Fabio Capello’s First Squad

When Sven Goran Ericksson put out his first squad back in 2001, it sprang surprises, not least for Charlton’s Chris Powell. Powell was an effective left-back for England until Ashley Cole was ready (at the time, he was another surprise – too young, too inexperienced, it was thought by many). There are none in Capello’s first essay, just confirmation of dolour for Beckham and Robinson.

Beckham’s the victim of the US football season being out of sync with our own. Robinson, on the other hand, may be watching his entire career unravel. There have been comments made this year by former England keepers about the attitude of the new generation to training, learning and development – not complimentary ones, and although these comments haven’t been levelled at Robinson personally, nevertheless they give plenty of food for thought.

Robert Green can clearly forget all about England now, failing the absolute demise of every other English keeper. His omission, Beckham’s and Robinson’s aside, is Capello’s main departure from the Ericksson template. Otherwise, it’s clear that Capello’s brief time in England has led him to agree with the Swede: there really is only this core group of players who are up to international level, plus twenty or so hangers-on to this tasting menu of a squad.

Likewise Jermaine Defoe. It’s temperament with him – he combines his individual standoffishness with a reluctance to work on his game, with the result that his runs and positioning are no better now than they were when he was a teenage prodigy at West Ham.

I’m not surprised by Curtis Davies’s inclusion. His famous “pub footballer” interview, combined with some good recent performances, mark him out as someone with the right attitude to go with his talent. If he keeps this up, a long international career could await him. And, given the sheer number of Aston Villa selections, perhaps domestic trophies to boot. Martin O’Neill is building quietly, but it’s bearing fruit.

And it’s good to have Capello mention Walcott, Hart, Wheater and Lennon by name. Walcott and Lennon are on the verge of becoming for real what they have promised to be since 2006 – truly exciting, exceptional players, but both need a bit of luck at the moment. The boost of being singled out for mention will help them. Wheater surely won’t be out of the full squad for long, and there are rumoured to be others to follow from the excellent Middlesbrough youth set-up.

I saw Hart play against Sheffield United, and, comic disaster with balloons aside, he looks like a proper keeper. There’s a presence about him that wasn’t so evident with Robinson and Green. It’ll be interesting to see who of Kirkland, Carson and James get the nod against Switzerland.

Overall it’s a defensive squad, with more out-and-out defenders compared to midfielders than we saw under McClaren. Hargreaves or Barry will fight it out for the defensive midfield role, presumably behind Gerrard who looks as if he’ll pick up the armband in the absence of John Terry, unless Alex Ferguson’s proffering of Rio Ferdinand comes through.

There was talk of Michael Owen joining Beckham on the sidelines, but in the end, common sense won out. The doubts expressed about Owen mystify me: when he returned to the colours last year, it was to bring yet more goals. No other England forward does that so reliably.

It looks bad for Dean Ashton, though, who must – like Robert Green – be wondering what he has to do, what fates he has offended. But for injury, he’d have gone to the 2006 World Cup instead of either Walcott or Crouch. McClaren was on the verge of picking him, when injury came again. At one stage in 2005-6, he looked like a younger, more skilful version of Alan Shearer, an old style English centre forward but with subtlety.

Likewise Andy Johnson and Darren Bent. Neither has done anything since 2006 to contradict Ericksson’s judgement of them as, essentially, journeymen. Bent is injured at present, after having come so close to scoring against Croatia, but given what’s happened to Defoe, it will be interesting to see if he is picked when fit. England’s over for Johnson, the Kevin Phillips de nos jours.

Anyway, what do you think? Good squad, bad squad, meaningless? Who are the missing men? Do we learn anything significant about Capello’s ideas for England, or does that await the first of his actual elevens? Is Sol Campbell’s back injury the only reason for his absence, or is his England career over too?

7 Replies to “Fabio Capello’s First Squad”

  1. Personally I’ll have more idea not just when he names the 11 (although that is obviously important) but also when he trims this squad from 30 to 23, which I believe is scheduled for a few days hence?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Campbell’s injury signals the final end of his England career. Presuming Ledley King is back on the road to lasting fitness, Upson is still improving and Terry comes back strong after injury then given that we’re essentially planning for next year and beyond you have to think Sol’s age counts against him.

