Joachim Löw plans his way to beat England
“We knew that Gerrard and Lampard always support the forwards and that the midfield would be open, there would be spaces,” Joachim Löw explained in his post-match conference. “Our objective was to use Miroslav Klose to draw out John Terry, to force him to come out of the defence. We knew that the fullbacks would be very much to the side and this would create the spaces between the English defenders that would help us penetrate their defence. We did that very successfully and could have gone 3-0 up even in the first half. We wanted to penetrate the defence and we were successful there.”
This was Löw’s plan and as shown in this piece, it worked to devastating effect.
With Germany playing the 4-2-3-1 that has provided some of the most efficient and attractive football of the World Cup, the extra-man in midfield allowed Löw to implement his strategy. Löw’s ‘agent provocateurs’ (who instead of inciting illegal activites, incited poor defending) were Miroslav Klose and Mezut Özil, who moved the English defence and midfield about, splitting the centre-backs and creating space for the German wide-players to run into.
What was in this match is the significance of what a player does without the ball rather than what a player does with the ball, especially in the attacking third.
Löw’s plan was illustrated successfully within five minutes, resulting in Özil striking a close-range shot against David James. It was exactly how Löw had planned it:
Özil, the spare man is midfield is operating between midfield and defence. Gareth Barry nor the spare centre-back is tight to him, offering space and time for Klose and Özil to move the defence around. Here Bastian Schweinsteiger knows that Klose is going to drop deep and Özil will run behind the defence into the space left by the defenders following Klose’s movement.
An interesting observation here is that Klose and Özil always attempted to work on just one centre-back, not in the space between them. With Müller and Podolski holding good width, the English defence is stretched with Glen Johnson very much isolated and out of the picture. Ashley Cole was always wary of Müller’s runs behind him too meaning he didn’t tuck inside until there was danger of the defence being split by a through-ball.
This allowed Klose and Özil space to split open the defence on one side, in this case they focussed on Matthew Upson’s left hand berth. With Podolski so wide, John Terry could not afford to move closer to his centre-back as it would leave a huge gap for Podolski or Khedira to run into, leaving John Terry in a form of no man’s land, where he’s not actively doing anything to prevent the obvious attack. It is effectively three against two on the side of the Germans as neither Ashley Cole or John Terry are in positions to help Matthew Upson and Gareth Barry – which leads to a hole for Özil to run into.
Here it is from above:
This plan, as Joachim Löw rightly predicted, opened up the English defence within five minutes – there was more to come.
For the first goal Miroslav Klose and Mezut Özil were occupying the right hand channel, John Terry had moved across from his conventional position to mark Özil, leaving Matthew Upson to pick-up Klose. This did not happen and he ended up being dragged out wide, there’s a possibility that this could have been down to poor communication and a mix of poor organisation as it seems Upson maybe thought that Terry was going to take Klose and Gareth Barry would pick up Özil. As planned, Klose had brought Terry out of position to produce gaps in the English defence – and Klose capitalised from the poor defending.
For the second goal, Löw’s plan came to life in the most perfect way possible. This was not a question of individual mistakes but a tactical success that England could do nothing about; it was a glorious move that had showcased the intelligence of the players and tactical planning of the German coaching staff.
Özil again has dropped to the right with Klose just out of shot on the touchline. Podolski holds an important position on the left, stretching the defence and making possible gaps in the defence. Terry has drifted over into the left-hand side centre back position and Upson has picked up Klose. As Löw predicted, Terry has drifted over as nobody is picking up the extra-man in midfield – Terry drifting over is going to result in gaps in the English defence.
Klose drifting to the touchline has dragged the defence over whilst Özil dropping deep has brought Terry forward. When Özil plays the ball to Klose, Upson will close him down resulting in a huge split in the centre of defence. Podolski keeps wide making sure Johnson does not move over to cover, magnifying the space in defence.
The tardy Terry is too far out of position to cover whilst Ashley Cole was caught on his heels and out of position – Löw’s plan has worked and Müller is through on goal. The full-backs have stayed wide and the central defence have been caught out of position, the positioning of Müller and Podolski out wide are all part of the plan as it alLöws them to run from deep to penetrate the defence.
Johnson has to come and cover leaving Podolski free on the left, Müller plays a delicate, subtle lob over Johnson to give Podolski a chance for a shot; even with a poor shot he slips a shot inside the far post.
This second goal tells us a number of a things; (1) It demonstrates the benefit of having a player in the ‘hole’, who can drift around and look to link up with the forward and the supporting wide players – the midfield can outnumber opponents as well as offering the opportunity to get support quickly (2) The lack of organisation and plan to deal with a player by England, albeit they knew how the German team were going to set-up in advance – they did not have a plan to deal with Özil and Klose and their off the ball movement and ultimately got punished.
That kind of situation with Klose drifting wide and Özil just tucked in happened three other times for Germany in the first half, it was always the final ball that was lacking – and the two times it happened before should have been a warning to Capello and his team that the Germans would eventually breakthrough with this plan.
For the third goal, it was from a counter-attack started by a failed piledriver of a free-kick from Lampard. This goal was all about the lack of bodies back in England’s defence as well as the movement of the Özil and Müller who broke with Schweinsteiger. Ultimately it was England’s failure to be conservative and patient when looking for an equaliser that allowed there to be a three versus three situation at the back.
The same happened for the fourth goal – there were eight English players in the attacking third, leaving only two at the back. Admittedly, they had to go for it and the damage was already done, the English team looked resigned to failure with about twenty five minutes ago and were just looking to claw back some dignity which had been taken away through the youthful yet acute German team.
Schweinsteiger the orchestrator in midfield
With Germany playing a 4-2-3-1 they outnumbered England in midfield, providing a position of control in midfield. Gareth Barry had a specific role of closing down the space between the English backline and the midfield, sometimes he failed to do so and lead to chances early in the first half. When he did pick up Özil, this sanctioned Schweinsteiger time on the ball and picking a composed and measured pass to the players in support.
Germany controlled the game without having the most of possession, they had a game plan and it worked fantastically. Germany’s domination in midfield offered options in the lines of attack compared to England’s predictable play. They could afford to give England the ball when England struggled for invention and it was only natural that Germany played on the counter-attack once England brashly pushed people forward to find an equaliser. .
Löw’s strategy worked in the first-half and the scoreline could have been a lot worse if the finishing improved and the final ball more refined. England yet again showed no creativity, stifled by the rigidity of the system – Wayne Rooney looked reluctant to drop deep and close down in the midfield as well seemingly reluctant to drop deep when England had possession to draw defenders out for Defoe to run into. This is perhaps due to his role at Manchester United this season – as a lone striker looking to play in more advanced positions. Nevertheless, England relied on a set-piece and an individual piece of brilliance to score their two (one) goal(s).
This analysis could have been a lot different if Lampard’s goal had been seen and given, the momentum could have swung firmly in England’s favour and perhaps I would have been talking about how well after the second goal they played with the movement and vigour of a world-class side. Irregardless of the unfortunate nature of Lampard’s non-goal, Germany entered the game with a defined plan that worked and Löw had the players to replicate his plan – it was a great tactical conquest.