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Rooney and Gerrard make Fabio smile

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Phil McNulty | 06:54 UK time, Sunday, 29 March 2009

Wayne Rooney brings out the comedian in Fabio Capello - whether he is talking about the "crazy man" who saw red at Fulham or the "crazy joker" in the pack who can be England's World Cup wildcard.

And Capello had plenty of reasons to smile and indulge in his own brand of wise-cracking in Wembley's basement after Rooney displayed all the positives contained within his unique football package as Slovakia were dismissed by England.

Capello's Slovakian counterpart Vladimir Weiss, who once fell victim to a fledgling Paul Gascoigne when playing for Czechoslovakia at Wembley in 1990, admitted his side had been given "a slap behind the ear."

Rooney delivered the decisive slaps - but in a good way as opposed to the blows he rained down in rage at a Craven Cottage corner flag. He was, like England's new kit, whiter than white.

Slovakia were perfect cannon fodder for England to work over ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley on Wednesday, but in Rooney and Steven Gerrard Capello had two players who would have excelled against any opposition.

Gerrard (left) and Rooney showed some of their best form against SlovakiaIf Capello's main objective from this dress rehearsal for Ukraine was to get Rooney to banish the bad memories of Fulham and confirm Gerrard's position within his emerging and more fluid England set-up, then this was very much mission accomplished.

And for the 45 minutes they were together before Gerrard was withdrawn, the pair were playing a game on a different plane from any others at Wembley.

Gerrard was nominally England's man on the left flank, but this was virtually reduced to a technicality as he instantly wandered inside to great effect - and when he left his station Rooney was often the man drawn automatically to the space he vacated.

They provided a constant source of danger and invention for England, from the moment Gerrard set up Emile Heskey's opener to virtually the last kick of the game when Rooney rounded off a deserved 4-0 win.

Capello was effusive as he is ever likely to get after the game - describing Rooney as England's "joker card...a crazy joker."

It was a remark that brought laughs - but there was a serious side to the argument because you knew exactly what Capello meant.

Rooney is a free spirit. An untamed talent. There is a dark side to this personality, but when it is a force for good it can be unstoppable.

Capello is not a coach to build a side around a single player, so Gerrard is unlikely to be given the free role he occupies so brilliantly at Liverpool. But the Italian, ever the pragmatist, may have finally have found the solution to a midfield conundrum that often eluded his predecessors.

It relies on tactical discipline from Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry allied to intelligence and flexibility from Rooney and Gerrard - all qualities amply contained within that quartet.

Capello is wise enough to know it would be a criminal waste of Gerrard's world-class talent to restrict him to some basic up-and-down left-wing role, so the trick is to utilise his gifts within England's game plan.

And here, for 45 minutes at least, it looked like Capello and Gerrard had come up with a solution that might just suit England all the way to South Africa.

It remains to be seen whether it works against less compliant opposition than Slovakia - has Martin Skrtel ever looked as utterly hopeless as this playing for Liverpool? - but Capello was clearly a satisfied man as he conducted his after-match inquest.

Rooney, despite some justified criticism of his behaviour, has shown growing maturity for England under Capello and he was at the centre of everything for 90 minutes.

Wayne Rooney (left) and Fabio Capello during the friendly against Slovakia

England's win must be placed in the context of the opposition. Capello, correctly, will not be carried away and Ukraine will provide a more reliable measure of England's effectiveness.

If anyone is tempted to talk England up too much - and no-one within the camp is guilty of it - then the defeat in Spain can act as the reality check.

David Beckham embraced the history books when he emerged as a second-half substitute to win his 109th cap, a record for an outfield player. He showed the trademark glimpses of quality on the ball, setting up Rooney's first goal with a perfect cross.

Capello appears to prefer Beckham as an impact substitute, but there is undoubtedly much the improving Aaron Lennon could learn from the former captain about end product.

Lennon may get the start against Ukraine, but those of us who wrote Beckham off after watching his tear-stained farewell as captain in Germany in 2006 received further evidence that he is not going quietly.

It was not all plain sailing for England - particularly as strikers dropped like flies to leave Capello nursing a potential headache for Wednesday's Wembley encounter with Ukraine.

Heskey, Carlton Cole and Peter Crouch all went lame, but Capello's blunt dismissal of the suggestion that Michael Owen could return carried an ominous air for the man who was England's most reliable marksman not so long ago.

If we are nit-picking, and you can bet Capello is, there were two glaring moments of defensive slackness that saw England bailed out by two fine first-half saves from David James.

But Rooney's brilliance, plus a partnership with Gerrard that was almost telepathic at times, was more than enough to compensate for any minor complaints Capello may have about an emphatic performance.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Good result. Capello's man-management flair needs to be applauded as he gets the 'crazy' man to put in a very sane, useful performance. Plus he was able to test Gerrard's multi-positional usability, somewhat akin to a cricket all rounder's.

    Three strikers were laid low. Reading the names it did not sound like a big deal. To my mind England have enough in the kitty. Although McNulty seems to suggest so but I do not believe Capello is the kind of manager who would let any personal prejudice stand in the way of Owen's selection. Its hardly a firefighting scenario.

  • Comment number 2.

    i thought england played very well yesterday and deserved their win in emphatic fashion. I thought gerrard and rooney stole the show but as a chelsea fan lampard was very tactically aware and did what he was supposed to do. He cannot play the same role as he does for chelsea but the way he played yesterday shows that gerrard and lampard can play together. Neither of them had free flowing roles and both showed that they are trying to make the partnership work.

  • Comment number 3.

    Regarding Michael Owen, he doesnt really fill you with a lot of confidence that he is a good choice to come in and replace other strikers who are going down with injuries. Lets be fair, his own personal record in that department isnt so hot.

    Looking at the team as a whole, and without wanting to get carried away, it is very promising to see that we are now winning by three or four against this level of opposition. Under the previous manager this would likely have been a scrambled 1-0, with plenty of post match talk about "there are no easy games at international level". The team is for the most part now producing performances that their individual ability levels lead us to expect.

  • Comment number 4.

    Phil you said...

    "Slovakia were perfect cannon fodder for England to work over ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley on Wednesday, but in Rooney and Steven Gerrard Capello had two players who would have excelled against any opposition."

    That's a very bold statement on the back of one performance against Slovakia.

    I think you could at the very minimum waited to reserve judgement after one competitive game, rather than one friendly.


  • Comment number 5.

    Well, it was a good win. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Yes, they played well. yes, they are improving. The first step is to qualify and then see what happens in the world cup. All of us have been too many times let down by the performances when it comes to crunch time. Fabio is a clever man and this can be seen by the teams he has picked to play against. Here is the comparison.. I'm using FIFA rankings (sorry, could not find a better one :-))

    England - 9th rank

    Friendlies
    ----------
    22-Switzerland - W
    12-France - L
    17-USA - W
    75-T&T - W
    13-Czech Republic - D
    2-Germany - W
    1-Spain - L
    53-Slovakia - W
    3-Netherlands - ?
    59-Slovenia - ?

    Qualifiers
    ----------
    195-Andorra - W
    7-Croatia - W
    130-Kazhakastan - W
    88-Belarus - W
    14-Ukraine - ?

    So, if we are honest with ourselves, the wins against germany & croatia stand out and of course we have lost against france (though i cannot wonder how) and spain & drawn with czech. All the rest are against numpty teams.

    Long way to go yet before the team is really worth all the praise they get!

  • Comment number 6.

    I have stressed England must not get ahead of themselves - and also made the point that no-one in the camp is talking up the team too much.

