England Camp Focus – Crisis talk shows potential for change

With England’s troublesome World Cup campaign now entering a critical stage, the squad have taken it upon themselves to hold crisis talks with Head Coach Fabio Capello. The senior playing staff, Steven Gerrard, John Terry et al, have intimated in the subsequent days since the dour draw against Algeria that squad unhappiness, or the odds at which the players are now at with Capello’s tactics, has begun to effect the nation’s performance on the field. So drastically, in fact, a game that prior to the tournament was thought as nothing more than one to cement qualification to the knock-out stage, is now causing staff and fans great concern.

Before the meeting took place, Terry told the gathered Press of his wish for the previously omitted Joe Cole to be considered for selection against Slovenia: “I personally think he and Wayne (Rooney) are the only two who can open up things and open up defences. If he’s called upon, Joe will do a great job.” Although Terry is no longer England’s captain, his stature within the game and squad means his words will resonate with Capello and will have been a major talking point – quite whether they will have had any effect will be unknown in the immediate aftermath of the meeting but one thing has originated from it is Fabio’s decision to change his method in squad announcing.

He has been damned throughout the World Cup campaign for announcing the squad just two hours prior to kick-off with David James noting on Sunday: “I found out [that he was starting against Algeria] five minutes before we got on the bus.” The nuances of timing have not been unveiled but it is a positive sign for England fans – it shows an allowance, an ability to accept change, from Capello, which was previously unheralded. And, of course, if there is a willingness to listen to players regarding the squad announcements, then perhaps the same accommodation can be made tactically and personnel wise.

One of the great criticisms that has derived from the Algeria game has been the incongruity of England’s attacking force – Wayne Rooney’s ineptitude coupled with an out of position Gerrard, an uninspiring Frank Lampard and a timid and unusually attack shy Aaron Lennon has led to a toothless attack. Players know the problems more than anyone else and as has been pointed out by Steven Gerrard, a lack of aggression has been common place: “Against Algeria, I thought we weren’t aggressive enough… we certainly weren’t clinical enough around the box. We need to find something – and quick – for Wednesday night.” Although talks will remain in house, the possible changes will include the omission of Emile Heskey and the inclusion of Joe Cole.

Unfortunately for Heskey, his form, which has been at odds with that of Rooney, has coincided with poor play from his fellow front men. Heskey’s job is essentially to bring the best out of his team-mates and although his efforts have been commendable, his style of play is currently failing England through no fault of his own – the meeting will in all probability have encompassed that problem with John Terry suggesting ego’s will be ignored and all players were ready for a barrage of criticism: “The players are able to say how they feel,” said Terry. “If it upset him [Capello] then I was on the verge of just saying ‘so what? I’m here to win it for England’. If we can’t be honest with each other there is no point being here.” As already said, Joe Cole may be included by Capello in order to temper the suggestions of Terry and presumably others. Indeed, should Cole garner a starting position, it may mean Steven Gerrard moves into the now infamous, Holy Grail position – just behind Wayne Rooney.

Several commentators, including Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker, have suggested Gerrard would give Rooney the attacking license which would in turn mean England’s star man would not have to play deep in order to have time on the ball. Along with, it would put Steven Gerrard in his natural position for Liverpool. Capello, however, seems to be a man that is not susceptible to change too easily and allowing two in quick succession may be too much. For now, England will have to wait to see the results of this crisis meeting. Already positive steps have been made and the very fact Capello was so willing to listen to the players shows change may be afoot and along with that, so will a change in form.

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