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BFW debate: Is Germany still in good hands with Jogi Löw?

After Germany threw away another win in a 1-1 draw with Spain, Marcus and Chuck debate whether Jogi Löw is still the best man to coach Germany in 2020.

DFB Virtual Press Conference Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images for DFB

The Bavarian Football Works Slack channel is often home to scorching-hot hot-takes on Bayern Munich and heated debates on German football that never see the light of day online. As Germany squandered a 1-0 lead to Spain with just seconds left in the contest, two of BFW’s writers engaged in a bit of a debate on whether or not Joachim Löw is still the right man for the job with Germany.

Somehow, despite being on totally opposite ends of the spectrum regarding this top, Chuck and Marcus sat down for a civil discussion.

Should Germany think about another managerial option before the 2021 Euros?

Chuck: Germany’s draw with Spain was disappointing in many ways, but it was not the end of the world. The UEFA Nations League is essentially a meaningless competition, but Germany’s performance, and specifically Löw’s decision-making, left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, that performance was just the latest example of the three-year dip in performance for Die Mannschaft. Since improbably winning 2017 Confederations Cup championship with a B side, Löw has led Germany down a dark path of disappointment and poor roster decisions, while throwing ample amounts of things at the wall to see what sticks. Simply put, I think Löw has lost his effectiveness in coaching this group and that it is time to move on. There is an expiration date on every coach and I’m afraid it is well past due for Löw.

Marcus: Not the end of the world by any means. Considering the weak squad at Löw’s disposal, Germany’s performance may have been mediocre, but what can you expect when there’s almost nothing to play for? I guess what I am trying to say is that it is hard to fully analyze an international team such as Germany. Germany, France, and Spain are teams that always qualify for major tournaments. Their qualifying games and friendlies almost become insignificant because of that.

In the 2018 World Cup qualifying, France drew to Belarus and Luxembourg while also losing to Sweden. Not impressive by any means, but they still deservedly won the 2018 World Cup. I understand where you are coming from though. Germany has failed to really impress since the disastrous Russian campaign.

Chuck: As Jules Winnfield once said, “Well, allow me to retort.” The three-year downward spiral is what has me concerned, and that is mostly because Löw doesn’t seem to have any answers. Change the roster? Hasn’t worked. Change the scheme? Hasn’t worked. He just looks like he is grasping at straws after lathering them in coconut oil (Phillies fan here...). When I think of effective managers, I think of a person who can adapt to rosters and implement schemes based on the talent on those rosters ... and I’m not seeing Löw do any of that. He looks like he doesn’t understand why things are working ... the same way I look when I try to turn on the television with ceiling fan remote. In my mind, it should work and I can’t understand why it doesn’t.

Marcus: I understand the importance that things need to look like they click after Germany’s 2018 World Cup. The fans need to see that things are heading in the right direction. But Löw is trying and, in my opinion, not until the Euro 2021 campaign will we see whether he has succeeded.

Before the 2018 World Cup, Germany didn’t lose a single qualifying game. They won ten out of ten games and followed that up by winning the Confederations Cup with their B team. Then they crashed out in spectacular fashion in Russia. While I don’t think Germany has been as bad as many suggest, I agree that they are not on the same level as they were in 2017.

But does this really matter? Like I said before, France did not have a great qualifying run in 2018 but still won the World Cup without losing a single game. I think international football can’t be judged in the same way as club football. Progress, in a way, is not as important. They said after 2014 that one of the most important people in the squad was Lukas Podolski — who played a total of 45 minutes. Why? Because he was so crucial to the overall atmosphere in the German camp outside the games. During a major qualifying tournament, the players are in the same hotel for months … without their loved ones and spend every waking minute with each other. Problems will arise if the players don’t get along.

I think Löw is still trying to re-discover Germany’s hunger and team spirit with this relatively young national team. He did it without Ballack in 2010 and the players that made their major tournament debut then ended up dominating the world four years later. I think Löw deserves another shot to be the captain for yet another “generational shift.”

Your television might not turn on today, but it will after you get a good night’s sleep — and the right remote. Löw’s Germany is the same: not working wonderfully today, but it might when it really matters.

Why has Löw not achieved the same level of success since the 2017 Confederations Cup?

Marcus: Something went wrong off the pitch in Russia that affected team cohesion on it. I think the ‘’bling-bling gang’’ versus the Bavarians split was why Löw decided to ax Jerome Boateng, Thomas Müller, and Mats Hummels, and why Mesut Özil decided to hang up his boots for the international team. Something needed to change for the next tournament and Löw did just that.

Axing your main players will have consequences both on the pitch and probably also in the dressing room. Yes, Germany has not looked very impressive after the World Cup, especially against the big teams. I think this is due to the inexperience of certain players — they need experience playing for their country (a unique challenge in a footballer’s career), and I don’t see the problem giving it to them in games that have little significance. Even without Boateng, Muller, and Hummels, this is a talented, yet a tad inexperienced squad. That needs to be taken into consideration when analyzing Germany’s post-World Cup performances.

Chuck: For sure, there were absolutely some “outside elements” that played a part in the lack of team harmony. And that is one of the primary areas where I think Löw has failed. He has not been the leader who can bring those opposite sides together, but rather one who stayed hands-off and let the divide grow.

