rio Ferdinand hardly kicked a ball for Man United. Steven Gerrard was in awful form for Liverpool, while Glenn Johnson spent parts of the season injured and didn’t really find any rhythm.

In the midfield Gareth Barry wasn’t great for Man City prior to his injury. While Michael Carrick’s form took a dive, as was highlighted with a high profile blunder against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

The goals had started to dry up for Jermaine Defoe as he couldn’t play Wigan every week, and Michael Owen was injured.

John Terry’s form was also very patchy while stories about his private life circulated, resulting in Wayne Bridge withdrawing from the squad. Matt Upson and Rob Green both struggled at West Ham, and David James was in and out of the Portsmouth team due to injuries.

All this has obviously not helped Fabio Capello’s cause, but it is no real excuse for why England flopped so badly. One reason for the mess could be the players didn’t have much confidence in Fabio. I got the impression from watching the John Terry press conference that maybe he had lost the dressing room, which is always the last failing of a manager before he gets the boot.

It will be interesting to see if any stories leak out from the players over the next few days. It’s unlikely that anybody will publicy speak out against Capello, but there is a chance that maybe a player coming to the end of the line with England, like David James, could break rank and spill the beans.

Is Ledley King going to South Africa?

Today’s Daily Mirror is running an article claiming that Fabio Capello wants to take Ledley King to South Africa despite his dodgy knee.

Capello is apparently ready to take the chance on King, and wants confirmation of King’s recovery times between matches.

I personally hope he does take King as I think he is the best centre-half in the country at the moment with proven international pedigree. Some will argue that Michael Dawson is in better form, that may be true, but King is proven at international level and playing well.

If Capello decides against King, then Dawson is the other form defender in the country at the moment, so his inclusion would also be justified.

Of the regular three centre-half squad members, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Matthew Upson, none of them are in any sort of consistent form.

Terry has been awful lately, his decision making on the pitch is starting to replicate his decisions off the pitch. Ok, he has had plenty of decent performances since his alledged affair was exposed, but there has been some shockers mixed in with them.

Rio is injury prone at the moment, his back is giving him far too many problems. It is starting to look like a ‘Ledley King style injury’, one where it needs to be permanently managed, rather than one he will fully recover from. As a result he is in and out of the United team, and that has prevented him from getting into any kind of consistent form.

Matthew Upson (like Rob Green) is a struggling player in a struggling team, it has long been debated as to whether or not he is international class anyway. Surely on current form he isn’t. It is unlikely that Capello will dump him now though as he has been in most of his recent squads.

The only thing that I would worry about with King is obviously his fitness. Can Capello afford to have a not fully fit Ferdinand and King in his squad? If neither can play two games in a week, is it a risk too far?

As far as talent goes, I would have King ahead of both Terry and Rio at the moment. I think Capello should gamble on King, as you have to take risks to win the World Cup. You also need all your top class performers in the latter stages of the competition, and Ledley King is a top class player.

Is Zamora giving Capello a headache?

Bobby Zamora has yet again produced the goods and is surely now in with a shout of maybe forcing his way into England’s World Cup squad. Not only is Zamora scoring a lot of goals, his form is great and he is leading the line well and England have a shortage of men who seem to be able to do both.

Zamora’s most recent impressive performance came this week with him leading the line and Fulham to a memorable 4-1 win over Italian giants Juventus, a match that Fabio Capello attended, presumably to watch Zamora as I doubt it would have been to see Paul Konchesky.

With players falling injured on an almost weekly basis at the moment, the form of Zamora is one brightspot in what has been a pretty bad spell for Capello and his England squad.

It still remains to be seen if Capello will take four or five strikers, before Beckham’s injury I would have said four (plus Walcott as a midfielder), but that maybe could change now such is the form of Zamora and a space becoming available with Beckham’s absence.

His preferred first choice, Emile Heskey is struggling to hold down a regular slot with Aston Villa such is his poor form, he is well short of goals and confidence and this must be starting to become a worry for Capello.

Jermain Defoe has just torn his hamstring, the prognosis isn’t too accurate at the moment either, the word from Harry Redknapp is “a few weeks.” Staying with Spurs, Peter Crouch is currently out of favour, although Defoe’s injury will open a few doors for him and his last appearance for England won’t have done him any harm.

Carlton Cole is up and down, he’s had a few injury problems this season and at the moment seems well short of the form he showed under Zola’s guidence this time last year. Playing in a struggling team probably won’t help him either, he (and West Ham) could do with a good run of games and decent performances between now and the end of the season.

I know he was unlikely to feature, but Michael Owen is ruled out. I’m sure Capello would have liked to have had the problem of having to decide whether or not to leave Owen out after him banging in 10 goals between now and the end of the season for Manchester United. Sadly that can’t now happen.