    But I defy anyone to tell me that both Gerrard and Rooney were not both hugely impressive yesterday.

    Rooney may have gone off the deep end after his red card at Fulham (yes, I still think it was harsh) but he has shown signs of maturity under Capello.

    Watching Capello at close quarters yesterday, there is no disguising his admiration for Rooney. He knows how important he is to his mission of reaching the World Cup - and then trying to win it.

    Gerrard, in my opinion, was just as good in his 45-minute cameo. I will never understand the argument that has been put forward by some in the past that England might actually be able to do without him. Nonsense.

    True Slovakia were average, and I have pointed out England's defensive frailties in the first half, but let's be positive about an emphatic win.

  • Comment number 7.

    First of all I would like to say congratulations to Becks for reaching that milestone. Terrific achievement. However, who can doubt that Rooney will, in time, beat whatever record Becks manages to set, and then goes on to beat Shilton's 'unbeatable' record of 125 appearances?

    Regarding the match last night, I think we were very solid, our attacking flair clearly outclassed the poor Slovakians. Excellent, clinical finishing from Rooney. Gerrard too was outstanding. I was pleased with Becks' second half display, he rolled back the years with some of his passing and vision.

    I am much looking forward to the Ukraine game on Wednesday, they will prove a much bigger test than the hapless Slovaks. I really hope England will be able to transfer their good form from this friendly game to a qualifier that really counts!


  • Comment number 8.

    "...has Martin Skrtel ever looked as utterly hopeless as this playing for Liverpool?"
    Yes!

    606 on Five Live was funny last night, everyone ringing in to needle Alan Green about Beckham as Green wobbled between diplomatic ("fits a valuable role in the team") to his real feelings ("hasn't had one good game since Greece in '01!!").

    Good professional display by England, you never feel they hit top gear yet won comfortably and showed some little extra touches in play and structure that were pleasing.

    Hopefully the two or three injury niggles aren't too bad.

  • Comment number 9.

    England are showing a lot more structure under Capello which can only be good for them. Under SM, it was as if the players didnt quite understand what he wanted, Capello seems to leave no doubt in their mind what he wants and expects.

    Phil, may i please ask why it is that you are the only blogger on the BBC with more than 1 hrs moderation time? It hardly stimulizes a debate if people have to wait so long to read comments.

  • Comment number 10.

    A very good result , efficient and entertaining, but in all honesty the defence looked shaky at times and were nearly punished by being sloppy ( Upson ) and I want to see Rio back on Wednesday.
    The midfield was ok, but why Carrick only got 15 minutes is beyond me, arguably the best equal pass of the game in the box gave Lampard his goal.Equal to Rooney's 5 great passes in the first half.
    For me Carrick must start with Barry next week and bring in Bent as Crouch looked lost against a weak team.
    Rooney was ( is ) brilliant, a real player.!

  • Comment number 11.

    Proof of the pudding will be in the eating of Ukraine on Wednesday night. Gerrard and Rooney did look good for 45 minutes yesterday but the opposition were very poor.

    I do hope there is nothing personal going on with Capello/Owen. A fully fit Michael Owen will be a definite asset to England if we make it to South Africa next summer.

    Oh - and over a week on, Phil and you still don't understand the laws pertaining to dissent in football. Go look them up!

  • Comment number 12.

    Phil...Yes of course Gerrard and Rooney were impressive, as too was Lampard, but when you categorically state that they would have excelled against any opposition, on the basis of just this one friendly, then you are showing signs of getting ahead of yourself.

    Just for once it would be nice if the footballing media could keep their feet on the ground during the good times, and conversely not bury our team and players during the bad times.

  • Comment number 13.

    You are making me feel a bit gutted for missing it. I am glad to hear that England's two most gifted footballers had a good game though. Lets hope they can do the same against Ukraine.

  • Comment number 14.

    McNulty clearly says lets not get ahead of ourselves but some numpties then post saying he needs to calm down and not get ahead of himself, I do wonder if people actually read what's written sometimes, it was a good win and a good warm up for Wednesday although I'm still annoyed this international break has come when Liverpool were playing so well and Utd looked like they might be 'cracking up'.

  • Comment number 15.

    You talk about Rooney like he's some untamed superhero with super powers but a problem past which sees him not know good from bad!

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    The most impressive development under Capello is that England have more than one string to their bow. There is more flexibility and they undoubtedly benefit from having a manager who thinks on his feet and has the balls to change things if needed. They can play with pace on the flanks or, if that's not working, they can bring on the likes of Beckham who prefers a more measured approach.

    If we are to win the World Cup, however, I think we need to identify an out and out goal scorer who doesn't miss headers from three yards out! In reality, the injuries to Heskey et al doesn't alter our prospects for Wednesday's game in the slightest because they are all much of a muchness. England need Owen to play week in week out from now until 2010 in the hope he can persuade the boss of his worth.

  • Comment number 18.

    Decent article.

    To be honest I thought our centre midfield was average in terms of providing cover for the defence. Although we were good going forward (Lampard in particular) I don't feel there was enough tactical discipline from Barry to just sit and sweep. Hargreaves' return will be a huge boost for both club and country, I just wish Carrick would grow a set and take the games by the scruff of the neck for once! Such a class player, he just needs to stamp some authority in there!

    Rooney is genius, you just have to look at the starry-eyed expression on Capello's face to know how highly he rates him. And Gerrard was brilliant, though looking slightly lazy in terms of defensive duties.

    The striker issues we have are bewildering, let's just hope some of the Under-21 players can step up to full international level sometime in the future.

    A good performance against average opposition, we can face the next qualifier with some optimism, although we're still some way off a world cup winning team, looking at Spain play just shows that.

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't think anyone is going to disagree that Gerrard and Rooney combined very well last night.
    Is this the start of the best creative pairing in the England team since Keegan and Brooking? If so we are all in for a treat.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think I would be right in saying that his goals against Slovakia bring Wayne Rooney's goal tally for England up to 21 in 49 games. That's 0.4286 goals per game, which I'd say compares favourably with Owen's 0.4494 goals per game (40 in 89 matches).

    And 99 of Beckham's 109 caps have been starts, hardly a small proportion! I think his half last night proved that he can still do a job for the national side. Compare the impact he had in the second half to another poor display from Downing. As for the latter, I'm all for giving him a chance and he did play very well against Germany, but I'd still rather see Ashley Young in the squad...

  • Comment number 21.

    aside from the blog i would like to point out someone else's role in the england set up and that is stuart pearce. it bodes well for the future that he is learning under capello's tutelage. they seem to fit together nicely on the bench for the full team with regards tactics and communication and pearce is gaining great experience and confidence with his decision making when managing the under 21's. There is no hiding pearce's admiration when you see the two of them in the stands watching players. but you also see a mutual respect and appreciation from capello.

    given that capello has now given england a tactical backbone and most of the players are beginning to live up to their club form now for the national side this process should be able to carry on after capello with pearce at the helm armed with his tactical tuition from capello and his familiarity with future england players after his asociation with them in the under 21 squad.

  • Comment number 22.

    England are becoming a more cohesive unit under Cappello. Both full backs are good on the ball. We need Ferdinand back as the Upson/Terry axis lacks pace (especially Terry). Barry and Lampard (playing deeper) provide a defensive screen, although if Hargreaves returns to fitness then i could see Barry losing his place long term or providing strength in depth. Gerrard on the left is not ideal but Cappello is allowing him and Rooney to interchange. Lennon gave us the pace we lack in our central striker(s). It seems to me that the re-introduction of Walcott will be key to Englans's chances of World Cup success either as right winger or possibly as a striker (in the Torres role), this might be one option to try in a friendly..other wise i still think we are one top striker short of being a team to take on Spain et al.

