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Three observations from Germany’s lucky 1-1 escape from Switzerland

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Absence of key players was felt as Germany’s current roster didn’t have enough quality to cover for Joachim Löw’s lack of tactical vision.

Switzerland v Germany - UEFA Nations League Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Tactical flaws in Jogi Löw’s defensive setup

Germany’s setup had some glaring tactical and structural weaknesses. Joachim Low deployed a midfield tandem of İlkay Gündoğan and Toni Kroos in front of a three-man backline of Matthias Ginter, Niklas Sule and Antonio Rüdiger. When the pivot moved upfield to press, a huge gap was created between midfield and defense. Whenever the Switzerland players were able to bypass the German press, their attackers placed themselves and recieved the ball in this empty area. As a result, German center-backs were forced to play aggressively and leave their positions to charge the attackers. However, Breel Embolo and co. had enough quality to beat them and were able to expose Die Mannschaft defense.

On the left side of the defense, Rüdiger’s awful positioning resulted in Swiss attackers creating danger from the left half space. In the first half, two of Switzerland’s best chances of the game came through this area and Germany were lucky not to concede more than one goal in the match.


Germany’s lack of attacking outlets

While both teams struggled under pressure when playing out from the back, Germany in particular lacked a solid plan to progress the ball effectively and create attacks.

When the Germans started playing from the back, the defenders looked for Julian Draxler and Leroy Sané. Draxler was poor in his link-up play and Sané struggled to release the ball at the right time in the final third. Moreover, they were tightly marked by Swiss center-backs and often lost the ball in the midfield third of the pitch. Draxler was dispossessed a game-high 3 times and Sané took 4 bad touches in his 45 minutes of play. Timo Werner was able to disorient a compact Switzerland defense with his off-the-ball movements but he lacked proper service from those playing behind him.

In the second half, Low subbed-off Sané and introduced Julian Brandt in order to provide some creativity to the attack. However, the defenders were easily able to close down lone-forward Werner and cut-off his service. While, Brandt hasn’t played enough to display his true skills, someone like Kai Havertz or Leon Goretzka would fare better in a false-9 role, with the former having ample experience in this position.


Individual brilliance saved the day

Gündoğan, Sule and Ginter delivered fantastic individual performances and helped Germany escape with a point by playing their respective roles to the fullest.

Deployed in a defense with sub-par ball-playing skills, Sule still looked comfortable on the ball whenever he was pressured by Switzerland players. While he didn’t have a clear “libero” role like David Alaba or Dayot Upamecano have at the club level, he managed to execute well-timed defensive charges whenever he was in the right position. Per whoscored, Sule completed 91% of his attempted passes, made two interceptions and registered a game-high 5 clearances.

Ginter put in a lung-busting shift from a right center-back position. With Kehrer playing in an abysmal role, Ginter made crucial ball recoveries as well as provided attacking threat down the right flank. The Monchengladbach defender created three chances, including the assist to Germany’s only goal and provided the only accurate through ball for his team.

Ginter’s heatmap from the game; courtesy of whoscored.com

In a match where Germany lacked outlets, İlkay Gündoğan was important in progressing the ball vertically. With Toni Kroos busy helping defense in the buildup, Gündoğan took the role of ball-carrier and positioned himself smartly to break the opposition’s lines of play. He recorded a game high pass completition rate of 93% and frequently released German attackers on the break. Germany’s offense struggled to create clear-cut chances and if it weren’t for Gündoğan’s superb low-placed curler, Germany wouldn’t have escaped with a point this time.