New Era To Redeem Recent Failures?
On the back of embarrassing exits from the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 Euros, Germany resorted to a fresh path by hiring Hansi Flick. After a grim period with a focus on rebuilding, a new generation of players are stepping up and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar offers a chance at vindication.
This tactical preview has been written by Rahul Madhavan.
Since their exhilarating triumph in Brazil, Germany have struggled to maintain their high standards with the defeat against England in the Euro 2020 serving as the final straw for Joachim Löw. As Löw’s fifteen-year reign ended in disappointment, the German FA turned to a familiar figure in Hansi Flick to rekindle the zeal that had seen them dominate the international circuit for over a decade.
Well, Flick has done just that, as there is a new buzz around the squad, with Löw’s former assistant instilling confidence in a nation with lofty ambitions. His record speaks for itself as he has won nine, drawn five, and lost only one of his fifteen games as Germany’s manager. The Germans certainly have a habit of grabbing the headlines on the big stage and will travel to Qatar to seek redemption following their humiliating group stage exit in the 2018 World Cup.
A couple of years back, Flick experienced the highest of highs when he managed Bayern Munich. Following the success, he has instilled his ideologies into the determined new generation of players within a year of his Germany tenure. They boast a balanced squad with Manuel Neuer still the unprecedented number one. Marc-André ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp are undoubtedly able backups to the 2014 World Cup’s Golden Glove winner.
Defense is perhaps a weak link compared to their options in other areas, yet they possess highly talented players. Antonio Rüdiger will spearhead the backline with the likes of Niklas Süle, Lukas Klostermann, Nico Schlotterbeck, and the 2014 World Cup winner – Matthias Ginter, challenging for a place alongside Rüdiger. 20-year-old Armel Bella-Kotchap, who made his debut during September’s Nations League game against England, has been included and is a player to watch out for.
David Raum is a certain starter at left back with Christian Günter backing him up whilst Thilo Kehrer and Jonas Hofmann will compete for the right back spot. Despite Toni Kroos’ retirement, the Germans have three experienced internationals in Joshua Kimmich, Ilkay Gündoğan, and Leon Goretzka in central midfield. Thomas Müller was reinstalled to the roster when Flick arrived and will play in his fourth World Cup with the likes of Jamal Musiala and Julian Brandt competing with him.
Meanwhile, Mario Götze’s return to the team is arguably the most compelling storyline in this tournament. The player who secured Germany the 2014 World Cup has had a strong start to the season with Eintracht Frankfurt and his inclusion is a result of his excellent form. Bayern Munich duo Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané will operate from the wide areas with Karim Adeyemi providing the cover.
And with Timo Werner’s injury, Kai Havertz could start up front, but Flick has also called teenager Youssoufa Moukoko and 30-year-old Niclas Füllkrug, who has ten goals for Werder Bremen his season. While it states the depth Germany have, this decision has raised a few eyebrows since both players are yet to be capped.
High pressing and slow buildup
Germany have altered to a 4-2-3-1 formation with a focus on pressing from the front to win the ball back early. Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich side did not allow their opponents to settle on the ball and looked to stay compact and close the gaps. At the international level, it’s been a similar story, and the job was made easier because Bayern’s players form Germany’s spine.
Typically, the striker initiates the press, and once possession is shifted wide, the winger leaps onto the ball-sided fullback. The center forward angles his runs when closing down the player in possession in order to block the pass to the other side. This limits the ball carrier’s options as Germany compress their opponents and force them to move wider. When they ultimately clear their lines, Germany’s center-backs are more than content to deal with the long ball coming their way.
Germany vs Hungary (September 2022): Germany’s press. Timo Werner angles his run while pressing, and his cover shadow blocks When a player is positioning himself between the opponent that has possession of the ball and another opponent, he is blocking the passing lane. When applied the right way, his ‘shadow’ is effectively taking the opponent in his back out of the game, because the pass can not be played. Schafer’s passing option to Orban. Gnabry closes the passing lane to the left center-back while Müller is tight on the defensive midfielder. Schafer’s only option is to pass it back to the goalkeeper, who ultimately clears the ball.
Once they retain possession, Germany favor a more patient approach with short passes to move the opponent around. They shift into an asymmetrical 2-2-6 structure with the fullbacks advancing up the pitch and providing the width, while the wingers tuck into the halfspaces. 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. Meanwhile, the double pivot Two central midfielders next to each other. stays narrow and look to control the tempo of the game. Flick prefers Gündoğan and Kimmich for this role since they are technically astute and their passing range is second to none. Additionally, they understand and complement each other well when Germany have the ball.
However, they switch to a back three in possession, with the right-back dropping alongside the two center-backs, against teams that are well-versed in the transition and have quick players to hurt them. Thilo Kehrer is tailormade for this position, but Süle and Klostermann have also performed this role in the past. As a result, Germany’s rest defense is structured to deal with the threat when their opponents look to counterattack.
Combinations in possession and defensive weakness
As mentioned above, the fullbacks are the source of width for Germany, but the dynamics differ on both sides. On the left flank, David Raum is constantly stationed high and wide, so the left winger (usually Sané) finds himself positioned in the halfspaces or sometimes even occupies the central zones behind the striker. Meanwhile, Kehrer joins the attacking situations only when Germany pin their opposition back. This means that the right winger (Gnabry) starts from the touchline and finds himself in a one-versus-one situation against the fullback.
Germany rely on line-breaking passes from their center-backs and the double pivot. The likes of Süle and Rüdiger are also adept at hitting diagonal passes and once the ball finds the feet of the fullback, they look to form triangles with the winger, fullback, and the attacking midfielder or the striker involved. Germany’s quick one-touch passing lures the opposition into committing challenges and they create several opportunities via short passes and movements near the edge of the box.
England vs Germany (September 2022): Germany’s buildup to the goal – Süle switches the ball to Raum, and he goes past Reece James. Raum, Müller, and Gnabry link up as the latter receives the ball from Muller in space and fires a shot. Pope saves it, but Havertz scores on the rebound.
With the pace and trickery of Sané, Gnabry, and Musiala, Germany can also be a threat on the break and could expose their opponents if space is provided. However, as Flick’s side attack in numbers, they sometimes undoubtedly struggle at the back. While the double pivot are excellent in possession, they certainly lack the mobility to cover their fullbacks during transition.
Moreover, since the manager has emphasized on pressing high up the pitch, the team are reliant on closing down their opponents quickly. But if the central midfielders fail to get tight to their markers, it could ultimately open space for their opponents in dangerous areas. England showcased Germany’s weakness in midfield and the back line during their 3-3 draw back in September.
Germany will face relatively tough opponents with old foes Spain tied in the same group. They will go into the games against Japan and Costa Rica as favorites, but both teams have the potential to cause problems. This German side, however, have shown excellent chemistry on the pitch and their attacking depth is arguably one of the best in the tournament.
While Flick has used a 3-4-2-1 formation once, he is expected to continue using the 4-2-3-1 system which gets the best out of his players. Joshua Kimmich will be a key figure in this side, but the experience of Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, and Mario Götze could certainly prove vital in the knockout stages.
With a fresh bunch of talent across the field, Flick’s side will look to redeem their recent failures as they travel to Qatar as one of the favorites to go all the way. There are a few issues he will face along the way, but despite those flaws, Germany’s new era will undoubtedly have their eyes on the esteemed silverware.
We’ve decided to make all of our World Cup 2022 content freely accessible for everyone. If you want to support our project, please consider taking a subscription.
Between the Posts has also decided to donate all returns generated during this World Cup to Amnesty International.