What IS the coach doing?
The way Joachim Loew is coaching right now is going to make people wonder how he ever won a World Cup. Was it the brilliance of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, and an in-form Manuel Neuer that carried him over the line? Was it the terrible finishing from Gonzalo Higuain? Was it that momentary piece of brilliance from Andre Schurrle to release Mario Gotze in front of goal? We will never know. However, it’s painfully apparent that the Germany of 2014 is dead and this game was its funeral.
Trying to recount every single error in Germany’s gameplan today would take more time than I’m willing to devote to recalling this mess, so here’s a handy cliff-notes version:
- Playing Joshua Kimmich in defensive midfield doesn’t work. You weaken the right flank by putting Ginter there, while bringing nothing new to the table in defensive midfield. Kimmich didn’t have a good game on the night (who did?) but even when he has a good game, is there anything Kimmich does in midfield that Sebastian Rudy can’t already do? By removing Kimmich from the right back position, Loew failed to solve to solve the midfield problem while simultaneously creating a new one in attack.
- Why did Thomas Muller and Timo Werner have to start out wide when Germany have perfectly good wingers like Julian Brandt, Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry, and Julian Draxler on the bench? It defies logic. The coach is playing centrally-minded players out wide rather than using his natural wide men. Werner was woeful on the left while Muller drifted inside anyway. Is it any wonder that Germany couldn’t score a goal?
- The German lineup looked totally disjointed, completely unlike the fine-tuned machine we’ve come to expect from the team. It almost seemed like many of them were playing together for the first time. The few link-ups that we did see came from players that have played together before (Kroos -> Muller and Sane -> Draxler), but even those were few and far between. For a long time, Loew has had the luxury of the vast majority of his squad being part of the Bayern squad from 2012-2014. Now that those days are fading into memory, the cracks are starting to show.
Manuel Neuer isn’t the man he used to be
It’s time for fans of Bayern Munich and Germany to accept this hard truth — that Manuel Neuer isn’t the best keeper in the world anymore, and perhaps he may never be again. Maybe we were naive to think that a player could come back from a year long layoff with no changes in his performance. Neuer’s confidence, composure, and his overall ability in front of goal have taken a huge hit, and while he was Bayern’s MotM against Ajax, that’s not enough to hide the fact that he seems like a liability at times.
Maybe it’s time Marc-Andre ter Stegen got a chance.
Where do they go from here?
This isn’t a simple case of “bench the older players, play the youngsters”. Loew subbed on Sane and Draxler for Muller and Can well before the 60th minute. It didn’t make a difference. Germany still lacked ideas in attack, and in the end actually created fewer chances after the subs than they did before them, while also becoming more vulnerable to the counterattack.
Playing Kimmich in midfield didn’t change anything — and to be honest, did anyone think it would? Hummels and Boateng keep getting caught high up the pitch, but would switching to Sule and Rudiger change that? The fact is that Loew wants his center backs to play that way — it’s a part of his system. Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira may have been woeful at the world cup, but they weren’t the sole cause of Germany’s midfield problems, because those problems still exist today. These are systemic issues that need to be sorted.
Right now, the first step needs to be firing the coach. Giving Jogi Loew more time at this stage would be suicidal. Ralph Hasenhuttl is available. Germany needs a reset. Maybe give him the reigns to the team?