Germany’s defence remains a question mark in Joachim Löw’s ongoing generational transition. Despite having some exciting players at the back, the team’s defensive phase is often comically bad. What’s going on?
You can point to a wide host of areas where Germany have loads of work to do in their transition. The game against Argentina marked the first time Germany didn’t field a single 2014 World Cup winner in their Startelf. That fact heralds a new era that Joachim Löw is at the very least setting the foundations for.
We have all read and heard much said about how Löw is commandeering the transition. Today, I want to focus on one particular aspect that continues to bring problems game after game. Germany’s defence has left much to be desired in recent games. From the debacle against the Netherlands to the Argentina game, there has been more than an air of insecurity about Germany’s backline.
What I reckon is that this problem does not result from a lack of talent. Some of the Bundesliga’s most exciting young players are defenders. Just think of Niklas Süle, Lukas Klostermann, Marcel Halstenberg and Nico Schulz. Coupled with more renowned talents like Antonio Rüdiger, you have a very good foundation for a generation-leading back four.
All of these players perform at high levels at their clubs. Süle consolidated himself quite quickly at Bayern, while the other three have been the Bundesliga’s pet starlets. This comes without factoring Joshua Kimmich in. Josh looks set to make a home for himself in midfield for Germany.
Thus the question present itself: if Germany have the players to build themselves a solid defence, what is going on?
Most every manager will tell you that a transition like Germany’s will take time. We know by now that Löw’s approach to that process hasn’t exactly been spot on. This has made it difficult for the German team to establish a base – both in terms of personnel and philosophy. Löw hasn’t quite made his mind up about what he wants.
If you see football like me, you realise that building a team starts at the back. Your defending philosophy has a direct effect on your attacking plan. This is because most teams build from the back, and because Germany doesn’t have Boateng Long Balls™ to rely on anymore.
Tactically, the transition between defence and attack can rely on wide play with the full-backs. It can also come through the middle. How and where the defence regains possession determines the shape the team adopts to transition to attack. But if you have a disorganised, disjointed defence, everything goes awry. Midfielders are forced to trace back where they shouldn’t. Attackers are cut off from the rest of the team, making delivery impossible.
Stifled from above
Löw hasn’t made this choices, at least not completely. This makes things all the more difficult. The players don’t really know what to expect of the tactical choices, nor what is expected of them.
As I said, we know that these players can deliver. They do at their clubs, and that earns them the international call-up. And here’s where we look at how international managers do their jobs. See, we know that people like Löw rely on the annoying international breaks to build their team. They don’t have much time to work hands-on. Successful national team managers build a base of players that can play in a particular way and do so in their clubs. Think Spain in 2010 and Germany in 2014. Löw is struggling to do that, and it’s hurting the performance of what are otherwise fine players.
Crunch time is now. Löw needs to get his thing together and build his team. A game against Estonia might not be much of a test, but the European Championships won’t be very good if he doesn’t start cracking.