Capello with plenty to learn from England friendly against Spain

Despite securing England’s passage to Euro 2012 with an unbeaten march through the group stage, all is not rosy for Fabio Capello. Ahead of the Three Lions’ friendly with Spain on Saturday, the Head Coach has much still to learn about the make-up of his side when the tournament begins next summer. Capello’s most pressing concerns regard three pillars of the side, striker Wayne Rooney, captain and centre-back John Terry and fellow defender Rio Ferdinand.

The biggest question mark remains over Rooney, both whether to include the Manchester United player, currently banned for the three group games (pending appeal), in the squad at all, and how to replace him for that trio of fixtures. The former problem cannot come close to being solved against Spain but with no Rooney selected for the visit of the world and European champions, Capello should be closer to answering the latter question after the 90 minutes. The squad contains a number of options and it must be considered likely that the Italian will search for a direct replacement for Rooney, someone who can slot straight into the team’s current way of playing, rather than altering the formation altogether.

Ashley Young’s absence also plays into the quandary over Rooney. The Manchester United pair are two of the names who would surely go into Capello’s current first choice XI, probably as two members of an attacking trio supporting a lone striker. The pace and invention of Young can perhaps be replicated by his former Aston Villa teammate Gabriel Agbonlahor, one of the Premier League’s form players at the current time, but there appears little natural replacement for Rooney.

If Darren Bent starts again for England, one option would be a three-pronged support of Agbonlahor on the left, Theo Walcott on the right and Daniel Sturridge in the centre. Sturridge, set to make his senior international debut, has the innovation of Rooney but without the brute power. Capello may still find however a new way of playing without Rooney is more easily achieved than replacing the suspended attacker.

Matters are not much clearer in defence. John Terry’s off-field problems initially appeared to rule him out of the fixture but Phil Jagielka’s fractured toe could put the captain back in contention to play Spain, but Terry’s long-time central defensive partner, Ferdinand, is not even in the squad. The Manchester United player has struggled to hold down a first team place at Old Trafford this season, through a combination of injury and squad rotation, playing only 10 appearances for his club from a possible 18. For the 33-year-old Ferdinand next summer’s championships represents almost certainly a last hurrah on the international scene, yet he is not certain to be there, and for a player who has dominated England’s defence for a decade, that represents a substantial presence who must be replaced.

Terry is more likely to feature at Euro 2012 and a little beyond but the Chelsea captain has become increasingly prone to speedy strikers exploiting his cumbersome response to a ball played into space. Regardless of any non-football issues the future of Terry is up for discussion and Saturday’s friendly with Spain is the opportune time for Capello to contribute to the debate.

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