MARTIN SAMUEL: Is Fabio Capello really the new Wally with a Brolly?

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Jul 21st 2010 - by in: News | 0 Comment

Last updated at 7:55 AM on 21st July 2010

The Capello index measures performance to two decimal places. According to its mysterious calculations, Miroslav Klose, of Germany, was 0.03 better than his team-mate Thomas Muller at the 2010 World Cup.

There was even less, 0.01, between Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets, of Spain, although how you precisely quantify the form of a right back against that of a defensive midfield player is another matter.

Capello does not really calculate this guff anyway. He merely helped devise a formula by which footballers could be assessed for gambling purposes and his partners did the rest.

If the face fits: Fabio Capello and Steve McClaren merge into one under the umbrella in our picture mock up, and Capello can now expect thesame scrutiny that McClaren endured

That is why his protests, and those of the Football Association, have so far been doomed. Capello has succeeded in divorcing his England players from humiliating appraisal, but the monster he created will continue to stalk the earth, bearing his name.

The alternative would be for another football manager to invent his own methods of calculation and lend his endorsement to the project, and that process could take months. As the exercise was about making money, and has already been delayed once, Capello’s associates will resist this at every opportunity. They do not need Capello’s support now anyway. They have his method and his name, under contract one presumes, and can do the rest themselves.

The dinkiness of the numbers is appropriate, though, because these are the margins by which an England manager is reduced, too. There is the big crash, obviously, the equivalent of the 58.87 scored by Wayne Rooney in South Africa when compared to the mark of 68.95 for Diego Forlan of Uruguay, but beyond that England managers are reduced piecemeal, a lowering of 0.5 here or 0.7 there.

That is what is happening to Capello. The legacy of South Africa is that errors overlooked before, due to the success of the whole package, will be viewed as caustically as the mistakes of his predecessor. The tide has turned and it is choppy water ahead.

Steve McClaren once toiled through the best part of a pre-match press conference in Amsterdam attempting to explain an insignificant discrepancy concerning a decision to drop Stewart Downing. It followed a poor performance in a goalless draw against Macedonia during which Downing was booed by the Old Trafford crowd. Leaving him out against Croatia, McClaren told Downing the reason was tactical, based on form.

His assistant, Terry Venables, writing in a newspaper column, added this: ‘I was almost relieved at the decision to leave Downing out, for no other reason than I could see the criticism was starting to affect him. Usually, the opposition has to take your winger out of the game. We did it ourselves.

‘With encouragement, Stewart could be a better player and a very effective international. Instead he was jeered against Macedonia until his nervousness began to show. We didn’t have him in Croatia because the relentless negativity had got to him. Are we proud of that?’

Nowhere did Venables say form and tactics were not also part of the process. He merely added that, in his opinion, Downing was struggling because he had been turned into a nervous wreck. Yet McClaren spent the eve of a friendly against Holland being interrogated over this perceived disagreement, as if it were some titanic rift in the camp.

The reason? England had dropped five points out of six and McClaren was now under scrutiny. Each thread of fabric was to be picked at, which is where Capello is now. Welcome to Wallyworld, Fabio. You’ve got another two years of this, now light has been shone on magic in South Africa.

For all its supposed precision and efficiency, the Capello Index is pretty much The Bleedin’ Obvious in a cloak of decimalised sophistication. So Andres Iniesta had a better World Cup than Frank Lampard, did he? Thanks for that. Steven Gerrard is the only England player to earn a place in the top 100 of the Index and, as an honest professional, he will probably feel flattered by his inclusion.

Had the Capello Index run during the World Cup there would plainly have been issues arising because it would be hard to convince your players that they had the beating of, say, Germany, if a method of appraisal endorsed and devised by the England manager gave the German team higher marks.

Yet, released now, it is an inconvenience because it embarrasses Capello in front of his employers, but there is little lasting significance, unless the company is sued by the Premier League for breach of copyright. Capello the Computer is telling the players nothing Capello the Manager would not have conveyed during the tournament.

Unforgettable: But the umbrella probably wouldn’t have got a mention had McClaren led England to success

What has altered is the way these blips are perceived. The defeat by Germany in Bloemfontein was a turning point, just as Sven Goran Eriksson was viewed differently after losing to Brazil at the World Cup in 2002.

What had previously been considered Eriksson’s serenity on the touchline was then seen as inertia. Having previously been lionised for doing nothing in victory – I can remember reading a fawning article in a British Airways magazine celebrating Eriksson’s complete absence of influence during the 5-1 win over Germany in Munich – he was understandably mystified to be castigated now for being detached in defeat.

Capello was equally confused that his austere regime, praised to the skies in qualifying, was then cited as the reason England were failing to perform at the tournament. Even when he played his familiar 4-2-3-1 against Algeria, the system was derided, having functioned perfectly well for him over almost two years while being utilised by every good team in South Africa.

Capello will hate this next chapter in his career. One could sense his exasperation in Cape Town when quizzed about his decision not to name his goalkeeper well in advance of matches. He stared questioners out, he pulled faces, he crossed his arms, he shifted his weight in irritation.

His demeanour was that of a man unused to impertinent inquisitors doubting his wisdom. He has spent two decades with his word as gospel. So much has changed this summer. Previously, if he picked, say, Jermaine Jenas, everybody would conclude that Jenas must have something to be chosen by the great Capello. Now, the same decision would have the reverse effect. ‘He’s only gone and picked Jenas. I’m telling you, Kev, this bloke doesn’t know what he’s doing.’

