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Three observations from Germany’s 3-2 win over the Netherlands

Despite a terrible second-half performance, the Germans managed to snatch a victory in Amsterdam.

Netherlands v Germany - UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Germany showed attacking fluidity without Timo Werner

Germany may have found a solution to its offensive woes. Lining up in a 3-5-2 with Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané as the two strikers, Joachim Löw chose to gamble with an unconventional formation without his go-to striker Timo Werner. The setup worked like a charm.

Despite facing a formidable center-back duo of Matthijs de Ligt and Virgil van Dijk, Sané and Gnabry made use of their speed, power, and skill to wreak havoc on the Dutch defense, scoring two wonderful goals in the process. They were well supposed by the midfield and Nico Schulz on the left flank (less so by Thilo Kehrer), allowing the duo to break through the Netherlands’ defense and expose Jasper Cillessen to to some high-quality chances.

This could be an ideal setup going forward, especially if one of Marco Reus, Kai Havertz, or Julian Brandt is introduced to the team to make it even more fluid and creative.

As for Werner — he’s scored only two goals in his last 14 games for Die Mannschaft since the beginning of 2018 and has been profoundly unimpressive in the meantime. In truth, he’s not a true striker and needs a target man like his RB Leipzig teammate Yussuf Poulsen to create space for him. That simply isn’t available on the National Team. Perhaps Löw is better off leaving him on the bench for now.

Joachim Löw’s gameplan was ripped apart at half time

Part of the reason Löw set up the team in a 3-5-2 was to disrupt the Netherlands’ possession by completely outnumbering them in midfield. For the entire first half, Frenkie de Jong and the other Dutch midfielders floundered trying to play through the middle, as Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, and Leon Goretzka did a good job of closing down passing lanes and pressing the opposition. Sané and Gnabry also dropped deep to help out.

Unfortunately, Dutch coach Ronald Koeman recognized the issue and made decisive tactical changes at half time. The Netherlands began playing through the wings, targeting Germany’s weak right flank (manned by Thilo Kehrer) and nullifying the Germans’ advantage in the midfield. This completely exposed the one-dimensional nature of Löw’s gameplan.

Suddenly, the Dutch began creating chance after chance, and they scored two goals in quick succession. Germany meanwhile played very poorly, as they were stretched and unable to execute the plan that had served them so well in the first half. If not for some lucky defending and big interventions by Niklas Süle, the Dutch would have carried the day in Amsterdam.

The Germans are still begging for a defensive solution

Once the Netherlands got their act together, the frailty of the German defense was exposed almost immediately. Joachim Löw may have axed Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng from the National Team setup, but it has made no difference — Die Mannschaft still concedes goals at an alarming rate. The main issue was the mismatch between Quincy Promes and Thilo Kehrer on the flank, but the problems go deeper than that.

The team is in desperate need of a true defensive midfielder, someone like Javi Martinez who can play next to Kimmich and shield the backline. Niklas Stark is the obvious candidate, but will Löw ever use him?

Miscellaneous observations:

  • Thilo Kehrer is a terrible right-back and really shouldn’t play there for any reason. All the best attacks by the Netherlands came from his side of the pitch, and he was a non-factor going forward. This can’t go on.
  • It’s a shame Marco Reus was injured and unable to start the game. He really made a difference after coming on, getting the assist for Schulz’s winning goal.
  • Manuel Neuer had an excellent outing, making some excellent saves to deny the Dutch. The game surely would have been lost without him.
  • Gnabry’s goal was an absolute gem, the way he got away from van Dijk was incredible.
  • Nico Schulz had a great outing — one goal and one assist counts as a MotM performance in my book.

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