ANALYSING GERMANY: SUPERSTARS GALORE BUT NOBODY’S EURO 2020 FAVORITES

ESSENTIALS
HARSHAVARDHAN GHADGE | 5th June 2021

3years ago now, Germany were humiliated in the World Cup. An immediate change of fate was expected but things haven’t been exactly appreciable for Germany since. While the team flirted with relegation in the UEFA Nations League, Löw’s job took a hit. After the summer of 2021, a certain Hansi Flick will be in charge of commanding the German troops in Qatar and maybe that’s when fans can expect for things to take a turn for the better.

That does in no way mean that Die Mannschaft go into the tournament as a hopeless lot. Germany have grinded out 7 wins in qualification, including a morale boosting victory against the Netherlands, and there is a renewed sense of optimism within the camp. It is imperative that the squad banishes the 2018 tournament trauma to Gulag when they set out in the Euros.

Drawn alongside the tournament’s outright favorites in France and Portugal and a tricky Hungary side in Group F, that’s easier said than done.

When Neuer’s your No.1, life is good

Every European giant is facing a goalkeeping crisis at this moment. The Germans however, simply cannot relate. Their goalkeeping squadron comprises of arguably the best No.1 in the world in Manuel Neuer and while Marc-Andre ter Stegen is out due to injury, Berndt Leno presents a solid No. 2. Kevin Trapp is the 3rd choice ‘keeper and his experience speaks volumes.

Neuer isn’t the same goalkeeper from the 2018 World Cup that suffered a crisis in confidence after what was an unwelcome metatarsal injury. The mountain of a man was a shrunk shadow of his himself.

We’re in 2021 and things have changed and how. The best of the best.

A back 4 with promise but no guarantees

Double digits in assists is the new normal for one of the most complete footballers in Joshua Kimmich, but it is likely he will have to deputize as Germany’s right-back as they begin their European campaign next week. A certain Phillip Lahm was tasked with reverting back to his natural role after becoming the world’s standout No.6 in the 2014 World Cup. If Kimmich and Lahm’s weren’t eerily similar anyway, this may just add to that theme.

Just to round this off, alternatives in the creative department won’t make the Germans miss Kimmich as much, considering it is crucial to address the defensive shortcomings if Die Mannschaft plan to advance to the next round.

Mats Hummels’ homecoming means that he, alongside newly crowned Champions League winner Antonio Rudiger will form the base of the German backline.

Hummels brings a calm head and the experience of being the core of German excellence in 2014 while Rudiger’s resurgence and ability to go toe-to-toe with anyone (including a certain Luis Suarez) makes him a headache to deal with.

The pair are excellent on the ball, can cover enough ground to keep up with anyone that plans to run in behind and most importantly, thrive under a variety of tactical setups.

The new defensive partnership looks hopeful, at least on paper, but anything would have been an upgrade over Leeds’ underwhelming Robin Koch as well as an unconvincing Niklas Sule since his return from injury; coincidentally, the same pair that leaked 6 against Spain.

Robin Gosens and Matthias Ginter present their primary options at left-back and while neither of the pair scream, “your winger is going to have a long day”, the consolation is that the Atalanta wing-pack is a nuisance on the flank.

All in all, this defence could either work in perfect harmony or be symptomatic of the Germans’ biggest problem at the Euros- with the former looking the most likely as things stand.

The best midfield at the Euros?

Die Mannschaft are absolutely stacked in the middle of the park. Given their midfield pedigree, the world is their oyster. In case you missed it, Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka are just some of their options.  

In terms of how they set-up, there’s an array of routes. They can either think in ball-retention terms with Kroos and Gundogan, a pair that would practically never lose the ball and dictate play from deep like it’s nobody’s business. Operating in a double-pivot is not new to these two orchestrators by birth. But then again, that may be too lightweight.

Another alternative is to pair the more workmanlike Bayern duo in Kimmich and Goretzka to ensure the German midfield never get outrun.

