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Die Mannschaft roster analysis part one: Defense and Goalkeepers

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As a favorite to capture another World Cup, Joachim Löw’s personnel decisions are not clear cut in all areas.

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

It would be hard to criticize much of anything about Joachim Löw’s tenure as manager of the German national team. His resume is, after all, impeccable:

  • 2008 European Championship - Finalists
  • 2010 World Cup - Third place
  • 2012 European Championship - Semifinalists
  • 2014 World Cup - Champions
  • 2016 European Championship - Semifinalists
  • 2017 Confederations Cup - Champions

Löw has been able to not only enhance Germany’s reputation as being technically superior to most opponents, but has implemented the proper strategies and tactical leadership to cement Die Mannschaft as the pre-eminent model for other countries to follow.

Coaching the games, however, has to be the easy part for Löw compared to the work he has to put in with developing the roster for this summer’s World Cup. The latest iteration of Löw’s squad had some interesting decisions that may tell the story of what to expect this summer.

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The 2014 World Cup winners featured the following roster composition:

  • 3 goalkeepers
  • 8 defenders
  • 12 attack / midfielder players

If Löw follows the same formula, the roster decision will be incredibly difficult. We are not quite sure the numbers will match up exactly, but we hunkered down in our war room, fired up the coffee, and went to work.

When it comes time to cut down to 23 players, Löw will have some important decisions to make at several key spots. Below, we take a look at the current 26-man unit, and also some of those players who were left off this international break’s roster; along with some predictions about what this all could look like in June.


Defense

Not many teams will have as strong a defense as Germany, but that depth and talent could offer Löw the opportunity to keep additional players at other areas. This is definitely an area to keep an eye on for Löw as we are not quite sure he will need to carry eight defenders again:

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Mats Hummels: Hummels is a model of consistency and could be the top center back in the world. The Bayern Munich defender is excellent positionally and is a master at playing angles. Hummels is the exact person Germany needs on its back line as the anchor. His poise on the ball and leadership qualities only further enhance his importance to the squad. Predicted Status: World Cup Starter.

Jerome Boateng: Boateng is another central figure to Die Mannschaft’s defensive ability. His experience is invaluable, even if his lateral movement and agility have take a few steps back. He is a great player to start and sub out after a solid 60-70 minute performance. Predicted Status: World Cup Starter.

Joshua Kimmich: If there is one position that is completely nailed down and will not change (barring injury), it is right back. Kimmich has developed into one of the world’s best at the position and is a future captain of this squad. His ability to create offense and play capable defense is a position that Löw cannot replace on the roster. In addition, Kimmich can move to a central midfield role when needed if Löw needs some maneuverability in games. Predicted Status: World Cup Starter.

Jonas Hector: Hector provides Löw with a quality left back to team with Kimmich. Center back is fully loaded with the Bayern trio of Hummels, Boateng, and Sule; along with Antonio Rudiger; but fullback is an area where depth is needed and Hector is a steady and consistent player that will give Löw a versatile threat on the left side. Predicted Status: World Cup Starter.

Antonio Rudiger: Rudiger’s ability to play both center back and fullback make him a pretty important part of Löw’s depth plan on defense. With Rudiger’s versatility, Löw may be able to keep an additional midfielder or forward. Predicted Status: World Cup Reserve.

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Niklas Süle: Süle has grown by leaps and bound in his time with Bayern Munich. He has a confidence and poise that is - dare we say - Hummels-esque. One of Süle’s biggest assets is how he adapts to - and plays against - opposing forwards who have top speed. Typically, Süle wins these duels and looks excellent in doing so. Predicted Status: World Cup Reserve.

Matthias Ginter: Ginter is competing with Niklas Süle and Benedikt Höwedes and Jonathan Tah for a spot at center back. While Ginter is fully capable and has the requisite experience, we think he is behind Süle at this point. It’s not a knock on Ginter as much as it is a compliment to the growth of Süle. If Löw goes thing on defense, it could be at the expense of Ginter. Predicted Status: World Cup Reserve.

Marvin Plattenhardt: Plattenhardt was first called up to the senior team play left back in 2017 and has not done anything to hurt his stock. It will be a numbers game with Plattenhardt, though. We are not sure that Löw will go with a back-up at each defensive spot with Rudiger’s ability to play at any of the positions, it could give Löw some wiggle room. Predicted Status: World Cup Reserve.

Not Currently Rostered Defense Candidates

Philipp Max: The FC Augsburg left back would seemingly compete with Plattenhardt as backup to Hector and has asserted himself well in the Bundesliga this season with 13 assists. We personally think he would be a better fit than Plattenhardt if Löw decides to provide a back-up to Hector, but it does not appear as if its a sure thing that Löw will carry many extra defenders. Predicted Status: Doubtful.

Benedikt Höwedes: Like Rudiger, Höwedes offers the versatility to play any of the positions on the back line. We know this is appealing to Löw, but does he need that much defensive depth. Perhaps the recent injury history of Boateng might sway him that direction. Predicted Status: Questionable.

Shkodran Mustafi: The Arsenal center back would likely be tough for Löw to leave off of the roster, but the numbers dictate that the 25-year old may not have a spot. Predicted Status: Questionable.

Jonathan Tah: The Bayer Leverkusen center back is just 22 and could be competing with Süle. Ginter, Benedikt Höwedes, and Shkodran Mustafi for the final center back spot. He will probably not be in this draw for the World Cup, but for 2022, he seems like a very viable candidate. Predicted Status: Left Out.


Goalkeepers

The goalkeeper situation has excellent depth even without the injured Manuel Neuer, but it is ultimately Neuer’s health that will determine exactly who makes the trip to Russia:

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen: Bluntly, Ter Stegen is very good. In fact, he would be the number one option for most countries where Manuel Neuer is a not a native. With Neuer’s brittle foot the subject of his uncertainty, Germany would still be in excellent hands with Ter Stegen. As goalkeeper for FC Barcelona and also of the Confederations Cup-winning team, Ter Stegen has proven big game experience and is just a solid keeper. He may not be Neuer (really no one else is either), but he’s an excellent Plan B. Predicted Status: World Cup Reserve.

Bernd Leno: Leno will likely be the third goalkeeper taken to Russia this summer. It could be debated that Sven Ulreich (see below) is just as deserving, but Leno appears to have the inside track on locking down the third-string goalkeeper spot. Predicted Status: World Cup Reserve.

Kevin Trapp: The Paris Saint-Germain man is likely on the outside looking in. In a head-to-head battle with Ulreich, for example, Trapp’s relevant game time will pale in comparison to Ulreich given how much game time against high-level opponents the Bayern Munich goalkeeper will have played by that point. Predicted Status: Left Out.

Not Currently Rostered Goalkeeper Candidates

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Manuel Neuer: Neuer’s foot injury has lingered for far longer than originally thought and there is some viable questioning about whether or not he will be ready. A goalkeeper without mobility is not exactly the best fit for a team looking to secure consecutive World Cups. One argument could be made that the entire reason that Neuer is still sitting out is so he will be at 100% for the World Cup. We are banking on that line of thinking here and believe Neuer will be in net for game one of the tournament. Predicted Status: World Cup Starter.

Sven Ulreich: Ulreich has emerged as a strong goalkeeper and we honestly thought he would be a part of this current squad. His play for Bayern Munich in Neuer’s absence has been excellent and he has put himself on Löw’s radar for sure. That said, unless Neuer can’t go, we expect Ulreich to miss out on this World Cup. Predicted Status: Left Out.