  • Comment number 23.

    eirebilly (post 9): Just want to come in on your question. A number of our blogs are pre-moderated to ensure that they stay on topic and relevant. Phil's is one of those. Our moderators do their best to approve comments as quickly as possible, but there are sometimes delays. Things were running a little slower than normal this morning but I gather everything is back on track now, so debate away.

  • Comment number 24.

    Re: 22

    Walcott's return will undoubtedly be a plus for England but he has neither the size nor the strength to play a Torres type role.

    The lack of a top class centre forward and goalkeeper are England's biggest problems and there's no easy fix.

    As it stands Heskey/Crouch are our best options, which speaks volumes. However, France won a World Cup in '98 with Guivarc'h up front so......

    Likewise at the back James is undoubtedly No.1 yet will remain an accident waiting to happen as he has throughout his career. The fact that Foster with only 6 (?) appearances to his name this season is being seen as the No.2 keeper is a massive cause for concern too.

  • Comment number 25.

    I am left wondering what games you watch at times McNulty. In my opinion England have that little bit extra in their backpack nowerdays under Capello. Rooney was pivotal, but I saw Gerrard doing his usual for England... he's never given the sort of performance for England that he generates at the highest levels for Liverpool. Nobody is going to deny that they worked well together.... However... personally, with Lampard beginning to return to form for England... I'd have him in the team first. Something you would never have heard me say a few years ago!

    Which brings me smoothly onto my next point, the midfield covering the defence. Capello did a great job of that to begin with.... now I don't know perhaps he just wanted to play around with attacking options in the friendly but the cover was lacking. The attacks weren't broken up as easily as they should have been. I'm going to reserve myself on that issue for a moment because I think Capello will have that covered by Weds.

    Re: #23.
    Interesting reasoning, but you still haven't told us WHY McNulty's blog is pre-moderated? Since there are so many which aren't... what makes his special?

  • Comment number 26.

    one major problem i saw was lampard still - he just doesn't like having to sit back in a 2-man midfield. he's not that defensively inclined - he wants to get forward and attack, as we saw when carrick came on and lamps moved forward (a forward position he plays for chelsea)

    the only thing i would have done differently would have been to play a carrick-barry CM from the start. carrick does that defensive side for united and is comfortable with it

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    On the goalkeeping front surely Green has been the most consistent performer this season so should be the next choice.

    And as for Frank Lampard, you have to either play him or Gerrard and Gerrard is the better player so he gets it. There is no point playing FL in a holding midfield role as there are better players to do that, Carrick, Hargreaves even Beckham.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    Phil, It is all well and good to state that no-one in the England camp are getting ahead of themselves but you must know that the moment England qualify (which they will) every newspaper and TV pundit will mark them down as (at the very least) strong contenders to lift the trophy in SA.
    The "reality check" against Spain will be dismissed (we had too many injuries, we were still re-building etc.) Just a few days ago Rooney was a petulant brat, today he is approaching sainthood. "One game at a time" may be the mantra of managers and players but surely the *chief* football writer for the mighty BBC can do a little better?

  • Comment number 31.

    England really needs a permanent striker at this moment. Rooney and Owen's combination was good. Even Owen's and Heskey's pairing was fine some years ago. It's sad that Owen is a victim of what they call it as 'football politics'. With almost a century of appearance for his country and scoring 40 odd goals, he is the kind of experienced player you need for big occasions such as WC qualifying rounds. I even remember the partnership of Owen and Gerrard in Liverpool. With Gerrard and Barry in the midfield and Rooney partnering him, I believe Owen could have delivered his best. With Capello reigning FA, I don't see Owen playing for England in the foreseeable future. It's a shame.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    It's still hard to judge where England are, but they are certainly looking competitive, dusting off lesser opposition with nonchalant ease and only once truly outperformed (against a white-hot Spain).

    Rooney is wildly unpredictable but Capello seems to be good at utilising his undoubted talent.

    Thinking long-term, I believe England will at least make another quarter-final in South Africa, and then it's as much luck as anything else as to what happens next.

  • Comment number 34.

    To KingArthuronice...Seeing as I made specific reference to not getting carried away and using the Spain defeat as a reality check, then I can hardly be accused of dismissing it.

    On another point, do posters feel we have seen the end of Michael Owen as an England player? I have to say that Capello was very quick to dismiss him on fitness grounds yesterday - fair enough given his recent injury problems.

    I have made my feelings clear on Owen in the past. If he is fit and scoring goals I would have him in the squad at the very least. It will be interesting to see what decision Capello makes if and when that situation arises.

    Let me know your thoughts.

  • Comment number 35.

    #27

    Probably because of the plethora of idiots who decide not to take the article on its merit and have a pre-meditated idea to nitpick and find whatever errors or mistakes they can, purely because it's Phil McNulty, and have nothing else to do in their lives. You end up getting several pointless comments on his journalistic calibre when it just simply isn't the issue and it detracts away from the point of discussion. Pathetic.
    **********************************************************************

    Is it now verboten to find errors or to criticise a BBC journalist?
    I accept moderation for racist, sexist, homophobic comments and the like but to simply take someone to task for inconsistent reportage is simply freedom of speech, no? Is it too much to expect journalists who are paid to cover football to have a wider knowledge and therefore make more bold assessments than we more insular joes? Simply saying England were taught a lesson by Spain but were good against Slovakia is just stating the obvious. Equally, Rooney - Fulham bad, Slovakia good is no more than stating the obvious. Why can't the chief football writer go out on a limb and actually take a punt at the future? Will England qualify? I say 100% yes, Phil no comment. Will England be 2010 Champions I say 90% NO what say you Phil? How about yourself Pompey Lackey, care to stick your neck out?

  • Comment number 36.

    "has Martin Skrtel ever looked as utterly hopeless as this playing for Liverpool?"

    i would have to say go and look at his debut against havant and waterloovilee in the fa cup he was awful got battered all day by non leage players

  • Comment number 37.

    KingArthurnice,

    Completely agree with you, another couple of wins and the defeat against Spain will be mentioned as an accident and Rooney will be again the saviour of the country, etc.

    Except Rooney, the spine of the team will have already turn 30 by the time they get to South Africa, if they couldn't do it at their peak of their power it's difficult to see they could make at the beginning of their decline.

    Does anyone remember a keeper as bad as James winning a world cup? i have been trying to find one in the modern history and i can't remember anyone near of his poor level, surely England can not expect to win the world cup with Heskey upfront either.

  • Comment number 38.

    just for once it would be nice to read a journalist who accepts that the football world that they write about actually mocks the nonsense they write

    Capello laughing about "crazy man" Rooney is a case in point. the absurd levels of criticism and hype around him this last week was probably THE single biggest joke amongst the entire England set up.

    Yes it's easy to imagine Capello insisting that his players handle the frustrations of incompetant and biased referees by making sure the team keeps XI on the pitch.

    But let's not get carried away here, some of the star attacking players of all the top teams get sent off now and again because they let injustices real or perceived get the better of them.

    These are ever likely to get highlighted all the more when the player in question plays for Manchester United and everyone in that England set up will know that very well.

    In fact, some of them will be playing on that very fact once again from the moment the Ukraine game is over.


    Hated. Adored. Never ignored.

  • Comment number 39.

    And as for Frank Lampard, you have to either play him or Gerrard and Gerrard is the better player so he gets it. There is no point playing FL in a holding midfield role as there are better players to do that, Carrick, Hargreaves even Beckham.

