Capello set to play Rooney as lone striker at World Cup
Published 23:00 21/05/10 By Martin Lipton
Fabio Capello is ready to ditch his World Cup qualifying blueprint - and unleash Wayne Rooney as a lone striker in South Africa.
The Manchester United ace worked at the tip of a 4-5-1 formation throughout England's training sessions at their Austrian base-camp yesterday, replicating the role that saw him score 34 goals for the Old Trafford outfit this term.
And the link man, playing in the "No 10" role behind Rooney, was fellow Scouser Steven Gerrard, who has spent most of Capello's reign starting on the left.
The amount of time spent on the system, three days before England's farewell home friendly with Mexico, was a clear sign that Capello is ready to spring a major tactical switch.
Capello is concerned over the form of Emile Heskey and while he could play Peter Crouch alongside Rooney, is desperate to get the best out of his most important weapon.
Freeing Gerrard from any defensive responsibilities, while taking Rooney's remarkable campaign at Old Trafford as proof that he can lead the line without becoming isolated, could be a way of unlocking the full potential of both.
Capello worked with outright pace on either flank in his nominal first team, with Aaron Lennon on the left and Theo Walcott as the right-sided winger, while James Milner is being lined up to play alongside Frank Lampard in the holding role if Gareth Barry is, as expected, ruled out of the tournament on Monday.
It is a system Capello appeared to have ditched after one outing, in the 1-0 friendly defeat in France at the start of his reign, but Rooney's success this season means it is now being actively considered as the shape to use against the USA in Rustenberg on June 12.
Capello put his players through a series of shooting drills, designed to get used to the extra problems caused by altitude, while the intensive mood of the training camp is understood to have found favour with the players.
Unlike under Sven Goran Eriksson in 2002, 2004 and 2006, Capello has banned the families from flying out to be with the squad.
This time round, Capello's whip-cracking has ensured a businesslike and work-orientated approach, making the players feel they are being far more serious about their preparations.