Five Things Fabio Capello Learned From England Wins Over Bulgaria. Switzerland
England continued their post-World Cup revival this week, beginning their qualification campaign for Euro 2012 with maximum points and seven goals.
With regular names such as John Terry and Frank Lampard, not to mention long term absentee Rio Ferdinand, missing there were plenty of points to prove from players new and old.
Below are some key points that can be drawn from the two games.
1. England are best at the beginning of the season
When organising England’s qualifying fixtures Fabio Capello has requested the toughest games to be played as early on in the season as possible.
England’s visit to Basle fell into that group given Switzerland’s second-seeding in the pool. Capello, having come under severe criticism for his organisation in South Africa, got this call spot on once again.
The Italian considers his players to be in the best condition at this early stage of the season and he appeared to be correct.
The Three Lions turned in a couple of big wins over Bulgaria and Switzerland this time out and have now won their last 10 games played in the month of September, with an aggregate score of 32-4 in the process.
In fact, in the last 12 years England have only lost one game in September, when they fell to a 1-0 defeat in Belfast to Northern Ireland back in 2005.
2. Adam Johnson is ready for international football
Two goals from two substitute appearances from the Manchester City man has firmly established himself as part of Fabio Capello’s set-up, if not quite the first XI.
Theo Walcott’s early injury on Tuesday gave Johnson a chance which he grabbed with both hands and even if the Arsenal man returns to fitness for England’s next outing in October he may well have found himself supplanted by the Eastlands winger.
What does seem strange is that England have waited for 20 years for a naturally left-sided player to give balance to the midfield. Yet when one finally comes along he prefers to operate on the right.
However, if he can continue to offer such a goal threat cutting inside onto his left foot then it’s doubtful that we’ll hear many people complain.
3. Plentiful options in the centre of defence
Only a few months ago England’s centre-backs of choice were Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ledley King and Jamie Carragher.
The gamble bringing back the latter two for the World Cup failed and with Terry and Ferdinand injured Capello was forced to turn to four new names in Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Joleon Lescott.
Each played their role in helping England to maximum points from the two opening qualifiers and showed that there is life without Terry and Ferdinand.
What this also means is that Matt Upson’s England career is all but over. He was recalled to the squad after missing out against Hungary in August but didn’t see any time on the pitch and is now effectively seventh choice in the heart of defence.
4. Joe Hart looks the real deal, if not perfect yet
A supremely confident performance in the win over Bulgaria on Friday night was followed up by a more up-and-down showing in Basle on Tuesday. Nevertheless Hart continues to live up to his potential in the England goal.
A couple of good saves at important moments against Bulgaria will perhaps be forgotten in time given the final 4-0 scoreline. However, having been made with the score only at 1-0 they were very important indeed.
A couple of juggled crosses in a five minute spell against Switzerland on Tuesday night passed without punishment and hopefully will not be repeated too often in the future.
Perhaps more care also needs to be taken with his kicking as he allowed the Swiss forwards to almost charge down his clearances on several occasions. This ‘criticism’ is really nit-picking in comparison to recent ‘keepers' that have gone before him.
5. Manchester City: England’s future?
At the final whistle over half of England’s team was made up of Manchester City players with Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Gareth Barry, Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips all on the pitch for the last 11 minutes.
This was the most by any one club side since Manchester United had seven players on the pitch at the end of England’s 3-1 win over Albania in 2001. With Roberto Mancini's side pressing hard for a Champions League finish this year the six players above should get plenty of big game experience playing alongside each other. This should only help Capello and England down the road.
Micah Richards is the most likely to make it seven. His return to the senior fold cannot be too far away given the paucity of options available to Capello at right-back. There has been no cover named for Glen Johnson in either squad since the summer.
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