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21 Agustus 2008

'We are killing Gerrard by playing him left midfield'

Fabio Capello insisted he was pleased with aspects of England's display in last night's draw with the Czechs and sought to justify his selection of Steven Gerrard in an unfamiliar role despite claims, notably by the Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp, that this was one of the worst performances by England in recent memory.
The final whistle prompted boos from sections from the home support, despite England having equalised in stoppage time, with Redknapp using his platform as a TV pundit to declare that their second-half performance was "diabolical". He was left bemused by Gerrard's deployment on the left: "We have one of the finest midfielders in the world in Steven Gerrard. He plays for Liverpool and is like Roy of the Rovers, a colossus. But he's not a left midfielder. He has to be in the centre. We are killing Gerrard."
Capello insisted: "He was not playing on the left, I'm sorry. We played 4-3-2-1. We played [Jermain] Defoe, Gerrard and [Wayne] Rooney and three midfielders behind them. The position he had to play was between the line of the backs and the midfielders. Mr Redknapp has to say something but he didn't play on the left. Sorry. With his movement - he went on the left and to the middle - he moved but he never played on the left.
"I'm happy for the draw because the reaction to the team to the last minute was good, was important. And I think, also, that the first half we played with good football, good style and created a lot of chances to score goals. And the team played together with different style. There was only one thing I didn't like, in the first half: sometimes, when the Czechs had counter-attacks, we suffered. That was the problem. We have to prepare something to combat that problem."
Asked whether he thought this performance suggested England were ready for next month's opening World Cup qualifiers and the game against Croatia in Zagreb, he added: "I think tonight we took another step. I'm happy. I saw a lot of things which I had doubts on, and the players' fitness levels are still not at their best but I think we'll be ready for both the games next month."
His newly appointed captain, John Terry, appeared less convinced. This was the latest sloppy performance from players who excel in the Champions League and Premiership yet flounder on the international stage. "It has been a problem for the past four or five years and it's something we need to address as quickly as possible," said Terry. "I don't know what it is and, as a group, we are trying to put our fingers on it."
Yet those present who made their displeasure known at the final whistle might agree more with Redknapp's assessment. The Portsmouth manager drew support from Terry Venables, now a pundit on TV. "If we were experimenting a bit it would worry me less but that seems to be his team," said the former England coach. "I only thought set-pieces would win us the game."
"That was one of the worst performances I have seen from an England team," added Redknapp. "The second half was diabolical. Some of the players are unrecognisable from those who play in the Premier League. I was full of optimism before the game, but then I saw the teamsheet.
"We keep chopping and changing the manager but the performances don't change and we don't improve. We change the manager, but pick the same players. We keep picking them and they are the best players, but they come here and play for England and don't perform."