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BFW Roundtable: is Joachim Löw right in axing Thomas Müller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels?

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While Löw’s decision has divided opinions in the football community, we debate whether more or less forcing the Bayern trio into retirement is the right decision.

Germany's forward Thomas Mueller (2nd L) is congratulated by his teammates Germany's defender Jerome Boateng (L), Germany's defender Mats Hummels (2nd R) and Germany's midfielder Sami Khedira (R) after scoring the 1-1 during the international friendly football match of Germany vs Spain in Duesseldorf, western Germany, on March 23, 2018, in preparation of the 2018 Fifa World Cup. Photo by Odd Anderson/AFP/Getty Images

After Germany followed up its poor 2018 World Cup campaign by getting relegated from Group A in the UEFA Nations League, German head coach Joachim Löw has now announced his decision to cut the Bayern Munich trio of Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and Thomas Müller.

The shocking decision has caused major differences of opinion among observers, many of whom believe this is a radical move by Löw, who explained that his decision was motivated by the need to renew the national team in 2019. We asked four Bavarian Football Works contributors whether dropping the Bayern trio was the right decision.

Marcus Iredahl:

In the long-run, this is the right move to make. The main reason for Germany’s disastrous World Cup was, in my opinion, including players who were not hungry enough, since they had already won pretty much everything there is to win in world football.

International football is very different to club football. It depends more on desire and team cohesion on and off the pitch rather than on tactics and team ability. Don’t get me wrong: tactics and team ability matter in international football. However, I believe there is a reason that, since 1998, four out of the five World Cup winners were knocked out in the group stages of the next World Cup. This trend suggests that it is not due to team ability, but more due to attitude or off-pitch relations. Germany was affected by off-pitch politics and arrogance during their Russia campaign. SportBild reported that there were two groups within the camp that invited scrutiny, the so-called ‘bling-bling gang’ and the Bavarian group. Jerome Boateng was part of the former, Mats Hummels and Thomas Müller was part of the latter.

Also, I believe this is the right move because of Löw’s proven success in dealing with youngsters. The German 2010 World Cup team was young and unproven on a national level, yet did fantastically well. Before the World Cup, Mesut Özil had only played 10 games for Germany, Sami Khedira and Boateng had played five, while Holger Badstuber and Müller had only played two, yet they were all starters at the World Cup. Faith in youngsters can work for a national team’s advantage, and Löw has plenty of new German youngsters to choose from in 2019.

Lastly, I feel for Müller, as he always gives 110%. However, I believe Germany can fill the void he leaves behind by playing Leroy Sané, Julian Brandt, Serge Gnabry or Timo Werner.

Jake Fenner:

For 2/3 of the people cut, I think this was a good move for the most part, but it was premature.

Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels have not performed well at all for Die Mannschaft over the last few months, especially not during Germany’s abysmal World Cup campaign. However, I feel both have been great national team players overall and deserved to retire with some pomp and circumstance instead of being unceremoniously cut like they were. They moreover provided valuable experience to this transitioning, young roster that’s gearing up for the Euros next summer. I personally wouldn’t pick them for that competition (they’ll both be 31), but I’d keep them around to serve as role models for Kai Havertz, Thilo Kehrer, Leroy Sané, and Julian Brandt. There’s something to be said for two players, each with over 70 caps, staying around and providing that support.

Which brings me to Thomas Müller. I’ll clear the air so my biases are out of the way. Müller is the reason why I’m a Germany and Bayern Munich fan, and he’s always been my favorite player. At 29, he clearly has slowed down, but we can’t all stay 24 like he was in 2014. Germany’s ninth-highest goal scorer, who just hit 100 caps and provides valuable leadership to the team, deserved better than this. Cutting him now is a terrible decision, because despite his problems in Russia and at Bayern, he has consistently been one of the DFB’s best players. He will go out as one of the national team’s best players ever, and I hope Löw reverses this premature decision.

Miran Kostic:

It is a very difficult decision when you want to get rid of older players, but in my honest opinion Joachim Löw is doing more harm than any good. First of all, Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels, and Jerome Boateng are very important figures for German national team and also for Bayern, and (again in my opinion) it’s important to have someone like Müller or Hummels, who are not only great mentors but also the kind of people who are relaxed and have a good sense of humor.

Secondly, I understood Löw’s decision when he dropped Boateng from the squad back in November. Boateng and Hummels were really struggling with their form then (especially Boateng). Now, I could also understand why Löw might drop only Boateng, but he decided to drop Müller, Hummels, and Boa. According to WhoScored.com, even though Boateng is having a season below his standards overall, he is still as good as Antonio Rüdiger, Jonathan Tah, or Matthias Ginter. In addition, none of them have nearly as good technique as Boa. But again, it is understandable to drop out Boa.

Hummels has had a mixed season — the first half of the season was quite unsatisfactory, but since Rückrunde has started, he has looked very, very stable. He was vital for Bayern’s important games. Müller also didn’t have a spectacular performance for Germany, but when he is on the pitch, he is one of the most important players there. He probably would have had a far better goal/assist ratio if he was a bit luckier. I guess Müller is the kind of player that flourishes when you give him space. We all know when he strictly plays at the wing or as an attacking midfielder without the freedom of “Raumdeuting” he usually under-performs. If Löw has new ideas and Muller wouldn’t fit those ideas, then it is justifiable to leave him out — if you deny him his freedom of movement, then better not to have him.

In conclusion, it is purely logical that Löw wants to make a transition from older players to younger players, but I think he is one year late for that.

Narrayan Sankar:

Joachim Löw has arguably been one of the most successful coaches in German football history, but that doesn’t mean he’s irreplaceable. Löw’s ideas are quickly reaching saturation point, and this has led to the decline of the team as a whole.

Löw’s tactics over the course of the 2018 World Cup and for some time beyond have been stagnant, and he’s been facing problems with adapting to opponents’ strategy. Large spells of possession followed by very little in terms of results characterize the German national team’s game plan against adept opposition.

What’s more, Löw also seems to have a predilection for certain players, which is alright as long as it doesn’t prove to be a hindrance to Germany’s hopes. However, as witnessed last year with the controversial exclusion of Wagner from the WC squad and the mysterious inclusion of Sami Khedira — who was shoddy at best, calamitous at worst in almost every single match — highlight the drawbacks of this facet of his coaching.

Add to this the fact that Löw’s arrogance or, more likely, indecision caused him to exclude Thomas Müller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels from the squad, as if this would solve all of Germany’s problems. Removing three experienced and talented players from the squad speaks volumes of his lack of desire to change from his stance.

There are many other talented coaches out there waiting for this job, and sure, Löw’s had a decorated career, but it might be time to bid adieu and move on to better things.