    ------------------------------------

    I have to disagree with that. You saw from the game yesterday that Lampard was very effective from a deeper position. His incredible fitness allows him to track back as a holding player needs to, but still link up in the attacks as he does for Chelsea. If anything, Barry was the weaker of the two and I'd personally replace him with Carrick (or Hargreaves when he returns).

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm not too worried about the strikers being out with injuries as i think they're are better players to start ahead of them.

    Ok Crouch i rate and he should be a squad player but not necessarily start, Carlton Cole has been very good this season but im not sure of his goal scoring ability and quality at the moment but he is progressing well (i rate him ahead of Heskey as well because he has most of what he's got plus time on his side).

    We seen the great interchanging of passes between Rooney and Gerrard rip Slovakia apart so why not stick Rooney up top, with Gerrard roaming freely and put Lampard on the left with freedom to cut inside. Playing him in the centre limits his chances going foward and Gerrard is more than clever enough to pull across to the left when Frank goes to the middle. Lampard can do the same job i'm sure.

    With those 3 pretty much playing un-markable roles with an eye for goal and a pass that no one can stop at times, they're has to be goals in the team. If we need to change it around we can always bring on Crouch and Beckham and revert to a similar shape we played. It would also help if we fail to go through them then we can go over them via crosses and Crouchy's aerial prescence. At the same time you could say if it ain't broke don't fix it if Crouch is fit but i'd like to see us try giving Lampard as well as Gerrard a slightly more free attacking role.

    Either way we seem to be playing with confidence and playing some decent stuff and i expect us to beat the Ukraine even though they will be a tougher test than the poor Slovakians.

  • Comment number 41.

    Also while talkin about the strikers quality, if Owen was fit he would be the 2nd striker in that squad right after Rooney. He's a dream player to have in your squad if not your first team. Pure quality.

  • Comment number 42.

    I have to say that, I believe, Owen's future at international level looks bleak. He needs to get himself fit and get some confidence back. I also think a move to a club like Everton or Villa would be a good for him. David Moyes and Martin O'Neill always seem to bring out the best out in players and he'll also get the chance to play in Europe.

    As others have pointed out, what England are lacking is an out and out goalscorer and Owen is the most obvious candidate.

    Another option, perhaps, would be to play Walcott upfront with Rooney. The lad can certainly finish and we have other quality players, like Lennon, Beckham, Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole (when fit) who can fill the gap on the right.

    There are also a lot of young up and coming strikers at PL clubs who may be able to fill the void. The likes of Danny Welbeck at Man Utd, Nathan Delfouneso at Villa or Jose Baxter at Everton may have staked a claim by the next World Cup. I'd be interested to hear what fans of their clubs have to say about their abilities.

  • Comment number 43.

    As far as Michael Owen goes, Capello seems to be consistent in his policy of not including players who aren't playing for their clubs.

    He'll make an exception so that he can see all the players he thinks are possibilities close up, but he already knows Owen. This week Capello has almost certainly ruled out Ledley King for Sth Africa. I imagine he'll cut Ben Foster a bit more slack because goalkeeper is a specialist position.

    It's a pretty good policy if you ask me. If we get to the verge of the finals and we're short, then if Owen is fit Capello knows he can call him up and he will be a useful addition. But in the meantime everyone has a chance to pin down their spot in the squad by playing football and not just by reputation.

    David Beckham has left his wife and kids thousands of miles away to play football at a level good enough to justify his place. That's the type of thing all the other players will respect. The fact he's a former England captain with over a hundred caps should give the likes of Owen the reality check they need.

  • Comment number 44.

    When they are fit, both Rooney and Owen need to be played. They are the best two strikers England have in their ranks, with Crouch a highly utile third option.

    While Rooney puts in prodigious work rate, Owen is an opportunity goal grabber. Crouch, Heskey, Bent, Young, Cole are supplemental.

    Capello's 'joker in the pack' metaphor is apt as Rooney fits in all situations. Of all the above England strikers, Rooney is perhaps the only one who may yet rise to greater heights in discovering more potential. Its Capello's job to ensure that on his way up, Rooney's temper does not undermine his talent. Rooney must know for sure that any worthwhile opposition will tend to needle him much more than others in his team.

  • Comment number 45.

    #34
    Phil, I specifically mentioned newspaper and TV pundits. I have never seen you as a TV pundit (Like Lawro, Keown blah, blah) and since I do not read 'papers then fair enough you may be, but you do not state that in your little bio, so a nice little bit of extra cash (for you) but no info for me.
    I fully accept that you have a greater knowledge of football than I do but then again I expect that you *use* that knowledge / expertise to at least have a go at not simply reporting what has happened, but projecting future England progress or otherwise. Anyone can write about what has already happened...is it too much to wish an 'expert' to predict what *may* happen in the future?

  • Comment number 46.

    we saw how crucial gerrard and rooney were yesterday. who knows if we might have beaten spain with those two playing.

  • Comment number 47.

    As usual the anti-Lampard brigade can't take their glasses off.

    First of all I recognise the opposition was poor, so it would be wrong to get carried away by his performance last night, but in terms of the job Lampard is meant to do, he was almost perfect. Nearly everything was built and linked-up though him, he hardly mis-placed a pass, and he made some fantastic killer passes two examples, the one putting Rooney through where he crossed, and Heskey somehow headed over the bar, and another one, when at full stretch he put Lennon through in the box, agst the goalkeeper, and he should have scored, but then the rebound fell to Gerrard who also should have scored.

    If people on here seem to think that England are picking Lampard to now play the Makele role, then they have completely mis-understood how Capello sees Lampard's role in the side. He is been picked to be the conduit for possession and link play.

    Now, the key thing we now need to see from Lampard is can he do it against strong opposition, as I admit that is still something he has to prove to perhaps win over you Lampard sceptics.

  • Comment number 48.

    Yesterday's game offered yet further proof that Rooney, not Gerrard, is England's main man. Granted, Gerrard has now delivered decent back-to-back performances for England (perhaps, for the first time?) but Rooney continued to dominate even after Gerrard was substituted at half-time.

    It's becoming clear that Rooney is central to England's future - SA2010 and beyond. In contrast, England have shown they can live without Gerrard, perhaps best demonstrated by the 4-1 triumph in Zagreb.

    In short, an injured Gerrard = England will still prosper, an injured Rooney = Game Over, England.

  • Comment number 49.

    @angelthejam

    David James made two fine saves in the match and he is still by far the best GK England have. As for Heskey playing up front and England thus by your strange reasoning cannot win the world cup,when England had Shearer,Owen how far did they get in major competitions apart from a dodgy Euro96 semi-final loss to Germany after Spain where robbed in broad daylight.

    Capello seems to be getting the English players to have a little more belief, but to be honest the manager of England is not the problem its the mentality and culture of players that needs to be addressed from childhood. It might have only been a friendly but the match against Spain showed the huge gulf in class. Technically England are still inferior to most Top European,African and South American teams and the bad news is that teams are improving everytime. As for you not understanding how England lost to France...well watch the game again. The last time I checked whoever scores the most goals wins a match. Pound-4-Pound France have better players than England hence over the years they have won more than England and got to more latter stages of major competitions than England.

    Owen is washed up internationally, also I admire Capello using other players and so far in the qualifiers its paying dividends!!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    I have to admit that i gave up watching Lampard after the 3rd or 4th cross went sailing over evryones heads, and then he scored later on. Their are better players to play the role Lampard played.

  • Comment number 51.

    Just on Lampard - I thought he was very effective yesterday and once again showed his eye for a goal. It seems, however, that he is destined never to please some people.

