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Tactics + four key positional battles in the Germany men’s national team

Hansi Flick’s vision is coming into focus.

Germany v Italy: UEFA Nations League - League Path Group 3 Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer/GES Sportfoto via Getty Images

Former Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick is putting his stamp on the Germany national team as they prepare for the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar. Here’s an early, layman’s look at the tactics and positional battles within the DFB squad after this June’s Nations League fixtures.


Flick has settled into a 4-2-3-1 with a familiar asymmetry. Hoffenheim’s David Raum plays highly aggressive on the left wing – shades of Alphonso Davies – while RB Leipzig’s Lukas Klostermann steadies the right.

Of course, Flick won’t have a striker like Robert Lewandowski at his disposal. While we’ve seen both Chelsea forwards, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, lead the line, it’s Borussia Mönchengladbach winger Jonas Hofmann who has really caught the eye.

One passage of play, Matchday 4 vs Italy (broadcast courtesy Vix):

Diagram showing Leroy Sané dropping into the 10 as playmaker while Werner, Müller, Hofmann, Klostermann are in position to make forward runs left to right. Hofmann is starting his run from slightly deeper.
Runs in behind; defense pulled wide
Vix / TelevisaUnivision

Werner and Raum stack left, leaving Bayern’s Thomas Müller central. Club teammate Leroy Sané drops into the hole to turn provider, and Hofmann presents the most lethal threat. After helping circulate the ball in right midfield, he bursts forward to arrive as the second central striker. Shortly after, and from earlier in build-up, a similar pattern:

Two images; the first showing wingers tucking in to give Kimmich options to pass in midfield early in build-up, the second showing four forward runs readied for Sané when he gets on the ball, again in the hole.
Forward rotations
Vix / TelevisaUnivision

İlkay Gündoğan (Manchester City) drops from midfield to left-back areas to account for Raum’s constant high position and present a stable base. Wingers Sané and Hofmann squeeze into midfield, opening up the flanks. Müller wanders to the right while Werner, having stacked with Raum, rotates to make centrally. Again Sané is the outlet, with four steaming runs ahead of the playmaker. A loose pass to Raum cuts out the chance to deliver a dangerous cross.

In each case team movement helps tee up Hofmann, whose late arrival from midfield is the more difficult to track of two central runs into the box. Verticality without a striker: this may be Flick’s out-of-the-box solution to Germany’s in-the-box problems.

Key Battles

CF: Kai Havertz vs Timo Werner

Edge: Werner.

While Havertz might have the better CF profile, neither play totally as a 9. Werner is combining perfectly with David Raum out wide on the left wing, and adds his trademark tireless runs behind the lines. Havertz should be far from forgotten, though, with his aerial ability and penchant for adding to midfield numbers. The Chelsea teammates do also have good chemistry sharing the pitch.

LW: Leroy Sané versus Jamal Musiala

Edge: Musiala.

Sané flashed a positively Nagelsmann-era Bayern-like role in the left half-space, operating as a 10. A penchant for losing possession and Musiala’s blossoming, determined excellence will keep him on his toes. Musiala has also benefited from his CM forays under Nagelsmann, and bossed the midfield against Hungary. Sané offers explosion on the counter, while Musiala excels at finagling his way through heavy pressure.

CM: Leon Goretzka versus İlkay Gündoğan

Edge: Gündoğan

Leon Goretzka is an outstanding box-to-box threat, but under Flick the attacking central areas might now be accounted for by wingers, particularly on the left. With Gündoğan in, the double pivot looked remarkably stable. The Manchester City man rotated well with Joshua Kimmich, and both were highly involved in ball circulation and control. Balance will be key at the base of midfield. Of course, “Kimmetzka” flourished under Flick himself at Bayern.

RW: Serge Gnabry versus Jonas Hofmann

Edge: Hofmann

Hofmann will be tough to dislodge after his consistent performances for the NT under Flick. The good news for Germany is that Gnabry could excel in much the same role: a scoring winger who likes to get in front of goal. Flick knows as well as anyone that Gnabry has got goals and pace aplenty. Gnabry has had some inconsistencies lately, and it’s to be seen exactly how he’ll be used at Bayern this year.

Stay tuned for a MNT squad selection preview!

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