Fabio Capello has warned his England players about the danger of becoming a one-man team.
There was a clear contrast between Friday’s fluent display in Bulgaria, when three first-half goals wrapped up victory before the hosts had got started, and Tuesday’s disappointing display against Wales when only Robert Earnshaw’s unbelievable miss prevented the visitors snatching a Wembley draw.
As it turned out, England would have needed to get a point in Montenegro next month to book their place at Euro 2012 even if they had lost in midweek.
However, as he spied the intense battle that lies ahead in Podgorica on October 7, Capello has urged his players to start taking the pressure off Wayne Rooney, who was as subdued this week as he was scintillating last.
“Rooney is an important player,” said Capello.
“But the other players need to support him, not only Rooney supporting the other players.
“It is a team. Always.”
Yet the problem on Tuesday clearly went beyond the under-performance of one man.
Indeed, Capello knew something was wrong when he watched the warm-up half an hour before kick-off.
“When I go to the pitch before the game, I like to see the warm-up,” he said.
“During my career I have sometimes understood a lot of things because of what happened in the warm-up.”
On this occasion, the signs were undeniably bad.
“It is between the players and me but yes,” said Capello, when asked if he knew England were in for a difficult evening.
“I know. It is my job. I know the players.”
Capello might have done something about it when his players returned to the dressing room for their final pre-match briefing.
“I tried,” he said. “I spoke with the players but it was impossible to change the things that I saw. Impossible.”
But that was not because it was too late.
“No. No. No,” he said. “The problem was here,” added Capello, pointing to his head.
As Capello refused to reveal the source of England’s fundamental problem, speculation surrounds too areas.
First is trepidation, yet, at the time Capello made his initial assessment, barely half the seats were occupied, hardly a situation of terror.
The other theory would be that the English players were too relaxed, lulled into a false sense of security by their stroll in Sofia and unable to apply themselves properly to the game plan Capello wanted to see implemented.
It is an attitude that ties in with the England coach’s assessment of the performance. He berated one member of his squad for forgetting instructions handed out at a team meeting on Sunday and sending a throw-in down the touchline.
“Sometimes it is incredible to understand why,” he said.
“I have said before, as a manager, as a player, there are times when I never understood what really happened.
“We played well for 20 minutes. Why can’t we play the same (for the whole game)? I don’t understand.”