    I thought England's midfield formation showed huge promise, although I remain to be convinced that Aaron Lennon has the quality of final delivery to be effective at international level.

    And to KingArthuronice, past experience of covering England has taught me never to predict the future - having thought they had a great chance at Euro 2004 and the World Cup in Germany two years later.

    If you want me to have a go again though, I'll make an exception for you.

    I predict Spain will win the World Cup in South Africa, but it is not a crime to travel in hope where England are concerned and they have an outstanding, experienced coach in Fabio Capello. Do not rule then out.

    There you go - another prediction that will come back to haunt me!

  • Comment number 52.

    Phil, you asked about Michael Owen. I think Capello was too quick to dismiss him. we dont have a lot of options with English attackers, not heavily favoured in the premiership, and in Owen we have one who has proved again and agian that he can score at all levels. This current spell with a poor Newcastle team has seen him drop out of view, and of course he still struggles with injuries. However if he is fit, and you put him on a field with Gerrard and Rooney, I can see nothing but goals.
    Frankly Bent is not fit to lace Owens boots, nor is Carlton Cole.
    On a different note, its hard to take anything from yesterdays result accept that the team did what was expected, and that certainly hasnt been the case every time an England team has played against weaker opposition, so Capello seems to have got the players state of mind in order. Individual performances wyou highlighted and the link play between Gerrard and Rooney in particlar are cause for hope and I also feel that they would have doen that against stronger opponents. The best defenders in the world play in the premiership and since they both do it week in and week out against them, I dont see the objections made by some for your optimism.
    One last question, why do you only comment on the wind up merchants having a go at you? Why not respond to the points by people who actually enjoy the blog?

  • Comment number 53.

    TommyOnion -

    Yup, France won the World Cup with a lone striker who couldn't hit a cow's bum with a banjo all tournament long, and with an agile nutter in goal. Why can't we?

    And Rooney and Gerrard combined are almost as good as Zizou. Although he is pushing 37 now...

  • Comment number 54.

    I think it's a shame that, unsurprisingly, Lampard won't get the credit he deserves for the role he plays in the 'new look' England team. I can think of many players who would throw their toys out the pram after being told they can't play in their favoured position - I remember Gerrard doing just that for months - yet Frank happily accepts the situation and gets on with his game. I also think it's a testament to his fitness that, despite playing a holding midfield position, he is still able to getting forward in attacks like he does for Chelsea.

    You can also see just how effective Lampard is in his favoured position as well; in the last 20 minutes of the game, where he played in his favoured position, he scored one and set one up.

  • Comment number 55.

    To torontored...personal opinion here - I would put a fully fit (and this is what we need to emphasise) Owen ahead of Darren Bent, Carlton Cole, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey and pretty much anyone else as a potential foil to Wayne Rooney.

    Sadly, we have to accept that his recent career has been ravaged by injuries and I sense, again only an opinion, that Capello is formulating his thoughts for the future without Owen.

    As with Beckham though, we should never write off this most single-minded of individuals. If he gets games he will score goals - getting games is the difficulty.

    I am a huge Owen fan and would love to see him get a run of games at club level to at least pose the question to Capello.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am sure if Owen could regain fitness and form he would be No1 on Capello's list.

    For me, last night really emphasised how desperately we need to find another quality striker. Is there anyone out there playing in the Championship who might come though in the next 12 months?

  • Comment number 58.

    Robbieo79, whats with the anti-gerrard comments? Anyone who knows anything about football can see what a phenomenal player he is.

    Gerrard and Rooney where on a different level to everyone else yesterday, at last it seems an England manager has found a way to use gerrard to good effect. The reason he isn't as consistent for England as he is for Liverpool is because he has been used in different positions, and given a more defensive role by previous managers.

    You can pick out the few good performances England have had without Gerrard, but how about being happy that we may at last see him being effective for England?

    Don't tell me you thought Downing was better?

  • Comment number 59.

    I am sure if Owen could regain fitness and form he would be No1 on Capello's list.

    For me, last night really emphasised how desperately we need to find another quality striker. Is there anyone out there playing in the Championship who might come though in the next 12 months?

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    Kevin Philips? ok seriously I don't know of any.

    England, if they persist with Rooney and Gerrard as an attacking force really only need a big lump to hassle the centre backs.

  • Comment number 60.

    The Owen Rooney partneship never worked for England. It never will.

  • Comment number 61.

    I have a dog called Max. I shaved a strip into one of his eyebrows, through him a football and watched him run it headlong into the corner of the garden.

    I swear you now can't tell the difference between Max and Aaron Lennon.

    Unfortunately, the Franz Carr School of Football are still churning out the graduates. Pity we can't mix and match Aaron and Becks; that would be some winger...

  • Comment number 62.

    Gerrard plays anywhere and everywhere for England. It really is unbelievable that he shifted out to the left hand side to accomodate lesser players like Lampard and particularly Barry. Any other country would make the most of Gerrards talents and current form by playing him behind Rooney. Gerrard is the worlds best attacking midfielder and yet not one England manager has played him in his favoured position for a run of games. Dont get me wrong, Lampard and Barry are fantastic players but they are not on Gerrards level. Gerrard is a powerhouse player who drives Liverpool forward and has single-handedly won several trophies (including the champions league) for Liverpool. His performances in the last 3 games for Liverpool show just how good he is. He has demolished Real Madrid, Man Uinted and Aston Villa.

    Rooney is also on a different level to the rest of the players around him for England. Last night, he was partnered by Crouch, Heskey and Carlton Cole and not one of them is fit to lace his boots. The only England striker worthy of partnering him is a fit Michael Owen and it doesnt look like we will ever see that again unfortunately. Next season has to see another top England striker emerge or we are in trouble for the World Cup. We have not got the firepower to win a World Cup. Imagine Rooney got injured?!! Who would play up front? One striker has to step up to the plate next season, be it Walcott, Defoe, James Vaughan of Everton, Agbonlahor, or somebody else. Darren Bent, Kevin Davies, Carlton Cole, Emile Heskey and Peter Crouch? Forget it. Spain have got Torres and Villa!!

    Finally, as for Stewart Downing playing for England. Laughable. Absolute comedy. If he can play for England, then seriously, so can I. And my nan (and shes dead).

  • Comment number 63.

    I think that Capello is wating for Michael Owen to prove that he really wants to play for England in much the same way that David Beckham has ie doing whtever it takes to get regular first team football,and if that means changing clubs,then so be it

  • Comment number 64.

    Owen is washed up and as Phil said Capello and rightly so is looking to the future. Phil and others please explain to me why with all the goals Owen has scored, over hyped Gerrard and other so called "English world class player" have not made any significant impact at any major tournaments since 1966. Bent,Defoe and Cole if given a FAIR run can do well. I remember Alan Shearer going 10 games without scoring for England.Owen for all is scoring exploits and injuries ( not a valid excuse ) has never topped or rarely tops the scoring charts in the EPL. Same with Rooney its all well and good scoring against Slovakia but its against the big boys that it really matters. I watched a program in 2002 in Brazil about strikers Pele and Ronaldo ( they both said that striker(s) should have the mentality if the opposition score one I will try and score 3 to compensate for defensive/midfield lapses). Its no wonder they rae the greatest player and world striker of all times.Gerrard is a great player for Liverpool but internationally he is average. A real world class midfield player should be able to adapt defensively, offensively or both. Have a look at Xavi,Iniesta,Essien and injured Diarra at Real Madrid. If Gerrard could adapt his game then he can be become a world class player and help England otherwise England will be found wanting as usual. Phil you may seem like your joking but I sense patriotism apart you know deep down England have zero chance of winning the world cup. One positive for England is that Capello does not bow to partisan English media and football fans clamouring for a has been,relegation bound striker like Owen and rightly so. Oh well only time will tell what this ageing England side can win.

