Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is club football a higher standard than international football?

I was moaning at work yesterday about Capello's team selection, saying that he seemed as wedded to the 4-4-2 formation as Sven had been before him.

Who can forget Wayne Rooney limping off against Portugal in Euro 2004 to be replaced by Darius Vassell? It was obvious to every armchair fan that the thing to do was to bring a defensive midfield player on and push Paul Scholes further forward.

I contrasted this with Jose Mourinho's approach at Chelsea. He was a master at changing the formation during the game, being quite prepared to replace a defender with a striker if we were chasing the game.

He did just this when Chelsea went a goal down to a lower league team in the League Cup once and duly got an equaliser to take the game into extra time.

"Extra time with only three defenders?" I remember thinking. "This could get a bit hairy."

Not a bit of it. Mourinho took off one of the strikers and brought another defender on so that Chelsea could return their normal formation. They won the game easily.

My point was that I had never seen Capello or Sven do anything like this. A colleague (and fellow blogger) replied that I should remember that club managers have their players for far, far longer than international managers. So it is possible for club sides to be drilled in playing several different formations but not realistic to try this with an international side.

I suspect he is right. The conclusion must be that, though not every club manager is a genius like Mourinho, club football at its best is a more varied and subtle game than international football.

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