It was not Germany’s most memorable European Championship campaign — as Die Mannschaft lost to both Poland and Ireland — yet in the end a rather disappointing 2-1 victory not only secured Germany a spot in next year’s European Championships in France, but also meant that the World Champions had finished Group D in first place.

Germany’s poor form at the qualifiers can be attributed to the hangover of winning the World Cup in 2014, as the tournament in Brazil was considered one of the toughest to win — given climate and distances to travel — and it was clear that many German players were struggling with fatigue in the following 2014-15 season. Furthermore, several key players — Miroslav Klose, Per Mertesacker, and Philipp Lahm — retired from the national team following the victory over Argentina in Rio de Janeiro.

The retirement of former national team captain Philipp Lahm in particular left a gaping hole in Germany’s game. Lahm is a rare breed in German football as he can play both as a right back and a left back. Yet Germany’s national team coach Joachim Löw had previously struggled to find capable players for both the right and left defensive positions even with Lahm in the line-up.

Leading up to the World Cup, Bayern’s coach Pep Guaridola moved Lahm into centre, playing him as a defensive midfielder. As a result Löw also moved Lahm into the centre midfield, and therefore ended up fielding four centre backs in the World Cup until the quarter final against France—Schalke’s Benedikt Höwedes played as a left back, and Shkodran Mustafi (now with Valencia) as right back — when an injury to Mustafi forced Löw to move Lahm to the right back position to replace Mustafi.

But with Lahm’s retirement, Löw no longer had this option. As a result it appeared that the German game lacked defensive wingers who could also contribute offensively. The recent emergence of left back Jonas Hector, who plays for 1. FC Köln, has given Löw a fantastic option. On the other wing, Borussia Dortmund’s Matthias Ginter has also impressed this season — he has accumulated two goals and four assists in ten Bundesliga games.

Yet Löw has criticized that neither Ginter nor Hector provide an attacking element in Germany’s game — despite both players having contributed significantly to the attacking game with their respective clubs. In the past the national team coach has been equally critical of other defensive backs, in particular Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer, who Löw criticised after Schmelzer made a mistake in a World Cup qualifier against Austria in October 2012 by remarking that “I can’t carve myself a better left back…”­­ (a German expression implying that if he could have carved himself a better left back, he would have done so).

Yet Schmelzer performed well for Borussia Dortmund, which stormed all the way to the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in that season, showing consistency against opponents far stronger than what Germany faced in qualification matches. Löw’s recent round of criticism against Hector, whose current form has made Fox Sport’s Bundesliga specialist Eric Wynalda suggest that Hector should be a logical candidate for a transfer to Bayern Munich, has led to suggestions in the German press that perhaps the failure is not in the lack of good wing back but rather in Joachim Löw’s tactical system.

Speaking to Germany’s Kicker Magazine, Ginter recently stated that: “at Dortmund, teamwork is everything, whereas Germany’s game has a larger tendency to trust individuality.” In other words defensive players can’t operate offensively in Germany’s game under Löw as they often must focus on defense. Players such as Lukas Podolski, Mesut Özil, or even Thomas Müller in Germany’s 3-1 win against Poland; have the tendency not to backtrack when playing in Löw’s system.

The offensive contribution of both Hector and Ginter at the club level, and the fact that already established left backs such as Marcel Schmelzer have shown that they can perform at the highest level when playing for their clubs, highlight that Germany doesn’t have a wing back problem, but rather Löw has to make tactical adjustments to his system that would allow more offensive contributions from the back without threatening the defensive line. In the past Löw has been very good at making the necessary adjustments before major tournaments, and as Germany gets ready for France 2016, Löw will have to show once again that he can find tactical solutions with the players at hand.

About the author – Manuel Veth

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and Editor in Chief @FutbolgradLive and writes about the economics and politics of Soviet and post-Soviet football. You can find his work at

twitter: @homosovieticus


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A quarter of the way through the 2015/16 Bundesliga season, the destination of the title already looks to have been decided. Bayern Munich’s 1-0 victory over Werder Bremen on Saturday afternoon was their ninth in nine top-flight encounters – another Bundesliga record set by the Bavarians – with Pep Guardiola’s outfit already seven points clear of closest challengers Borussia Dortmund. The team that has won the last three German championships by margins of 10, 19 and 25 points look to have wrapped up another crown in mid-October.

It is an incredible spell of dominance that does not look like ending any time soon. The Bundesliga, which remains one of Europe’s most competitive divisions from second place downwards, has become monopolised by Bayern, whose combination of status and financial might dwarfs all of their domestic rivals.

The gap between the league leaders and Dortmund was showcased in the pair’s meeting before the international break: Bayern ran out 5-1 winners at the Allianz Arena, simply proving too strong for Thomas Tuchel’s charges, who themselves had begun the campaign extremely well.

Bayern took the lead in the 26th minute through Thomas Muller, who soon added a second from the penalty spot. BVB threatened a comeback with an immediate response from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Bayern found another gear after the break, a brace from Robert Lewandowski and strike from Mario Gotze sealing an emphatic triumph.

It was a similar story in the weekend’s clash with Werder, even if the narrow scoreline suggested a closely-fought encounter. Muller’s winning goal was the 29th Guardiola’s men have scored this term; with just five conceded, Bayern have an extraordinary goal difference of 25 after nine matches.

There is a debate to be had about whether Bayern’s imperiousness is a positive or negative thing for the Bundesliga. The 25-time German champions’ strength has allowed them to assemble a squad of truly world-class talent – from

between the sticks, Jerome Boateng, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba in the backline, Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara and Arturo Vidal in midfield, Arjen Robben on the flanks and Lewandowski and Muller up top – that can compete with anything the rest of Europe has to offer.

Sport, though, is about competition; as German football writer Raphael Honigstein noted recently, the sheer brilliance of many of the side’s performances may attract overseas interest in the league, but the lack of a genuine title race at the top is likely to eventually lead to those viewers switching off. While Bayern’s quality will always make them worth watching, many consumers are likely to prefer watching games involving the likes of Barcelona or Manchester City if the points at stake are likely to be pivotal to their chances of finishing the season top of the pile.

The issue could accelerate calls for a European superleague involving the continent’s biggest clubs, something that many believe is bound to happen at some point in the coming decades. If Bayern – and, indeed, the rest of the Bundesliga – no longer believe the current arrangement is working for them, it is not too difficult to foresee a situation whereby they push for more regular games against other elite outfits.

For now, the Champions League probably sates that desire; if Bayern continue to dominate German football for years to come, however, a breaking point may not be too far away.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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