  • Comment number 65.

    If Owen can stay injury free for a significant period of time then he simply has to picked. He has scored goals wherever he has played and was unlucky not to earn another contract in Spain. Compared to the others competing to be Rooney's foil up front he is streets ahead in both goals scored and experience. The only other viable option is to play Gerrard behind Rooney- the favoured tactic of the 5 live team covering the match yesterday. However, Wazza is not an out and out striker and will always look for the ball rather than wait for service and thus England would spend periods of a game with no centre forward. Owen vs Bent, Crouch, Heskey, Defoe, Davies??? It's obvious isn't it!

  • Comment number 66.

    Jimmy5times,

    My comment was intended to be more pro-Rooney than it was "anti-Gerrard."
    Moreover, I thought my post was actually pretty generous in its praise of Gerrard...i.e he has played decent back-to-back games for England. And that deserved a mention because I'm not sure Gerrard has managed many (if any!?) decent back-to-back performances for his country but now he has it's looking good for him and he certainly deserves his starting spot against Ukraine.

    However, my post also included a critical nod towards the incredible Gerrard hype-machine which has been way OTT for many years now. For sure, he's a top level player who deserves international recognition. But the year upon year soundbites and cliches of "best player in the world" "most complete midfielder in the world" "can win games by himself" nonsense, when his international career has suggested the complete opposite, has been incredibly frustating to fans with a more balanced view of Gerrard.

    Indeed, citing yesterday's full 90 minutes and the 4-1 Croatia victory, is strong proof of what some of us on here have been saying for years now - build the England team around Rooney. His age, his Euro 2004 performances and his better technical game mean that it is Rooney, and not Gerrard, who is England's main man. That's why I stand by my point that if Gerrard is injured for WC2010, England will still prosper - Gerrard is just another player. If Rooney gets injured? England might as well not even bother turning up - he is everything to England.

    And from your username it's clear where your club sympathies lie, so you probably disagree with me. But perhaps Fabio Capello's words might hold more sway:

    "Please God, Rooney stays fit. He can play up front on his own if we need him to because he is such a special player.


    "He played very well and we can't do without him."

  • Comment number 67.

    interesting point MOOLEN about Gerrard not being used in his best position


    along with Beckham England's greatest midfield player of the last decade and a half was paul Scholes, a true world class play-maker admired by all his peers throughout football.

    and what happened? booed by the idiots in the crowd for being United, and pushed out onto the left side of midfield by the idiot in charge, he quit and left them all to it.

  • Comment number 68.


    England Football team is peaking at the right time. Fabio Capello has created the necessary hunger in th boys. Let us wish the injured guys speedy recoveries and quick return to the playing eleven.



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 69.

    I'm dreaming about a Spain v. England and Argentina v. Holland semifinal in RSA '10, with a Spain v. Argentina final. Man, that would be sweet.

    Also, Owen, Owen, Owen...it's a shame really.

  • Comment number 70.

    My granny loves Wayne.

  • Comment number 71.

    FAO galaxy man

    your suggesting bent gets a run for the england team lol
    your suggesting gerrard and rooney are overated
    an you also suggested that diarra is better player than gerrard? did you see liverpool real madrid? gerrard played diarra off the park lool

    please continue to provide us with absolute frafff

  • Comment number 72.

    Robbieo79.

    Couldn't agree with you more about Rooney, even as a Liverpool fan, I love watching him play, his debut Champions League hat-trick for Man Utd was inspiring even to a scouser. His performances at Euro 2004, where he pretty much got England to the quarters on his own, were proof that he can cut it at the top level.

    I don't think that Gerrard is over-hyped though, not in a Liverpool shirt anyway. He has single handedly won so many games for Liverpool, being surrounded by average (at best!) players - Traore, Smicer, Baros, Kewell, Biscan, Diao, Diouf. Rooney wins games for United with a far stronger supporting cast.

    What I'm trying so say is, surely gerrards form can be transferred to international football. The Champions League produces a higher level of football in the latter stages, than a lot of international games, so the argument that Gerrard can't cut it at or doesnt produce it at the top level doesn't make sense.

    My view of gerrard may not be balanced, but listen to Zinedane Zidane


    'Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo but yes, I think he just might be,' the former France captain said.
    'If you don't have a player like Steven Gerrard, who is the engine room, it can affect the whole team.

    A comment which was backed up by Capello.

    I think Capello needs to biuld his team around both gerrard and rooney, at least for the next four years or so anyway.

  • Comment number 73.

    robbieo79's comments-

    #48: "Yesterday's game offered yet further proof that Rooney, not Gerrard, is England's main man."

    #66: "......if Gerrard is injured for WC2010, England will still prosper - Gerrard is just another player. If Rooney gets injured? England might as well not even bother turning up - he is everything to England."

    I mean, I just couldn't help myself but sat and laughed. Even my granny, who doesn't know anything about football, said what a performance Gerrard and Rooney delivered. This was probably the weirdest comment I've heard since Ferguson's remark of 'we were the better team, even though the scoreline doesn't reflect that' (after Liverpool beat Manchester United 4-1 a few days back).

    Talking about Gerrard being a "just another player", lemme quote the great Zinedine Zidane's comment on Gerrard on 13th March 2009 - "No team will be successful without a heartbeat and you can see Gerrard is that heartbeat. He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief. You can't learn that - players like him are just born with that presence," he said.

    I have found a lot of Man United fans talking nonsense about Gerrard and Torres, since Man United were demolished at Old Trafford and here robbieo79 is not an exception too. What I think is, when we are supporting England, we should truly be English, not biased like robbieo79. Even I'm a big Liverpool fan but I am still very proud of Rooney's performance yesterday and what he contributed to England's victory. It was beautiful just watching him play like that.

    I think, Phil will also agree with me on this.

  • Comment number 74.

    Thank you, Jimmy5times. Totally agree with you. Your comment made my message much more clear. Thats what I mean to say.

  • Comment number 75.

    Talking about Gerrard being a "just another player", lemme quote the great Zinedine Zidane's comment on Gerrard on 13th March 2009 - "No team will be successful without a heartbeat and you can see Gerrard is that heartbeat. He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief. You can't learn that - players like him are just born with that presence," he said.

    ----------------------------------------

    You know, as great a player as Zidane was, it's just another opinion. I also remember when Pele said Nicky Butt was the best player in the world.

    Personally, I think it's ridiculous how rapid the 'Gerrard hype' train is moving nowadays. He isn't even close to being the best player in the world - he's not even the best player in England - yet people are claiming that he is.

    The worst thing Capello could do would be to build the England side around Gerrard. Yesterday proved that, on his day, Rooney is the most gifted player we've got (and he's still got more to give).

  • Comment number 76.

    Debatanu1984,

    good comments yourself mate, lets hope gerrard proves himself even more by lifting the Premiership trophy in a couple of months...

  • Comment number 77.


    Galaxy-man,

    think you misunderstood my comment, probably you are right and James is the best english goalie, and Heskey a neccesary player at this moment, but in an ideal world these two players won't be anywhere near the squad.

    There is big difference of class between Spain and England, particulary in attacking areas, i think it would be unfair to compare the goalie.., however in one game, with a bad performance of Spain and very good of England you never never what could happen, but then you say the same about another 10 teams.

    I disagree that France has a better team, actually what they really have is a very bad manager and it is a team going downhill in a transitional stage, having said that, yes, they did beat England fairly.