Of course, it goes without saying for a double pivot that Thomas Muller functions as the raumdeuter, just behind the No. 9.

However, the best possible solution is to make the best use of Germany’s main weapon in men that mesmerize and murk in midfield by partner 3 of them.

Be that any combination of 3 out of 4 of these world-class midfielders. If you need a No.6, call Joshua. If you need a box-to-box midfielder, Leon’s your guy. If you need a goalscorer, Ilkay’s been the Premier League champions’ man with the shooting boots. And if you want to pull strings, Toni is one of the best to ever do it.

And to have to fall back on the brilliance of a Florian Neuhaus as an understudy proves how blessed Germany are in midfield.

Life is good.

If the attack is as good on the pitch as it is on paper, good luck stopping Germany

Germany’s defence isn’t particularly one to write home about but what they lack at the back, they more than make up for while going forward, at least on paper. Up the team sheet is the most exciting young attack in international football.

Timo Werner hasn’t had the best of starts to life in London but when it comes to running in behind and his general off-the-ball movement, only a few No. 9s are as switched on and rapid as the German. His teammate, Kai Havertz must be riding high after he jumped over Ederson’s challenge and rolled the ball into the empty net just a few days ago in the Champions League final.

And then there’s Serge Gnabry, a certified superstar of a winger and aside from the usual Tony Pulis anecdote, his meteoric rise in the national circuit continues as he has racked up 15 goals in 20 outings, donning the national threads.

There is pace, power, and a youthful stride in this team and with the reinstatement of Thomas Muller, attacking the space and being in the form of his life, that attack looks scary.

It must be said that while Havertz and Werner are on a high, they haven’t had the greatest of campaigns as a whole, Sane has struggled in Bavaria and Gnabry hasn’t been at his frightening best. Despite all this, this attacking arsenal could terrorize any defence on the globe.

There are 2 approaches. One is going with a 4-2-3-1 system where the 3 behind the marksman would probably feature Gnabry and the slated yet sensational Sane on the wings. With Muller sitting comfortably as the No. 10, one of Havertz or Werner would get the manager’s nod as Germany’s No. 9 while Mullers sits comfortably in the number 10 role.

Or, the Germans play a 4-3-3 system, with Thomas Muller operating as the false 9 as he did in the friendly against Denmark where either Sane and Serge do what modern-day inverted wingers do or Werner drags defenders out of position so a certain space interpeter can do what he does best.

Options galore for an attack that, if on fire will burn and turn your defence to ashes.

The Löwdown

Joachim Löw, in his final tournament still has a squad that boasts of unparalleled technical ability, especially in the centre of the park. Regardless of the elite talent at his disposal, for years and more than one, the German boss has seemed out of ideas in terms of how he wants his style to be implemented.

With disastrous performances that kept rolling, some sections of fans went ahead and even questioned the very existence of style and tactics. Some managers have this unexplainable ability to tweak the set and bring the best out of the team. After 3 years of trials that have led to errors, it is safe to say that Löw isn’t a part of that clique of experimental geniuses anymore.

Löw’s men have been accused of being pedestrian in their passing and that is an ominous sign for a side that once was famed for its ferocity in attack.

This would be the Germans’ 1st chance to expel all doubters, to prove that they are still one of Europe’s elite at the international stag, considering they rub shoulders with the big boys from day 1.

Verdict

Inexperience did cost the team in 2018 and then again in 2019. The likes of Werner, Havertz and Musiala don’t have enough tournament experience even if their extraordinary talent backs their inclusion. The seniors in the squad have been there, done that to guide the young brigade.

On paper and on flat screens in the studios, Germany look like a fearsome side. What remains to be seen is can they duplicate the heroics of the 1996 side that got their hands on the European silverware.

One last dance for Joachim Löw? It won’t be easy if France and Portugal fulfill the expectations and despite the unreal talent pool at hand, at the minute, it’s all up in the air for the Germans.

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