Capello's conservatism costs England
Pep Guardiola's Barcelona took Wembley on a thrilling ride on the famous Catalan carousel. Seven days later, Fabio Capello's follow-up act was a journey with England into the chamber of horrors.
Capello was on familiar territory as England's inadequacies in the 2-2 draw with Switzerland in the Euro 2012 qualifier were explained away by tiredness at the end of a long season.
As Capello wandered out with friends to survey a deserted Wembley an hour after the final whistle and contemplate the hazardous route England still have to negotiate to reach next summer's showpiece in Poland and Ukraine, he should have looked closer to home to explain those failings.
And this is because the tone for a wayward performance and a draw that extended England's winless sequence at Wembley to four games, their worst for 30 years, was set by Capello himself.
England made short work of Wales in the qualifying game in Cardiff in March thanks, in large measure, to Capello's employment of Aston Villa's Ashley Young in a wide role that allowed him to at last demonstrate his potential at international level.
Young was building on his performance as a substitute in Denmark that brought the winning goal and much personal acclaim. The opposition was not at the high end of the world game, but Young fell firmly into the category of player Capello insisted he would encourage when he sat amid the wreckage of England's World Cup campaign in South Africa 11 months ago.
So it was to unanimous bafflement that England's team-sheet arrived before the meeting with Switzerland and Young's reward for his efforts was relegation to the substitutes' bench and replacement by Manchester City's James Milner.
Capello's choice was close to inexplicable but smacked of unnecessary caution against a Swiss side that, while marshalled by master coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, had taken only four points from four games in Group G before arriving at Wembley.
Milner's mixed form at Eastlands hardly merited his inclusion ahead of Young and Theo Walcott's claims were no stronger despite his selection. It left Capello wide open to charges that his gameplan was the product of muddled thinking and more evidence of his naturally conservative default position as a coach.
It was a move that looked even more ill-designed as England gifted Tranquillo Barnetta two goals from free-kicks to set Wembley on edge before Frank Lampard's penalty paved the way for a point to be salvaged after the break.
Capello's folly was underscored further by the fact that Young came on as substitute for the second half and took only six minutes to score a fine equaliser to at least rescue a draw for England - and win the sponsors' man of the match award for his lively 45-minute contribution.
The Italian coach's cause is not helped, on occasion, by the fact that the world knows the clock is ticking on his lucrative deal with the Football Association. He will leave after Euro 2012 and it takes a giant leap of faith to imagine that he will end his time in charge by winning the tournament - indeed he still faces a fight to get there.
To suggest, however, that Capello does not care about England is a dangerous occupation. He has a reputation that he protects jealously and it does him a disservice to question his commitment and his in-bred professional pride.
What is not in doubt is that this was a poor day for Capello. He got his selection wrong, was too cautious and even his decision to pick Bobby Zamora as a substitute ahead of Peter Crouch, who has scored 22 goals in 42 England appearances, did not stand up to close scrutiny.
If it was a bad day for Capello, he was certainly not alone as England concluded a long season in unconvincing fashion and with few reputations enhanced.
England were stripped of the suspended Wayne Rooney, who took advantage of his break to have a hair transplant, and the injured Steven Gerrard. Their drive and inspiration was sorely missed and handicapped Capello.
Switzerland, inspired by the fine young midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, left England looking laboured and Barnetta's two free-kicks summed up the malaise.
The first after 32 minutes was missed by Rio Ferdinand, who at times looked to be suffering aftershock from Manchester United's mauling at the hands of Barcelona in the Champions League Final, as it angled in and goalkeeper Joe Hart reacted too late to make a difference.
Barnetta's second three minutes later was a shambles on many levels. Milner deserted a two-man defensive wall in schoolboy fashion and Hart's lack of anticipation was exposed as he attempted a clumsy - not to mention doomed - effort to kick the ball clear at his near post.
Lampard's penalty was his last meaningful contribution in an otherwise anonymous showing and his replacement with Young was the catalyst for England's improvement.
Young duly proved how wrong his omission was with his goal, but the villain of the piece in the later exchanges was Darren Bent.
Capello more or less admitted he had tempted fate by talking up the striker who has looked so assured recently, watching in agitation as he allowed Switzerland keeper Diego Benaglio to save at his feet before lashing a wayward finish over the top of an open goal late on.
Bent's misses raised old questions that he thought he had answered about his capabilities at England level. Three goals in successive games before Saturday suggest he should not be discounted on this latest evidence, grim though it was.
England's plus points were not restricted to Young. Arsenal's Jack Wilshere was tireless and creative, with one weaving run and perfect pass to set up Bent's first chance almost a flashback to the days of the youthful Paul Gascoigne.
And Everton left-back Leighton Baines, on as an early replacement for injured Ashley Cole, was in the sort of dashing mood that has his admirers convinced he is now almost the Chelsea defender's equal, contributing a crucial and clever touch for Young's equaliser.
Capello's day improved with Montenegro's failure to overtake England at the top of Group G when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Bulgaria. He will take comfort in any form after the failure to beat Switzerland.
England's Euro 2012 destiny is now likely to depend on two testing trips to Bulgaria in September and Montenegro a month later. Improvement is required - from the coach as well as the players.