Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Lampard, Gerrard could play together"

Fabio Capello might play Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the centre of midfield for the match against the United States.
The conundrum of how to get the best from England's finest two attacking midfielders proved beyond Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren.
Capello discovered the answer immediately, shifting Gerrard forward to turn the axis onto the partnership between the Liverpool captain and Wayne Rooney, while deploying a holding player that let Lampard cut loose from further back.
Yet, less than two weeks before England go into battle for the greatest prize in the game, Capello finds himself in the delicate position of having to wind the clock right back.
The problem has been created by a combination of a long-term injury to Owen Hargreaves, Capello's first-choice holding player, a more short-term problem for Gareth Barry that should at least allow him to make it to South Africa but not face the USA, and Michael Carrick's loss of form.
Twice in the past week, against Mexico and Japan, England have been in trouble until Gerrard was switched into central midfield and, on both occasions, the improvement has been instant.
Now, after spending so long pursuing another idea, Capello must decide whether it is worth resurrecting the Lampard-Gerrard formula.
"I know the history," Capello smiled. "This is a big question for you always? Can't play together?
"Probably both were too young. That was a joke. I hope that they can play together. I have to decide whether to try."
Capello likes to play his cards close to his chest and rarely reveals all about any particular subject.
Clues can be found though, and in highlighting how quickly England began to move, both with their passing and their feet after half-time, suggested Capello feels he will pair Lampard and Gerrard together in Rustenburg.
"Good players can move positions," he said. "Frank and Steve are used to going forward because they have a holding player alongside them.
"If they play together one will have to stay at different moments.
"The most important thing I saw against Japan was when these players got the ball they played it really quickly.
"The passes through the Japan defence were really good."
Capello will not start formulating his plans until he receives the latest medical bulletin on Barry Wednesday morning.
He expects to be told the Manchester City midfielder will be fit enough to train properly immediately after the United States encounter and therefore pass his minimum requirement for a place in the 23-man squad.
Once that information has been digested, Capello can begin the difficult task of making seven phone calls that inform the unlucky recipient their services are no longer required.
Scott Parker, Stephen Warnock and Michael Dawson will surely be out, so too Tom Huddlestone and Darren Bent.
To an outsider, the main problem is whether Capello utilises the guile of Joe Cole at the expense of the pace provided by either Adam Johnson or Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Capello's previous statements on the three players indicate a belief this World Cup has come too early for Johnson, who has made rapid progress after starting the season in the Championship with Middlesbrough but may have to wait for the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Wright-Phillips did well against Japan on Sunday, but not as well as Cole, so unless Capello springs a major surprise by omitting Matthew Upson, Ledley King or Michael Carrick, there is no room for the Manchester City man.
Capello has already declared the decisions he has to make to be the hardest part of his job, and he will couch the bad news in the softer wrapping of telling the not-so-magnificent seven they were only in this position because they are among England's finest talents.
"I have told them all they are the best English players and that is why they were here," Capello said.
"They have all trained very well and stayed focused throughout, but I am disappointed because I have to choose 23 players."
There is also the matter of Capello's future to secure, by taking out the clause in his four-year contract that would allow either the Italian or the FA to terminate it following the World Cup.
A verbal agreement had been reached with former FA chairman Lord Triesman and Capello wanted to receive assurances from Club England chairman Sir David Richards before ignoring overtures from Inter Milan and concentrating on the biggest challenge of his career.
Capello and Richards spoke on the telephone and a source close to the discussions, who did not wish to be named, said they were "very positive" with both parties now hoping to bring a close to the matter by the time the team departs for South Africa.
It is understood that improving the terms of the contract is not on the agenda and discussions will only deal with removing the clause inserted in Capello's contract when he was appointed England manager.
"I cannot wait for the World Cup to start," he said. "I am focused on everything that I have to do and prepare so I hope the result will be good.
"But the whole thing is very exciting. I know that a whole nation stands behind the team and me. A whole country, with all its fans.
"The pressure is higher in England because the last title was achieved a long time ago.
"But the supporters have confidence in the team because I have it too."