Hansi Flick’s second ever Germany squad has been released, and there are a few hot topics to talk about.
Other than a couple of injury-related absences, Flick’s squad does not look too different from last month’s squad, with no new call-ups other than Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Matthias Ginter. Still, there are a couple of points that are worth talking about. Let’s take a look.
The left back conundrum
Flick had selected two left-backs in September: Robin Gosens of Atalanta and David Raum of TSG Hoffenheim. However, Gosens suffered an injury in the Champions League match against Young Boys, causing him to be left out of the squad this month. Despite belief that this might prompt Flick to call up a new left-back, he opted for the same defenders, instead calling up a center-back (Ginter) to replace Gosens.
This can be seen as one of two scenarios. One, Flick is planning Raum as the full-time LB for the next two games, and has seen little need for a replacement. Two, and the more likely scenario, is that Flick called up Paris Saint-Germain center back Thilo Kehrer strictly as a left-back. Kehrer played a significant amount of minutes at left-back during last month’s international break, and he didn’t do a half bad job, so it’s not too surprising if Flick sees him as a possible solution to Germany’s left-back problems. Germany has struggled to fill in the left back position ever since the great Philipp Lahm moved to the right; heck, they won the World Cup with a center-back (Benedikt Höwedes, remember him?) playing at LB. Maybe they’ll do it again, who knows?
And on the right…
On the right, things become a little clearer, but it’s still uncertain as to who will be Germany’s starting right-back going forward. There are three possible options for RB at the moment: Niklas Süle (Bayern Munich), Lukas Klostermann (RB Leipzig), and Jonas Hofmann (Borussia Mönchengladbach). In September, Hofmann started in Germany’s blowout wins against Armenia and Iceland. Ridle Baku was also an option, but Flick left him out this time, probably for good reason, considering his lone appearance against Liechtenstein was nothing but impressive. So, it seems that Hofmann will go on to start against both Romania and North Macedonia, barring an upset.
But let’s just say that upset happens, and that Flick wants to test his players out a bit more. Klostermann is a natural right-back, so he’d also be an option, but he hasn’t really been too impressive for the national team. What’s really interesting is if Flick will think of playing Süle on the right. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched, since Flick played Süle at right-back a couple of times at Bayern, and he did a pretty decent job. Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann picked up on this trend and played Süle as a right back in his most recent game against Dynamo Kiev to immense success. Maybe Flick will dig into his Bayern roots and do the same.
Who’ll come out on top?
Now Germany’s main striker options are limited as per usual, with the misfiring Timo Werner being the only true striker in the squad. Now, Werner did score in every single game that Germany played last month, but does that mean he played well? Not at all. The moment against Iceland when he fired over the bar with the goal gaping open like a T-Tex’s mouth will be forever burned into the brains of every Germany fan. Like it or not, Germany need a better striker going forward — Werner may be slightly useful in qualifying, but you’d be wise not to believe he’s the answer to World Cup glory.
But who can even replace him? The obvious answer would be playing Werner’s Chelsea teammate Kai Havertz as a false 9, but even Havertz seems to be faltering at Chelsea lately. Another option would be to play Serge Gnabry in the middle, but considering how well Gnabry has been playing on the wings for Bayern, it wouldn’t be wise to pull him out of that position and stick him in the 9. Another less likely solution is to start with Karim Adeyemi, who’s enjoying a pretty good season with RB Salzburg, and already has an international goal to his name. He’d be eager to build up on that, but is he good enough to start? Germany’s attack is pretty hazy at this point, and it’s hard to predict who will fit into where down the middle. Which brings us to our last point…
Welcome back, Thomas
After making his return to the national team in time for the Euros, Thomas Müller’s status remained unchanged under Flick, unsurprisingly, since he was instrumental to Flick’s sextuple at Bayern. However, he had to step out of the national team camp due to an adductor injury last month. Now, Müller is back, and he’s playing well as usual for Bayern. There’s no doubt that Flick will try to utilize Müller’s abilities as much as he can, but the question is, where does he fit in?
Müller’s best position is right behind the striker in the no. 10 spot, but as Germany don’t really have a striker at the moment, Müller’s position becomes a bit hard to predict as well. Does he slot in behind whoever Flick decides to play up top, or does he become a second striker for the likes of Werner or Havertz to play off of? Or does he play a bit deeper in midfield? Germany mostly played with a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid formation in their three games, so it could be that Müller acts more as an 8 than a 10, roaming freely in midfield and spraying forward assists left and right. Or, speaking of left and right, he could be utilized on the wing. Yes, Müller isn’t really suitable for a wing position, but keep in mind that Flick sometimes did play him on the wing, and he didn’t do half bad there. The secret is to not nail him down on the wing and expect him to play like a classic winger, but to give him a free role, drifting in and out of the center and creating space. But, since Germany already have good wingers in Leroy Sané, Serge Gnabry, and Jamal Musiala, this seems unlikely.
Wherever Müller plays, however, it’s not hard to assume that he will continue to play a key role for Flick’s Germany, just like he did for Flick’s Bayern.
Germany play Romania next Friday (2:45 EST) in Hamburg before meeting North Macedonia in their backyard the following Monday(same time) to avenge their defeat in March. They currently lead their qualifying group by four points, having won all their games except said defeat to North Macedonia.