Taking injuries and the lack of form of some of Capello’s probable squad into consideration, and the excellent form and goal scoring return of Zamora, and the unlikely call up of Zamora now looks more and more possible with every passing game.

Henry Winter’s great idea!

If ever proof where needed that newspaper journalists are nothing more than deluded fans just like the rest of us, then it came in the form of Henry Winter’s article about who should replace Ashley Cole at left back should he not make the World Cup squad.

In his article in Friday’s Daily Telegraph, Winter proclaimed that none other than James Milner should play at left back, in Cole’s assumed absence.

Never mind Wayne Bridge, Stephen Warnock or Leighton Baines, no Winter says they are not good enough at this level. But apparently Milner is, on the back of a couple of impressive substitute appearances.

Let me get one thing straight before anyone says “Stop slagging Milner, he’s class”, I agree, Milner is a class player and deserves to be in the World Cup squad for me, but not playing at left back.

Winter is mad, who would back Milner against Ronaldo? What if England get to the latter stages and play the likes of Italy, Spain or Brazil? Is Winter seriously suggesting that Milner would be a better bet than an established left back in the latter stages of a World Cup?

It might work in the group stages but when you get in with the big teams you need someone who knows the job inside out, and that certainly isn’t Milner. We’re not overly blessed with right backs either, maybe he will be running a story next week suggesting we play Gerrard or Walcott there.

Winter’s thinking seems to be up there with the deluded Liverpool fans who think Rafa will win them the league, or the Geordie fans who thought that Shearer should be manager and got relegated as a result of forcing Sam Allardyce out.

It is also up there with one of the previous worst suggestions I ever heard, the time when the Daily Mirror’s Darren Lewis suggested on Sky Sports news that Arsenal should sign Darren Bent (then of Charlton) to replace Thierry Henry when he was first considering moving to Barcelona in the summer of 2006.

We had 5 years of Sven trying to put square pegs in round holes, thankfully Capello seems to be a lot smarter than that and I don’t think for a minute that such a ridiculous idea as this would even cross his radar.

Is Joe Hart playing his way to South Africa?

The form of Joe Hart in goal for Birmingham is giving Fabio Capello some good goalkeeping news at long last.

The trials and tribulations of England goalkeepers this season would have been worrying Capello with just six months to go to the start of the world cup.

Of the three goalkeepers that would seem to be in pole position for the world cup squad places, David James, Rob Green and Ben Foster, none of them are having anything approaching a good season to date.

David James has had injuries all season and has been in and out of the Portsmouth team with them. He has had no decent run of games and with that no chance to get himself in good form.

Even when he is in the team with the way Portsmouth are performing his confidence can’t be too high. Perhaps the best thing for James would be a move away from Pompey when the transfer window opens shortly.

Rob Green, has, like his club side West Ham, been struggling this season. Recent high profile blunders against Bolton in a high pressured relegation six pointer, along with recent mistakes for England, dosen’t inspire you with confidence in his ability to cope with big game pressure.

If he can’t handle the pressure of a relegation fight, why should we believe he will handle the pressure of the world cup any better.

Apart from that I’ve always had my doubts about him anyway. Like Paul Robinson before him, he has always been a good shot stopper, but I’m not too keen on his allround game.

Ben Foster is the one who’s place is probably most under pressure from Capello. If Capello sticks to his mantra that you have to be playing regular first team football then how could he justify picking Foster?

He is not only, not playing in the first team, he is as low as third choice at Old Trafford. And this after being given the chance to claim the number one spot with a run of games at the start of the season while Edwin van der Sar was out injured.

In all honesty Foster blew his chance to become the new Manchester United number one with a series of spectacular mistakes in big high profile games, such as against Arsenal at Old Trafford, the Manchester derby, the Community Shield and then in the ill fated 2-2 draw with Sunderland, his last appearance before Ferguson replaced him with the barely fit again Van der Sar.

The case for Joe Hart is helped by the fact he is playing with a lot of confidence and in a very confident Birmingham side who are flying high at the moment.

A good prospect while at Manchester City, he was only replaced because a keeper of the quality of Shay Given became available, that should be no slight on Hart’s ability.

He has been outstanding for Birmingham lately and has played a big part in their remarkable 11 game unbeaten run in the Premier League, keeping clean sheets in 5 of those games and he is now earning great reviews from his manager Alex McLeish.

McLeish has spoke about how he made a couple of errors early in the season but has bounced back strongly and speaks highly of him as an intelligent lad who listens and always wants to learn.

If he continues in this manner I would imagine Capello will have to pick him. I’m not saying to make him number one as David James is by far England’s most experienced goalkeeper and this is no time to throw a young keeper into that position.

A couple of positive outings in the upcoming friendlys for Hart though could give Capello a headache in a positive manner, rather than worrying about who is going to be the best of a bad bunch, Capello could well have an in form keeper in his squad at last.