    I'm not english, but i don,t think there are so many teams in Europe above England, technically, leaving Spain aside, what they are is a few of them on similar level, but some of them have the know-how needed in these competitions, talking about Germany and Italy mostly.

    In South America, Argentina is on paper superior, and it's difficult to say about Brazil as so many of their key players are in a such poor form, Paraguay is being the big suprise there, but from what i have seen it looks like a very well organized team and little else.

  • Comment number 78.

    71. At 7:11pm on 29 Mar 2009, jackswift101 wrote:

    FAO galaxy man

    your suggesting bent gets a run for the england team lol
    your suggesting gerrard and rooney are overated
    an you also suggested that diarra is better player than gerrard? did you see liverpool real madrid? gerrard played diarra off the park lool

    please continue to provide us with absolute frafff

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I think galaxy man meant Mamadou Diarra of Mali, not France's Lassana Diarra, you've got your Diarras mixed up.
    As it is, Gerard doesn't look as comfortable in an England shirt as he does Liverpool's, and that's something you can't say about Rooney, 100% everytime, for England or Man U, at home, away, when he's on form or totally off it, you can never question his desire...

  • Comment number 79.

    The Unused Substitute

    The worst thing Capello could do would be to build the England side around Gerrard. Yesterday proved that, on his day, Rooney is the most gifted player we've got (and he's still got more to give).

    ---------------------------------------------------------------

    sorry, are you blind or something?

    Did you see that England was playing Slovakia yesterday in a friendly?
    And you are trying to tell us Rooney has proved anything?
    I understand McNulty has to write about something, even if he knows is irrelevant, cause he is getting for generating information out of nothing, but what is your point?

    Look, the only times Rooney has been deccisive for England has been in the wrong way, he made a ridiculous penalty against Russia, and eventually England would have qualify if hadn't lost that game, and let down everyone stamping Carvalho in the QF of the WC in Germany ( although if you tell me England actually played better without him afterwards, i will have to give you that one)

    And yes, and i am pretty sure we haven't seen the end of him, he doesn't seem to have learnt anything so i'm sure he has another "surprise" coming in..

  • Comment number 80.

    Phil,

    I must admit I'm getting a little fed up with your subjects - take a look at the past 10 - apart from the England game all are focused on Liverpool and United, and when you focus on England it's all Rooney and Gerrard

    True they were the stand-out players - but there really is little news off this event - it was a friendly, we've already seen Rooney shine under Capello, and in qualifiers

    I say this as an englishman, but why not focus on world cup qualifying as a whole (well, from Europe at least) - England have it quite easy now, a win over Ukraine at home should give us an almost guaranteed top 2

    You could look at the far more interesting and precarious campaigns of NI and Ireland, or further afield and look at how badly Portugal are faring (one win out of five, and that was Malta away) - likewise France aren't exactly cruising

    Or you could do a feature on Ukraine, seeing as that is the only real game of interest to England right now - why focus on a friendly against lowly Slovakia that tells us nothing?

  • Comment number 81.

    What a joke it is that some posters can't give credit where credit is due simply because of their own personal dislike of a certain club / individual player.

    As a Chelsea fan, I understand that my opinion of Frank Lampard is irrelevant to some.

    But surely the most anti-Chelsea or anti-Lampard fan acknowledge that he performed very well against the Slovaks and has been at the top of his game for the better part of this season.

    Any talk of replacing him with Carrick, Hargreaves and the like is nothing but biased garbage spewing out of the mouths of bitter Lampard and / or Chelsea haters.

    The same can be said for Gerrard, whereas I can sympathise with Liverpool supporters when bitter fans label him as "just another player". Absolutely ridiculous.

    On a couple of lighter notes:

    I think Clive Tyldesly summed it up appropriately when he mentioned Wayne Rooney was playing well against Slovakia because he was enjoying himself. When he is in this mood, he is an absolute world class striker, comparable to the world's best. But his tendency to let his temper get the better of him or become frustrated when he is isolated impedes his ability at times. To be honest, I'm personally not a fan of Wayne as a person due to his temperament (as illustrated by his spiteful and quite frankly shameful antics at Fulham) but even I can admit that he is a quality, quality player.

    The dilemma for Capello now is who should step in for the injured Heskey. Why not Gerrard? Give him the "free role" he occupies so ably for Liverpool? It's that or Bent.

  • Comment number 82.

    Also, Phil I think this level of moderation on comments is a little over the top. Surely posts can be reactively moderated? Posters do have the option of complaining about certain comments if they so wish.

  • Comment number 83.

    Tarquin,

    Excellent point, but it won't happen for two reasons:

    - McNultty writes here for the general public, these specific matters requires certain knowledge about football, look at the follow up the Vickery,s blog compared to this one, for example. Then is the minor matter on whether the blogger can analyse properly or not the topics you mentioned.

    - You are right the Liverpool-UTD matter seem to be evergreen is this blog, with the same childdish arguments time and time again, the worst is that many bring the same matter when England is playing, like if they were married to Gerrard/Rooney.


  • Comment number 84.

    So many of you people know nothing about football ! why does the vast majority continuosly slag gerrard off ? what is wrong with you all ? because unless he scores or gets man of the match in a game hes straight away under scrutiny. He is by far and away not only englands best player, but hes the only one who can even challenge messi's dominance of being the worlds best. Gerrard has played, right back, defensive centre mid (against brazil, and completely shut kaka out of the game) and got man of the match, right an left mid, centre mid with only lampard, so he cant really play is own game because frank bombs forward without a thaught in the world i.e. gerrards now picking two players up ! and gerrard has also played as a second striker - away in france, in a game which he was out numbered by the french and had no support, but still was englands best player, the reason gerrard doesnt repeat his performances from liverpool to england is because he has freedom to roam, and he plays behind the best out and out striker in the world, if england played gerrard behind rooney it still would not bring the same level of performance because rooney has not got the pace, strength, or airiel ability that torres has, because rooney is not a goal scorer ! and for me their is only one person in england who is and out and out goal scorer, i.e. plays no part in the build up of a goal but puts it in the net - and its owen, what cappelo has done to him is a joke to be read out in a christmas cracker, and a grate shame, he scores goals when hes fit, even with newcastle - and no disrespect, but i know hes going to get better service from england colegues ! Well hopefully ive helped clear stevie g's name a bit, because i would just love to see how your england team copes without him against a good team !

  • Comment number 85.

    No comments about Rooney and Gerrard - the Great Zidane spoke so what else is there to say? Lennon gets it right most of the time until he comes to cross the ball; his delivery is, at times, woeful. So, what better player to give him some lessons than the master of the perfect cross - David Beckham.
    Friendlies are important but playing one so close to a qualifying game seemed to tempt fate - and Fate duly obliged. So who does Capello play upfront? It appears that Crouch will start but with such an obvious head to aim for, one might be tempted to start Beckham and see what pans out.
    A little more info about Ukraine would be useful.

  • Comment number 86.

    83 angel

    thanks, do you think it would be much of a stretch for Phil to look at the relegation battle? - it's usually more exciting than the title race, all I want is the odd blog that isn't United-Liverpool orientated - maybe about the teams in the UEFA cup once in a while, or even Arsenal and Villa's chances - I am quite happy for him to stick to the premier league and England, but wish he was just a bit more wide ranging than the over-analysis of the results of two teams, I'm sure it used to be a bit better

    Right now if you want any sort of debate about the bottom of the table all you get is Robbo's back handed comments

  • Comment number 87.

    tarquin,

    While I agree with you, it is unlikely that Phil will blog on the subjects of the relegation battle or other country's campaigns towards the World Cup simply due to the fact that he reaches and appeals to a substantially larger audience if he comments on England, Manchester United, Liverpool and the like.

