Fabio Capello has changed the outlook of English national football, here we take a look why.

When Fabio Capello took charge of the England national football team in 2008, the entire footballing nation felt rejuvenated. After qualification for the World Cup in 2010 was a complete walkover for England, we all followed the boys to South Africa with more expectation than ever before. However, after stuttering through the group stage with two disappointing draws against the USA and more notably an Algerian team in which, when put together, only culminated to the value of Wayne Rooney. A slender 1-0 win against Slovenia in the last group game just saw England through, but Capello and his team now had their doubters, and inevitably the English media gave their pessimistic views which swiftly ran through the country. The last 16 tie against Germany was huge not just because of the rivalry between the two nations but because England had to perform and perform well against a young German side with less than a tenth of the experience the English team boasted. England were slaughtered by Germany that Sunday afternoon 4-1, and straight after the match there were unprecedented calls for his resignation, which seemed to be almost nailed on. And yet, the clever big wigs at the English F.A. had just announced they extended the contract of Mr. Capello beyond the World Cup until after the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, smooth move fellahs.

Capello did accept however, that a big change had to come within the national game. For many years now, England managers had picked players based on the names on the back of the shirts, rather than the individual skill shown at club level by the best footballers in the country. Capello quickly shifted out the deadwood of the side, with David James, David Beckham, and Michael Owen the first to go from his next squad following the World Cup misery. Fresh blood entered the frame, such as Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Gary Cahill, and Danny Welbeck who were all performing expertly for their club sides week in and week out. This mass overhaul took a bit of time to settle down and their were some shaky performances along the way, but Capello to his credit had done what he'd said he'd do, and was clever in recognising that the best teams in the world, Spain, Holland, and Germany alike, were all playing players that had grown up together through the U-17's right the way into the first team, and the proof was on show at the World Cup in South Africa as they were the teams who played the best football and the results came from that.

Another thing Capello changed with England was the formation. Playing a very flat 4-4-2 setup in Africa, the Germans especially took heart from that and picked off the seams from the England line, playing fast-paced, flowing football in between England's rigid line-up and in the end running away with the game, and the pride of the English went with it. After the World Cup, Capello mixed it up playing the same 4-3-3 system the Germans used that afternoon, and following suit with the majority of top European clubs, so that the players had some fluidity between club football and international matches. the 4-3-3 system has proved to be a real winner, because it has the options of playing all different kinds of formation, 4-5-1 and 4-4-1-1 could easily be switched on, as well as the more defensive 4-2-3-1 to give a strong balance throughout the side. England are a lucky nation, in that we are blessed with world class midfielders, and they could be picked in all kinds of positions to fit the right game plan.

On Friday 2nd September, England travelled to Sofia to play Bulgaria. Fabio Capello picked a side with an average age of just 25.6, and that was without the young blood of Wilshere, Cleverley, and Carroll. England started with a 4-2-3-1 formation and romped away to a 3-0 lead at half-time, Wayne Rooney capitalizing twice on some glorious free-flowing English attacking play, something which was a joy to behold, it felt more like a real attacking display that the glory sides of old would play. Fabio Capello may have had a great start to his time as England boss, and then a more than sticky middle phase, but it may well prove to be a happy ending for the Italian if his players continue to perform as strongly in Poland next June, providing they can get there of course. He may not be able to grasp any reasonable concept of the English language thus far, but Mr. Fabio Capello could sign off as England manager with glory at Euro 2012, something which the entire nation will hope and pray for, and hopefully with more expectation than the false pretences we had last summer. Let's all hope the three Lions can pull off the Italian job next time around, so we can say a friendly Ciao to Fab Fabio.2

 

Illustration by: Graeme Bandeira