Another tactical display from Löw shows Maradona what he’s lacking.
Joachim Löw has a habit of telling the press how he beat the teams he just defeated and he has has done it again, this time telling the world that [Argentina are] a split team in midfield, with offensive players who don’t come back and one defensive player who doesn’t create.” His planning for games is meticulous and in some ways his Germany team resemble a club team – organised, well-drilled and a remarkable team spirit, completely opposite to the large ego’s that reside in the English dressing room for example.
Löw’s tactical nous has beaten England 4-1 and have lead to Germany scoring four without reply in against Argentina, how did he plan to do this?
Well, Germany couldn’t have actually planned the first goal, for it was only due to Argentina’s negligence in defence that led to Germany going one-nil up within three minutes. It did indicate what was to come however, with Otamendi being caught flat-footed and in a poor position – leading to him taking down Lukas Podolski on the left-hand side. The resulting free-kick was whipped in with pace and with no Argentinean defenders even near the ball, Thomas Müller was able to swoop in and knock it against Sergio Romero’s knee and in.
A constant throughout the game however was the potential for the Germany full-backs, particularly Phillipp Lahm – who is very adept on the ball and clever with possession – to get forward. This was down to the Argentina’s split system with Messi, Tevez and Higuain staying forward and not looking to drop back and defend. This left a situation where one-full back could venture forward without concern. Phillipp Lahm found himself running solo into the attacking third six times as well receiving the ball in the Argentinean half eighteen times – he was a constant thorn in Heinze’s rotund backside.
If Angel Di Maria went and closed Lahm down, it restricted the space for Lahm to run into – however, as Di Maria moves across, it leaves a weakness in midfield. This allowed Bastian Schweinsteiger to have lots of time and space on the ball to start off Germany’s well-drilled attacking strategy. As in the England game, Bastian Schweinsteiger bossed the midfield, starting off moves throughout the game.
These movements were shown in the post-match statistics, with the combination of Phillipp Lahm passing to Bastian Schweinsteiger the most in the whole game – they linked up thirteen times during the match. Schweinsteiger was also player most passed to throughout the whole game, indicating how much space he had in the middle of the park. Throughout every German win, the glaring trend is that they dominate in midfield and Schweinsteiger is the heartbeat of the team (If we want to extend the body analogies, for the Argentineans, Demichelis tends to be the oiled rectum as every team seems to pass through him with ease).
The glaring problem for Argentina is that they had no Plan B; there was no variation in their play whatsoever. Löw had planned for Argentina’s style and Maradona’s stubbornness (or lack of intelligence) meant that Germany knew how to defend against them for the whole game. As Löw stated post-match, Argentina have three creative attacking players with two supporting midfielders and one destroyer in Javier Mascherano. That means the only way they could play was through the middle or out-wide to the left as Maxi Rodriguez was reluctant to play in a conventional wide midfielder role.
When Argentina had the ball in defence, Germany stayed compact and deep resulting in Argentina getting stifled and outnumbered in the middle
When the ball made it forward and in between the lines, German midfielders and defenders moved towards the ball and outnumbered the Argentinean players. Without Argentina having full-backs looking to bomb forward, this meant that Germany would not worry about keeping a midfielder out-wide to stop him running into the space unattended – meaning they could easily outnumber the players with possession, making it easy to defend against when the ball made its way forward.
When the ball made it out wide, the work rate of the German wingers was fantastic to see, always looking to help out the full-backs and holding midfielders to make sure they won the ball back. The whole defence also shifted with the movement out-wide, not concerned with a quick shift of play to the other side of the pitch, as the Argentineans did not have any width. This was in keeping with Maradona’s statement before the World Cup that the defenders are there to defend and the attackers are there to attack – meaning the full-backs offered no support or no width to help stretch the match in Argentina’s favour. This resulted in Germany’s hard-working team all looking to help defend – reverting back to two banks of four and Klose and Özil dropping to the half-way line. This against Argentina’s inert full-backs and uncreative holding midfielder meant that it was often eight against five in Germany’s favour.
Argentina’s system played right into the hands of Germany’s defensive strengths – whilst ignoring the potential to get behind the German centre-backs, who often look slow. With hard-working midfielders looking to win the ball as soon as possible Germany were able to successfully keep Argentina at bay and ‘La Albiceleste’ had to opt for hopeful long-shots played in-front of the German defence, especially in the second half.
As mentioned, Argentina lacked different options and their system allowed only one style of play – one that played right into the hands of the German defensive approach. Without any conventional wide players, there was little flexibility in the system and there was no variation in the way moves were creates and how the ball was moved around the pitch – it was predictable.
Here is a typical situation that took place throughout the game, Messi dropped deep to collect the ball, looking to turn and run at the defence. However, Germany’s midfield quickly fell-back and moved inside, reducing the space for him to move. Germany’s defence dropped deep to reduce the space behind themselves so there was always men between him and goal. It is clear to see there is little variation in what can be done and how moves can be constructed when using Argentina’s diamond 4-4-2 system.
By sitting deep and getting numbers behind the ball, it allowed Germany to do what they’re best at – incisive counter-attacking and exploiting poor defending.
The second goal came from another piece of hapless defending from Argentina – again it was Nicolas Otamendi and more predictably Martin DeMichelis. It also did not help that Mascherano was too far forward and not able to close down Khedira as he started his run through the midfield – but more of the blame has to be placed on the heads of Demichelis and Otamendi for rash tackling and poor positioning.
What kept on happening was that with Argentina only really have one defensive minded midfielder, the Germans could move him over to one flank and create a huge space in the middle for deep runs that were not getting picked up by the midfielders or defence – which is exactly what happened for the second goal. Löw must be given credit for this tactical observation and worked out a way of overpowering one side of the pitch to move Mascherano from his anchoring position to allow wide players like Müller or Podolski to move into – as Özil often moved forward to stop a centre-back moving out and tracking their runs.
Laughable defending from Argentina was that catalyst for their trouncing handed to them by the Germans, but they were badly prepared to defend against an efficient, hard-working German side. Without such tardy defenders, I believe that Germany would have gone on and won this game anyway because Argentina looked unbalanced both offensively and defensively.
For all the kissing, cigar-chomping training sessions and boasts about his lovely blonde wife, Maradona lacks tactical acumen and coaching skills to prepare well for a well-drilled team. Ultimately, Maradona was tactically found out against Germany and no number of kisses or wild gesticulating on the touch-line can hide this. Löw’s attention to detail and tactical planning has now brought the defeat of two major scalps in this tournament and I wouldn’t put it past him to plan a victory against Spain.