    You certainly can’t please everyone but Phil and the BBC alike are attempting to please the majority.

    I am hopeful that the relegation battle will attract the interest of some authors, such as Phil, as it begins to heat up.

  • Comment number 88.

    87

    This is the BBC - they have a mandate to cover audiences regardless of their size and shouldn't be constantly appealing to a section of fans simply because they are the largest - even the newspapers will cover the whole table and all the matches, a lot of people are interested in the other 18 teams and as Phil regularly does 2-3 blogs a week you'd think he could find some space for something else occasionally

    I don't mind the national aspect - there is no obligation to look abroad, I just find it interesting myself, but I feel there is a lot more analysis to be found out there in our own top league and constantly rehashing the same story does no one a service

  • Comment number 89.

    Hmm the praise the Gerrard/Rooney "partnership" gets in this blog I had assumed I had been watching the wrong match and we were 5-0 up at half time...

    For all the amazing play from the two of them we were only 1-0 up when Gerrard went off, against a team that Phil McNulty even says were pretty poor. So with this fantastic combination we score 1 goal, without it we score 3.
    Clever little moves and fancy tricks are all fine and well but it's GOALS that count! All it would have taken is for Slovakia to have one good attack and it could have been back at 1-1 and a very different game.

    Oh and why is the fact that Capello isn't thinking of calling up a striker who has not played a full game in 4 months or something and has only managed 50 odd games in 4 years, even news worthy.

  • Comment number 90.

    64. Galaxy-man

    Where to start with that pile of tripe ?

    1) Owen isn't washed up. He isn't getting picked by Capello because he's not playing for his club because he's been injured. Not complicated.

    2)England players significant impacts at major tournaments since 1966
    Rooney - Euro 2004
    Owen - WC 98
    Shearer - Euro 96
    Gascgoine - WC 90
    Lineker - WC 86

    3) Criticising Gerrard but stating Defoe, Bent & Cole would do well at international level - on what basis ? They struggle to make a 'significant impact' at Premier League Level let alone on the European/International stage. You may want them to get regular starts to prove themselves - i'd prefer us to play players who already prove themselves as better than them and try and qualify for the World Cup.

    4) Gerrard is already World Class. Ask anyone in the game.

  • Comment number 91.

    need someone like david batty (class and elegance personified) to hold the midfield and allow lampard (the best player on the planet)and gerrard (average) the freedom.

  • Comment number 92.

    To TommyOnion: "Oh - and over a week on, Phil and you still don't understand the laws pertaining to dissent in football. Go look them up!"

    That it was harsh to send Rooney off doesn't mean it wasn't within the letter of the law. Don't you understand the difference between "harsh" and "incorrect"?

    Regarding the game, where are all the people saying how bad Rooney is, and how he should never play for England? Not good enough for the shirt, was one such comment i seem to remember...

    On my side, i'll admit that Lampard played well in that game. For the first time ever. He actually passed the ball forwards, occasionally! Naturally, he started the game by only passing backwards and sideways but after a while he got his confidence up...

    The Gerrard Rooney link up was lovely - that first goal was poetry. Up to the finish, anyway.

    My only concern with it is what happens when we need to defend the left side... will Gerrard ever stay there and do his job, or will it always fall to Rooney and have the one person we don't want back there, getting stuck in at left back?

    As far as Owen, Capello never said that never, just said that he has to be playing regular games, which is fair enough considering his condition and the number of games in the last 5 years.

    Game on England.

  • Comment number 93.

    I've just read Capello's reasoning for not considering Owen. He says that it's necessary to pick the type of striker that holds up the ball well, in order to give Rooney and Gerrard the freedom and space to operate behind the striker. Surely that man is Crouch? He, at least, has some technical ability.

    It seems we are doomed to have a big target man up front for now. But who am I to argue with a man who has won so many tiles- it's time to show some faith and get behind the team.

  • Comment number 94.

    Yes, England played well but the game was too one-sided to be considered a decent match. Once again sections of the football media are going overboard lavishing praise on England. Let's not forget this is just a group game (a WC qualifier) nothing more. England need to keep their heads down more and just get on with it without the need for a fanfare after every single victory. We didn't win anything, only gained three points. At least wait til after Wednesday's result against Ukraine. This will be a trickly match for England and no walk in the park like the Slovakia game was. If we'd beaten say Spain or France 4-0 then, yes, abit of fanfare would be good but not for Slovakia - come on.

    Another thing, the new kit looks good and very minimalist. But it seems a tad extravagant for each footballer to have a tailormade kit for them especially given the current economic crisis. Yet another example of how out of synch football is with reality ( e.g. what's going on in the world economically). A nice touch inmore prosperous times but abit OTT right now.

  • Comment number 95.

    GenesisRed.......

    Passing the ball backwards and sideways is also know as keeping possession and build-up play.

    Have you actually ever played competitive football?

  • Comment number 96.

    GenesisRed

    it was neither incorrect nor harsh

    2 clear yellows = 1 red

    defending the indefensible a la Ferguson

  • Comment number 97.

    Is West Ham's Rob Green injured? I can't see how Capello can not pick Owen, on the basis that he's not playing 1st team football, & then go & pick Ben Foster. Is Green to be like Jamie Carragher? ie overlooked while 3rd rate Man U players like Wes Brown get picked.

  • Comment number 98.

    simple solution is call up bent.

    i would honestly play rooney up front given his confidence scoring the goals on the weekend. Play gerrard behind him. Play Beckham right and Lennon on the left.

    That way if England need to score they could THEN bring on Bent and have Rooney on the left...

  • Comment number 99.

    Norapeti: "Passing the ball backwards and sideways is also know as keeping possession and build-up play.

    Have you actually ever played competitive football?"

    No (as though that has any bearing). But i've watched Xavi, Iniesta, Gerrard, Scholes, Beckham, Zidane, Pirlo, Fabregas... to name just a small handful; all of the above play forward incisive passes on a regular basis, rather than occasionally. How you think having your creative midfielder just receive the ball and pass it to the other wing or back to the defense all game will help the team, especially when its the midfielders job to look forwards and create, is beyond me. Watch Xavi for what a midfielder SHOULD be doing with the ball.

    Lampard seems to have modelled his passing game on watching Makelele, the only other player i've ever seen make so few forward passes.

    To Angelthejam: "sorry, are you blind or something?"

    I think you have something in your eye if you don't think Rooney is the best player in the England squad. I don't think any of the other players would argue with it, let alone people watching the game. If Rooney hadn't been playing yesterday, we would have scraped 1-0.

  • Comment number 100.

    The Unused Substitute

    You sound like one of my typical Chelsea fan friends who regularly batter Gerrard with abuse and will argue to their last breath that Lampard is a better player - chill out! Speaking of opinions a majority of people I know believe Gerrard to be an outstanding player in every sense; not the best in the world no but I've witnessed, along with everyone, else how he has beaten and stopped some of these so called players before - as has Lampard. Who incidentally wasn't showing the flair he was showing just the other day in the Spurs game (I'm kidding), I mean what he does for Chelsea. Some of his dead balls were shocking but he did pick up pace when he had more room and his goal was good.

    On another note, it makes me shiver in horror when I see Downing in the squad... but I guess beggers can't be choosers.

    Moderater's must be busy again, 2 posts above mine say 12:59 - awaiting moderation. My taskbar says 12:48... nice and speedy, we love it!

 

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