Well, that didn’t go according to plan. The international break offered a chance of reset and rejuvenation for the Bayern Munich players especially, but Hansi Flick’s Germany side went out and laid a clunker in this 0-1 loss to Hungary. Flick made some adjustments to his lineup and tactics since the last round of Nations League fixtures in June, and adjusted some more within the game — but all to no avail as he suffered his first defeat in charge of the men’s national team.
Some storylines to consider:
More attacking players doesn’t an attack make
Thought Bayern Munich had it bad? Germany’s got you covered.
Bayern Munich fans are wringing their hands and searching for reasons about what’s going on with their attack, but at least Julian Nagelsmann’s side are getting shots in by the bunches. Germany showed that you can actually fizzle out at an earlier point — before the attack even occurs.
Is it mental fatigue? Germany are full of technically gifted and creative forces in attack; many of them play together on the same Bayern Munich team. Yet the players seemed convinced for the most part that if they just kept aiming sharply-hit through-balls into a mass of bodies, that eventually some moment of magic would come off. The more typical result was a turnover, with Hungary breaking fast and running through a light German midfield and putting Hansi Flick’s aggressive back-line under immense pressure.
Credit to Hungary for playing determined compact defense with the best of them — but it’s up to teams like Germany to figure out a way to break them down. Today, they didn’t come close to it regularly enough, and typically paid the price by requiring frequent moments of defensive heroism.
Tactical change-up in focus
Hansi Flick rolled out an impressively attacking starting XI — featuring ultra-offensive fullbacks in David Raum and Jonas Hofmann. But for 45 minutes, nothing really clicked.
Germany showed good rotations and fluidity. Manchester City’s İlkay Gündoğan dropped into a pseudo left-back spot in build-up, while Hofmann sometimes stayed in the midfield line, sometimes ventured forward with Serge Gnabry covering in Flick’s 2-3-5 build-up shape. However, neither Hofmann nor Gnabry — nor Werner, for that matter, got very involved in any of the positions they got into. Leroy Sané was a creative spark, but had little effective movement around him.
In the second half, Gnabry was swapped out so that Hofmann could concentrate in attack, with West Ham United’s Thilo Kehrer a more stabilizing presence in defense and midfield. Whether it was this or just a renewed energy level, Germany started to find a lot more space in behind the Hungarian lines — Hofmann at one point almost teeing up Thomas Müller for a goal, had he not strayed offside.
In fact, Germany found their players on several occasions in the second half with balls over the top right into the box — but they were still usually too isolated to make anything much of these chances.
Still, it was better, at least for a while; after 3-1 (shots/shots on target) in the first half, Germany had improved to 7-3 by around 60 minutes. They would only finish 10-3 in this category to Hungary’s 7-3 — not the usual stat-line you’d expect for a game that was 73-27% possession in the Germans’ favor.
Jamal Musiala needs to start
Musiala was thrown on in central midfield today alongside Kimmich and instantly raised the energy level of the German attack. I’d add Chelsea FC’s versatile forward Kai Havertz to this list as well — his movement on the wings and in the center while providing a tall target. To be fair, there’s good competition at every position — but Musiala can also play in multiple spots and Germany just look more dangerous with him on the pitch. He’s also exactly the guy you want to navigate tight spaces, and has had his fitness well-managed this season at club level. It’s time.
Is Thomas Müller in a funk?
Müller wasn’t the only player struggling to get involved today, and more than most, his importance to the team lies in his off-the-ball movement — from pressing to runs to his creative sense of where he and his teammates should be. But for both club and country, the Raumdeuter is having trouble getting his usual level of involvement in the final third. He also hasn’t been getting much, if any chance for rest.
Perhaps it’s time for Hansi Flick to consider giving him a break for the next match against England — and for Julian Nagelsmann also to rotate more heavily. On song, Müller should still be one of the most vital players on the team, but more than most, he’s looked physically and mentally taxed of late.
Germany have a long way to go
That 5-2 smashing of an outmatched Italian B-team in June looks more and more the aberration among Germany’s recent displays — which now number three draws and one loss besides. Germany once again enter a World Cup with an incredible assembly of talent and the competition’s best coach — but plainly that’s not everything.
This is a team that looks one or two bad breaks from going out in the group stages again, not one likely to challenge for the title. What’s going on? Is it mentality — the allegedly ‘lackadaisical’ attitudes that Bayern bosses feel are plaguing their club, spilling over into the national team’s fortunes? Fatigue? Luck? Something else? Whatever it is, Flick and co. had better figure out soon.
As always, we appreciate all the support!