    Midfield: we’re all waiting to see how Fabio sets this part of the team up. I kind of have the suspicion we’re going to see something like Carrick/Hargreaves or Carrick/Barry. Cole and Bentley on the wings perhaps. That fits Capello’s past.

    Forwards: Looking at this list, Dean Ashton can easily play himself into the squad, he just has to start playing well for WHU. No squad really needs Heskey and Crouch in it. It will be interesting to see who starts here as well. If I was new in the job I’d probably start with Rooney and Owen to see how they get on with my own eyes. I haven’t really spent the time to analyse what Capello’s past actions suggest would be his preferred attacking options.

  2. I don’t think it is over for Beckham but I suspect it is for Campbell. Bentley seems an excellent player to me and, good as they are at what they do, I don’t think Hargreaves or even Carrick have the talent of Bentley as a post-Beckham playmaker. Hargreaves in, Carrick maybe. Bentley over Carrick at any rate. If Beckham had been fit we might have seen Bentley slowly supplant him, match by match. Glad to see Woodgate, Agbonlahor and Young there. Not completely convinced by Shorey and Downing yet.

    Like Metatone I think Ashton, providing he recovers form is not out of the picture. Heskey is 30 now and Ashton only 24. He has time.

    It’s a good squad and a big one especially if you add those currently injured. It was, I think, a bit of a fluke not qualifying for the EC. Two mad goals against Croatia. But not qualifying may prove quite useful in the long run.

  3. I think with Ashton it might have more to do with present form- I saw him making a substitute appearance against Arsenal at New Year and he didn’t look 100% though West Ham looked poor that day. I’m glad to see so many of the good Villa youngsters come in like everyone else- and Woodgate has always been a great centre half- at Leeds his positioning already was very good. I’d personally like to see David Bentley play- he seems to have an invention about him, an unexpected quality that I wonder whether Wright Phillips has ever had. Personally I am very pleased that Lescott is in- I think he has done brilliantly in this league since he came up from Wolves and I’d like to see him as a mainstay at centre half where I think we are actually very rich. On Robinson I wonder whether he needs to move club- sometimes you wonder whether a player gets into a rut at one club and just needs a new environment and new personalities around him to prosper. It will be interesting to see this cut down to 23 and there are no amazing talents that you think should have been there- its not like the nineties where I was praying every time for Le Tissier and never watching him selected.

  4. Robinson had to go – too many weaknesses e.g. on crosses, on swerving shots from range and on any shot that bounced close to him. Good reflexes are not enough. Green is perhaps unlucky. Carson has the horrible weakness that when he stops a shot he (like Robinson) often just pushes it back into the danger area instead of diverting it behind. Ashton needs time to get fit. Lennon looked like lightning against Evra the other day. Campbell looked past it the last time I saw him: much too slow. It’ll be interesting to see a team assembled – if you’re going to play the midgets Owen and Rooney, for instance, there’s not much point looking for wingers who cross high a lot. Perhaps they could play on a narrower front – use Cole differently or Wright-Phillips. Then you’ll expect to win free kicks in the middle of the pitch, so you need a specialist: Bentley? None of this matters if they revert to spineless hoof-ball and passing to the opposition. Perhaps his first job is to decide whom he can rely on to play a pass to his team-mates in such a way that it’s easy to keep possession and move upfield. It’ll also be interesting to see if he sees the problems that Benitez seems to have seen on how, or whether, to use Gerrard. As for Defoe, I once saw Mr Hindsight demolish him with a few remarks and one clip: completely convincing. One problem is that his forwards are an odd assortment. If he’d two big strong fellows, for example, he could use one knowing that the other is likely to be available if the first is injured, Similarly if he had two speed merchants. But he’s got one bull who doesn’t score much, one bean-pole, one broken-down sprinter, etc. Tricky.

Comments are closed.