High Hopes for Löw & His Young Talent: Germany 2010
German coach Joachim Löw is a tactical innovator who can use several systems to suit different situations. They are essentially similar systems, just variations on a theme, based around the 4-2-3-1 formation which he used successfully in Euro 2008.
The German team is solid, and impressively conceded just 5 goals in qualification for South Africa 2010, losing no games. They are high achievers, reaching the Semi-finals of the World Cup in 2006, and then the Final of the Euro 2008 tournament, where they lost 1-0 to an excellent Spain side.
The squad that Löw has named is very young, an average age of 24.96 yrs, but this is in some way representative of the wealth of talented young players in Germany. There is no doubt that the side will miss the influence of 33 year old Michael Ballack, who would have been captain were it not for a late injury with Chelsea. A lack of experience is the main problem for the team when playing on a stage as grand as the World Cup, but the young players are very good, Mesut Özil, 20, Toni Kroos, 20, and Marko Marin, 21 are all fantastic attacking players.
After beating Bosnia 3-1 in their most recent friendly Löw claimed that the side needed just ‘fine tuning’, and such an organised coach is likely to have the players dancing to the right tune when they come up against Group D comprising Australia, Ghana and Serbia.
Pressing with the 4-2-3-1: A 30 Metre rule
The formation is a flexible 4-2-3-1, but well drilled, and looks to stifle opposition passing in midfield, using high pressing to squeeze the play. With the ball the team will try to counter-attack rapidly, and use the channels overload the opposing team.
Germany playing a high line in defence, pressing in a style almost Arrigo Sacchi-esque, as Löw wants no more than 30 metres between the forwards and defence. When in possession the fullbacks push forward, mainly through Phillip Lahm, who looks to attack at any opportunity. As with any high line this tactic does leave space to be exploited behind the defence, and pace is not abundant in the German defence.
The high line in defence allows the midfield to cover a relatively smaller area of ground, operating somewhere between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-1-1. In reality the formation is fluid, but consists of two central players who start slightly deeper, and three advanced midfielders. This is a very flexible but systematic midfield, which allows organised fluidity, depending on the game plan.
This is how the German pressing game looks on the pitch. The four banks of players are cleary visible. The back four bring up the rear, while the holding midfielders are marked blue, the attacking midfield yellow, and the lone forward in pink.
Michael Neuer of Schalke 04 is to play in goal, he had a good season with the German team who defied excpectations took the title to the last two games of the Bundesliga before finishing second to Bayern.
Neuer’s teammate Heiko Westermann has been injured, and so it is likely that Arne Friedrich will play central defence, rather than right back, partnering Per Mertesacker. If not him then Serdar Tasci also plays as centre back, for Stuttgart.
Phillip Lahm, the captain and a fantastic full back, plays as left or right back, and attacks and defends with ease. Lahm is most likely to play as right back during the tournament, whilst Badstuber may get the nod for the left back slot. The full backs overloading in the wide areas, can create space for the central players such as Özil, or attack by taking the ball themselves. Lahm scored a wonderful goal running from deep in the recent friendly against Bosnia, and is the sort of experienced player who can change games.
Here Lahm (red) is allowed space to make the forward run as the attacking midfielders (yellow) and striker (pink) pull the Bosnian players away from him. Lahm goes onto score a wonderful goal.
The midfield five are expected to play a high pressing game, but also to get forward in attack, the balance of players within the squad makes this possible. Midfield pressing can be seen below, as four midfielders box in (thin blue line) the Bosnian players on the ball, keeping the pressure up, whilst the defence (red) can take a man each.
The central midfield pairing will be the young Sami Khedira and experienced Bastian Schweinsteiger. Ballack’s late injury with Chelsea has opened the way for Khedira to really make his mark on the tournament.
The choices for the advanced positions are impressive; Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski , Piotr Trochowski, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller all as options for this area.
Mesut Özil is arguably the most exciting of these players. A left footer, he has the ability to shoot or play the crucial ball from forward positions. Özil is undoubtedly one of the players to watch at this tournament, the young midfielder previously played for Schalke 04, but now plays for Werder Bremen and has excelled in the Bundesliga. His main role is to play as the link man, deeper than the striker; the role of the creator is a perfect fit.
However, the left flank may see some interchange between Özil and Podolski, as they work together or switch positions, Podolski can also play either on the left or as the deep striker.
Indeed, it is here that the formation shows it fluidity. The tactics allow the team to move to a more orthodox, traditional German 4-4-2 against weaker teams, or for the midfield to drop back into five when more pressure is required. The wide men can drift inside, and interchange, with Podolski moving out left, and Özil coming through the centre. The attacking menace on the left is also balanced when Lahm plays on the right, providing options on both flanks.
Podolski was acknowledged as a major talent after the last World Cup, but has spent several years in the wilderness. He still possesses menacing pace, running at the defence, or shooting from long range. Marin provides a useful back-up for Podolski, and expect him to get game time.
Müller or Trochowski can play on the right, and will link up well with Lahm in this position, either dragging the opposition full back around, creating space for Lahm to run into. The attacking threat of the fullbacks is a crucial part of the German team, and Lahm is the most lethal from this position, so the balance on his flank is important.
The Lone Frontman
Playing a single forward limits the realistic options for Löw in attack. Stefan Kiessling of Leverkusen is one of the more talented young attackers, but is not suited to hold the line on his own, like Müller he is more likely to be used in the withdrawn role occupied by Podolski or Özil.
As with teams like the Ivory Coast and Drogba the lone striker role requires experience and strength. In this case Miroslav Klose is favoured for the starting role, but he has struggled with form, and this is the major concern for the German team.
The German team are one of the most exciting teams at the World Cup in terms of their young talent and array of attacking options. Although Löw has been accused of defensive tactics the team has the ability to counter-attack quickly in incisive break-aways. This might just be the beginning of a very successful national side.
A post by James Gillespie
German Final Squad
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04), Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen), Hans-Jörg Butt (Bayern Munich)
Defenders: Phillip Lahm (Bayern Munich), Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich), Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Serdar Taschi (VfB Stuttgart), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin)
Midfielders: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Sami Khedira (VfB Stuttgart), Piotr Trochwoski (Hamburger SV), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen), Mesut Özil (Werder Bremen), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV)
Strikers: Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Cacau (VfB Stuttgart), Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (1 FC Köln), Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen)