Germany – Armenia: Germany Coast To Comfortable Three Points (6-0)
Germany’s clash with Armenia ought to have been a formality, and so it proved. In a one-sided affair from start to finish, a mixture of old and new roles produced a brand of full-throttle football; the away team’s 4-4-2 deep block had no answer.
Tactical analysis and match report by Emmanuel Adeyemi-Abere.
Germany’s early EURO 2020 exit captured the country’s fears of an apparent lack of identity. Cue a change of leadership, and the new man in charge could not fit the bill any better based on his last job. Hansi Flick, manager of the treble winning Bayern Munich outfit, has taken the reins. Stuttering over the line to three points, a 2-0 win away to Liechtenstein marked the start of a new era. But now, in front of the home fans, they looked to put on a show.
However, their guests had no intention of being a pushover. Armenia came into this game unbeaten in the group. Winning three and drawing one of their four fixtures, they sat top of the table, a point ahead of the home team before kickoff. Though the odds were far from in their favor here, they hoped to mimic the exploits of the North Macedonians back in March and pull off another shock.
Flick lined up the hosts in a 4-2-3-1 shape, making six alterations to the team that played in mid-week. Among these, Robin Gosens missed out due to injury. This scenario forced Thilo Kehrer to move to left back, leaving Antonio Rüdiger to take his place as a partner to Niklas Süle. Another notable piece of team news centered on the inclusion of Jonas Hofmann, who featured on the right of the back four.
Armenian manager Joaquín Caparrós went for a 4-4-2 system. Talismanic figure Henrikh Mkhitaryan played on the left of the front two rather than from the left flank as he had done in his team’s last outing. Hence, Khoren Bayramyan started on the left of the midfield quartet as one of the four changes to the side that drew to North Macedonia in midweek.
A dominant opening
In a little over five minutes, the Germans had raced into the lead. A long ball into Timo Werner pushed the home team up to the edge of the box, where they settled on the right flank. The striker played the ball into Goretzka, who then clipped a pass into the path of Gnabry. The right winger raced in behind the back four before hammering a shot into the roof of the net.
Germany’s offensive structure from the first half.
As one would expect, Germany spent much of the game in control of the ball. Here, they would rotate from their initial 4-2-3-1 setup into a 3-2-4-1 offensive structure. Hofmann pushed higher up the flank to offer the width on the right while Kehrer stayed deep, tucking inward to form the back three with the two central defenders. A box then emerged in midfield. Leon Goretzka began deeper with Joshua Kimmich, while Marco Reus moved over to the left halfspace, If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. affording Serge Gnabry room to play more centrally. Such roles then gave Leroy Sané the freedom of the left flank.
However, what was intriguing was how the players and their roles interacted with each other.
Sané back in his element
Often picking up the ball in one-on-one situations from diagonal switches, Sané looked much more at home in this role on the left. Dribbling inward with his left foot, he could shield the ball better than from the right flank. Moreover, this lateral style of ball carrying made linking up with his teammates far more fluid. Werner’s role in this success became apparent as well, mostly drifting to the blind side of the center-back away from the ball to give the winger as much space as possible to isolate Armenia’s right back.
In a quarter of an hour, Sané had made his mark. Sané glided away from markers, playing a one-two combination with Goretzka before breaking in behind. Though he did not get the ball back, the play worked its way to Reus, who drilled a delivery across the face of the goal. Werner could not direct the ball home, but Gnabry was alert on the back post, striking once more to double his tally on the night and putting Germany up 2-0 after fifteen minutes of play.
Reus and Gnabry come to the party
Since Sané acted as a fixed point on the left flank and did not need support in one-on-one situations, he allowed Reus to roam more freely. To this end, the attacking midfielder drifted into central pockets or even all the way over to the right halfspace. Creating dynamic overloads, When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. his first touch and intelligent penetration of channels fit the central combinations of the hosts down to a tee. Once more, Werner’s movement was vital here, making slightly outward runs to pin the back four deeper.
10th minute: Hofmann and Gnabry have already swapped positions, causing indecision over who should cover the winger. Süle finds Reus, whose first touch suggests a pass will go to Hofmann before threading a pass into Werner.
Given that six members of the starting eleven heavily featured for Flick at Bayern Munich, it was not a shock to see elements of the Bavarian playbook come into the mix. At times, the double pivot Two central midfielders next to each other. could operate very aggressively in the final third. The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. If one of the attackers came back from a higher position, Goretzka moved higher onto the last line. That attacker was usually Gnabry, whose more central role, combination skills, and willingness to make deep runs towards the goal saw him star on the evening.
An intelligent supporting cast
To his outside, Hofmann also impressed. Though he tends to play as a midfielder, he did not look out of place as the right fullback. Making late diagonal runs or horizontal switches in position with Gnabry when the ball was deep with Kehrer on the left side of the field, the left back denied Armenia access to the ball from the right time and again. Indeed, his role became apparent in the next goal of the game.
From a throw in high on the left flank, Hofmann moved into the right halfspace. Though he did not receive the ball, a secondary underlap Underlap means that the full-back joins the offensive play by playing on the inside of the winger he supports. This is the reverse of an overlap, where the full-back plays on the outside and the winger moves inside. left him free out wide. Neither Armenia’s left back, nor left winger could reach him, forcing Andranik Voskanyan to step a little wider. Gnabry then bent the ball aerially over into Werner, who steered the ball into the path of Reus on the edge of the six yard box. His teammate obliged. 3-0 Germany.
On the stroke of half time, three goals became four. Goretzka made another foray in the final third, finding himself on the right edge of Armenia’s back four. Kimmich clipped the ball into his midfield partner, whose cushioned header across the box found Werner with the goal at his mercy. The striker finally cashed in, earning his reward for the role he played in this match.
Youthful vigor maintains the impetus
In the second half, Armenia adjusted their 4-4-2 shape. Bayramyan stopped tracking Hofmann back, leaving the right back without a direct opponent. Instead, the left winger waited for passes to Süle as a pressing trigger. A pressing trigger is a specific pass or movement by the opponent that draws out a coordinated team press.
Nonetheless, the Germans continued to threaten. Reus cleverly found gaps between the double pivot, helping the central defenders split the lines. One such penetration in the 51st minute won the home team a corner, from which Hofmann placed a half-volley into the back of the net.
Flick then rung the substitutions. Ilkay Gündogan took the place of Kimmich on the right of the double pivot while several young players got the chance to play out the final half hour. David Raum and Karim Adeyemi debuted for the senior side, while Florian Wirtz earned his second appearance.
But the biggest starlet of them all, Jamal Musiala, made an impact with what was almost his first contribution. Moments after entering the fray in place of Sané, the winger twisted away from his marker, finding Wirtz in the final third. His teammate’s cross eluded everyone bar Hofmann, who would have bagged a second goal were it not for a goal line clearance.
But the substitutes would have the final say on the scoresheet. As the game ticked over into injury time, Wirtz found Adeyemi, who flicked the ball back into his path. The winger then received a pass again from Wirtz, opening up his body towards the far post before slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Germany will move on quickly from a game where the outcome was not a shock. But as time goes on, Flick will look to find suitable roles for players to solve different problems. The first half display was an ideal foundation to work from, and he will hope to build on that against Iceland next time out.
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