Following the 2017 Confederations Cup, I was admittedly at the peak of my Löw fandom. Sure, winning the 2014 World Cup is a lifetime achievement, but the man just led what was essentially a “B team” up against some extremely talented international teams and won a cup. Was it a major title? No, but it was a joy to watch how he managed that group (without budding star Leroy Sané after he was recovering from surgery) which systematically dismantled the opposition through brilliant scheming and dynamic on-field play.

2017 FIFA Confederations Cup semifinal: Germany vs Mexico
The 2017 Confederations Cup victory was one of Jogi Löw’s most impressive feats, but why wasn’t he able to meld that young group with the 2014 World Cup veterans successfully?
Photo by Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images

I was ready to anoint the man a “genius” as he seemed to have the best handle on how to bring a group together for a common goal and maximize their respective talents. At that time, all I could think about was how awesome Germany was going to be when Löw melded the best of young guns from the 2017 Confederations Cup team and the experienced and high-performing veterans returning from the 2014 World Cup greatness. The thought of Confederations Cup breakout stars like Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka, Julian Brandt, and Niklas Süle joining forces with Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Mesut Özil, Marco Reus, etc. was absolutely enticing. I mean … I was expecting this to be a German-engineered Machine in every way.

What could go wrong?

Apparently a lot. From poor roster choices to poor lineup choices to rumored internal strife among the players to just an overall inability to rein any or all of those issues in, Löw has not pushed any of the right buttons since 2017. Like me in my junior year of college, Löw is working on three straight years of bad choices and regret. The only difference is that I attribute my idiocy to my being dumb ... as for Löw, I think it is his own arrogance that has put him in this position.

Marcus: I think it’s a bit harsh to blame the internal strife solely on Löw. A national coach should be able to distinguish what players will work together both on and off the pitch — Löw did it in 2014. I don’t blame him for this at all, I think those players deserved one last chance to defend their title.

But they failed — and Löw made the change.

I know circumstances are different, but not many blame Didier Deschamps for excluding Karim Benzema, despite the fact that Benzema is the best no. 9 France has.

Löw put all of his cards on one last chance to build a competition-winning team. I think he deserves to see this challenge through.

Chuck: You know what is harsh Marcus? The hangover I have the day after I spend time putting together furniture from Ikea. You Swedes have really pushed my buttons over the years and this aggression will not stand, man. Anyway, to me, the Doomsday Clock on Löw’s coaching career with Germany has struck 12:00. I am ready for a fresh start with a manager who will work with the personnel and scheme to maximize the talent available. I don’t have confidence that Löw has those tools in his belt anymore. I hope you are right in your assessment, but I fear that the coming months will just show more of Löw’s flaws than his ability to rebound.

So what are Germany’s chances Finally, with Löw at the helm at Euro 2021?

Marcus: I agree with Chuck that I want to see Germany be more consistent, both in their tactical setup and in their lineup. I hope to see a more consistent starting XI in the remaining games of the UEFA Nations League and also more fluid offensive play.

I think Löw can achieve these goals with the talented squad at his disposal. Germany has a tough group, but I think they will get past it. After that, anything can happen. If Löw can make the back-three work and his many offensive young guns have impressive seasons (Kai Havertz, Werner, Sané, and Serge Gnabry), I don’t see why Germany should not reach the semi-finals. On paper, it is still one of the best teams in Europe.

The challenge to win Euro 2021 will be a difficult one. But just like building an IKEA table, it will be worth it once finished.

Chuck: While we disagree my Swedish friend, I can see your time living in Pennsylvania some years ago didn’t totally turn you into the jaded malcontent that I am, so kudos for that. I am not overly confident that Germany is ready to oust France and Portugal during group play. Portugal should be beatable, but Löw has invented new ways to blow games with unattractive play.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Joshua Kimmich will need to be a key leader for Germany to be successful at the Euro 2020 competition.
Photo by A. Hassenstein/Getty Images for FC Bayern

I hope he changes and finds that magic he once had. I don’t have hopes at all and won’t be shocked if Germany flames out in the group stage, but I expect their talent will carry them at least to the quarterfinals. Fortunately for Löw, he has a stable of Bayern Munich players available who have recently won on the highest level. A player like Kimmich no longer has time to ease into a leadership role; he has to usurp it. If the players can “own” the team, there is a chance the talent in this group could lead Germany back to where it should be among the world’s elite national teams.

Sadly, I feel that — if that happens — the German roster would be winning in spite of Löw rather than because of him. And that, my friend, is where you and I have our biggest difference. It goes back to my lack of belief in Löw and your allegiance to his former greatness. His arrogant decision-making during the 2018 World Cup and his shortsighted roster moves in the fallout have always left me thinking Löw just wants to pass the blame on to someone — anyone — who can be the “Fall Guy” (non-80s television show type). After this Euro competition, if Germany fails, there likely won’t be any more bucks to pass for Löw.

Regardless, one thing that we can both agree upon is that the DFB needs to Make Germany Football Great Again … err, Unite for a Better German Football Future … err … just find a way to win some games consistently. Whether that is with Löw (boo!) or without him (yay!), the squad needs to find an identity and become that machine we saw cultivate from 2006 through 2017.

Marcus: If Germany wins the 2021 Euros, I expect a ‘‘Marcus was right all along article’’ from you, Chuck! Thanks my friend for the conversation.

Chuck: I’d gladly write that and then we can grab virtual beers to celebrate your intellectual superiority!

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