Capello gets the message across
© AFP

Fabio Capello seems to have made a smooth transition into the role of England coach since his appointment in December 2007. Eleven games into his reign, the Italian has won eight of them, with defeat only coming away to France and Spain. Even old foes Germany were conquered by the 62-year-old and his disciplined outfit.

Therefore, Capello can afford to be a little bit picky when speaking about his most pressing problem. "I must admit I have a little trouble understanding northerners," he said. "When we talk about football, the vocabulary is fairly limited. But when we get away from that it becomes more difficult."

The remark was obviously delivered with a smile on his face. Indeed, Capello has been impressed by the influence his northerners have on the team, chiefly Wayne Rooney, who is arguably playing the best football of his career since bursting on to the international scene at UEFA EURO 2004. Michael Carrick, Wes Brown and Steven Gerrard have also made impressive contributions for the Three Lions over the past 12 months.

Part of the former Real Madrid coach's mantra when he first took the reins was to make his team "play without fear, particularly at Wembley". Certainly, four victories in as many 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers is enough to leave even the battle-hardened opponents quaking in their boots, but Capello still believes there is work to be done on the mentality of his players.

"We have had some good results, more so away from home," he continued. "But I am very curious to evaluate the team in the next two games [the friendly against Slovakia followed by the visit of Ukraine]. When I was a player, Wembley was a temple of football where it was almost impossible to win, but now it is a place to be conquered. We have to change that."

When I was a player, Wembley was a temple of football where it was almost impossible to win, but now it is a place to be conquered. We have to change that.
Fabio Capello on playing at home.

England go into those matches on the back of a 2-0 defeat by Spain, but Capello saw signs that his charges can challenge the European champions in the near future. "Spain didn't have a lot of chances to score goals and we had the same number, but they played better because possession of the ball is very important to them," he said.

"Our style is good against some teams but when you play against the South American style you have to change something. They are the European champions. We tried to play like we do usually, but the pressing Spain did to win the ball back showed they are a very good team.

"Our players were against very small, quick opponents and it's very difficult to win back the ball. We learned a lot. The next time we are together we will look at this game and understand what it is we have to do. Some of the players have the intelligence to understand what we have to do in the next game."

Capello was without the likes of the injured Rooney, Gerrard, Theo Walcott and Joe Cole in Seville, while centre-back Rio Ferdinand was ill before kick-off. All of those, with the exception of Cole, should be fit for the double-header on 28 March and 1 April.

"I don't like to speak about players who are not playing," added Capello. "But, with them, we could have played better and imposed our style. We can play against all the teams. I was disappointed with the result, but I have learned a lot. It's a step, a step to reality."

The Italian is not letting the grass grow under his feet as he seeks to give England an edge in the remaining qualifiers. He recently approached Wembley's head groundsman to cut the grass at 17mm, believing that the ball moves faster off a shorter length. However, subsequent research by the Wembley groundstaff has shown that 21mm is the optimum length for a quick passing game, and this will be the pitch's set length in the future.

Such fastidiousness often bears fruit, and England could reap a rich harvest.