What’s this? Has Fabio Capello finally woken up to a system other than 4-4-2?
That was the one he stuck with throughout the South African shambles, one that patently wasn’t flexible enough, one that, arguably, should have seen the Italian sacked the minute his plane landed back in England.
But, by then, his contractual arrangement had, quite unnecessarily, been changed so that the wimps at the Football Association found themselves stuck with the incumbent, knowing that dismissal would cost them a fortune.
Well, if the evidence of Saturday is taken into account, and you must recognize that the opposition are only a few places above St Kitts in the Fifa rankings, then Capello may just have, belatedly, turned a corner.
He needed to. Anything other than a comfortable win in Cardiff would have seen his media opponents, myself included, dig their claws in even further. With his shenanigans over the captaincy, it felt as if one bad result would force his employers to act. Instead, you have to say, England played rather well.
4-3-3, that at any moment can change to 4-5-1, gives flexibility to the football of any team. Think how many clubs use the system. I know Manchester United usually like the width of 4-4-2 and they have the wide players to exploit it but, on many occasions, especially the big occasions, they switch to that 4-3-3/4-5-1. And then there’s Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and, of the course, the best: Barcelona.
You must, generally, push to one side any consideration of the goalkeeper and defence against Wales: the Welsh attack was pitiful. Pity the poor writers that have to award ‘marks out of ten’ after these games: how can you justify giving anything other than five when they’ve had so little to do?
But the 4-3-3 did allow England’s full backs to get forward and that, let’s face it, plays to the strengths of Glen Johnson. I’d hate to have seen him ‘defend’ against Gareth Bale.
Scott Parker was outstanding: I thought he was the best player on the pitch. It’s just such a shame that Capello has taken so long to acknowledge how good the West Ham midfielder is. And I was delighted to see the excellent Jack Wilshere in a more forward role: he has never been the mere defensive midfield player that the Italian initially thought him to be.
But the way those two played in a 4-3-3 gives up a problem. Finally, an England coach may have to choose between Lampard and Gerrard. Personally, I’d always go with Gerrard but remember he is also capable of playing in either of the wide positions in the front three. Rooney, too, can play on either flank and it’s to his great credit that, internationally at least, he does as he’s told.
I’m still not convinced though about Bent at this level. When Carroll gets properly fit, I’d prefer to see him in there. But what’s in Capello’s mind, heaven only knows? It could be a completely different starting 11 tonight against Ghana!