Doomed: The Capello Index has caused the England manager and the FA nothing but embarrassment

When an England manager is in distress, every nuance has the potential for drama. Capello’s commitment is now being challenged because he is not watching England first-hand at the European Under 19 Championship in Normandy. The fact that he has a trusted backroom staff filing scouting reports and there is not a player in the squad with a chance of playing for England before his contract runs out in 2012 is not considered sufficient excuse for absence. Yet compare this to the treatment an England manager receives when the force is with him.

‘Fabio Capello has revealed that Theo Walcott’s blistering display in the Champions League semi-final took his breath away. He said: “The run he made for Arsenal’s second goal was incredible . . . there can be no disputing Walcott’s maturity”.’ (The Sun, Friday, April 11, 2008)

‘Fabio Capello left Anfield after about 80 minutes on Tuesday and so missed the one real moment of magic from an Englishman . . . ‘ (The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday, April 9, 2008)

Imagine if that happened this season? Imagine if everybody saw Capello make a sharp exit – the press box is next to the directors’ and VIP area at Anfield, so there is no question of mistaken identity – and then, two days later, quotes were circulated giving the impression he was still in attendance when a key England player excelled. He would get the sort of treatment McClaren received in Amsterdam. If it was a slow week, the inquest could last for days and even get its own name: Theogate or Early-Cut-Down-The-M6gate.

It is going to be a bumpy ride through the qualifying matches whatever happens, because England’s form in South Africa was so rancid it has destroyed hope. Even the optimism that traditionally surrounds a strong pre-tournament campaign – which can no longer be guaranteed as this is a tricky group for a team low on self-esteem – might not be present.

After all, Capello’s England performed like world beaters en route to South Africa, too, and look what happened. Like the housing market after a crash, it is going to take a few years for trust to return when England impress in qualifying.

In the meantime, Capello can expect each decision to be questioned, analysed and disputed in a way it never was before, his stock casually falling a few points every day until it bottoms out, perhaps on October 7, 2011, in the city of Podgorica, Montenegro.

FIFA will not discuss goal-line technology when the technical sub-committee of the International Football Association Board meets in Cardiff today.

When Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, said the issue would be raised at the first opportunity he was being, as former Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong had it, economical with the truth.

Procedural nonsense too dull to detail is cited as the reason FIFA cannot address the issue this month, but must wait until October.

In South Africa, under pressure after the disgrace of Frank Lampard’s non-goal against Germany, Blatter (right) did what he always does: said some populist stuff to placate the mob.

He is an appalling man, surrounded by equally appalling men, delivering a tainted game their duplicity deserves; but that we do not.

Barca boss talks bull

Pep Guardiola, coach of Barcelona, says that if Arsenal do not want to negotiate the sale of Cesc Fabregas, he will not go to the Nou Camp. What a gentleman.

Of course, in reality, Guardiola knows that Barcelona’s work is done. Arsenal have never wanted to negotiate over Fabregas, but Barcelona ignored this and have chipped away through the year, destabilising the player so that Arsenal now fear he may agitate for a transfer.

Arsene Wenger faces a dilemma because, if Fabregas returns sullen, resentful and frustrated, he will be as useless to the club as Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry were in each of their final seasons.

It then becomes a matter of time before Barcelona get their man; if not this summer, then the next, once Arsenal realise he is not the same player. So ignore Guardiola and Barcelona, the apparent honest brokers; we saw through their machinations long ago.

Carlo Ancelotti sniped that Joe Cole’s transfer was about money. Yes, it was. Chelsea wouldn’t pay it, and Liverpool would. There is no point a player of Cole’s talent remaining where he is not valued or selected. This is a good move, for him and for Liverpool.

Manchester United were in Fife at the weekend for a pre-season friendly against Dunfermline; United won 5-1.

‘We looked nervous and gave them too much respect,’ said Dunfermline manager Jim McIntyre (right). ‘We stood off them and were punished for it.’

Dunfermline are a second-tier team now, but finished third last season and have hopes of returning to the Scottish Premier League following relegation in 2007. They reached the Scottish Cup final that year, too, and began the 2007-08 season in the UEFA Cup.

Still, United are an intimidating prospect. All those famous names, all that world-class talent. Except this was the side they put out at East End Park: Devlin (Johnstone 46); Wootton, Chester, (Tunnicliffe 64), Gill, Dudgeon (Fryers 64), Norwood (Brady 46), Possebon, Eikrem, Morrison (Stewart 46), King (Keane 46), Ajose (Lingard 64).

Awesome, eh? Not even the reserves, who were over in Toronto defeating Celtic 3-1 without any of United’s World Cup players. Whatever we hear about the decline of Scottish football, it is not the half of it.

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how much longer are the press going to keep blaming the managers the players need to share this responsibility the England team at the world cup were an absolute disgrace to there country and there fans and should never be in an England shirt again perhaps the manager should be looking to the championship for players at least they will show some passion unlike the current bunch of lemons!

– Terry O, harlow essex, 21/7/2010 07:38

MARTIN SAMUEL: Is Fabio Capello really the new Wally with a Brolly?

Capello does not really calculate this guff anyway. He merely helped devise a formula by which footballers could be assessed for gambling purposes and his partners did the rest

MARTIN, YOU HAVE ANSWERED YOUR OWN QUESTION & THE ANSWER IS …..NO!

– Anon, UK, 21/7/2010 06:20

Isnt it time to move on from moaning about capello.?

– williethepimp, gold coast, australia, 21/7/2010 02:55

Some good stuff as usual Martin. But I do have one criticism. Calling Blatter appalling was far too much praise. Is there no way that the football world can get rid of this person?

– Chuck Simmons, Bedford England, 21/7/2010 01:03

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