Löw gives up Löw

Joachim Löw called his team’s appearance in the Nations League “courageous”. In fact, however, they played more defensively than ever under the national coach – and still lost in the end. And now?

What happened on Tuesday evening at the Stade de France in Paris seemed unthinkable two years ago. That doesn’t mean that Germany lost to France and with this sixth defeat has put down the worst calendar year in its history. At least not only. It’s also about how.

“The team played with a lot of courage, it took its heart into its hands,” said national coach Joachim Löw after the 1:2 in the Nations League. Many observers agreed, one SPIEGEL headline was also “Courage without yield”.

The performance may have had a courageous effect, but it wasn’t Löw at all. Actually, the national coach hired his team as defensively as never before in his term of office.

Löw chose a new approach for him: five players in the defence, four of them trained central defenders; before that, two defensive players, Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich, ran up in the midfield centre. Leroy Sané, Timo Werner and Serge Gnabry remained in the storm; there was virtually no support from midfield, with up to seven players remaining in their own half. By Lew’s standards, that was ultra-defensive.

The fact that this could nevertheless seem “courageous” may have been due to the dynamism that Germany sometimes ignited. If the team conquered the ball, the game was fast, that was exactly Löw’s goal. He fully relied on the speed of his three strikers, who were sent deep with steep passes. But then they were on their own.

The team also had longer periods of possession, but these did not result in any goal danger. Neuralgic positions in the offensive midfield remained unoccupied. Securing instead of attacking.

Was that a sensible adaptation to France’s strengths? Or perhaps Lew’s lessons from the World Cup debacle?

The timing speaks against both. At the beginning of September, in the first leg against the French (0:0), Löw had chosen a more offensive orientation, a 4-1-4-1 with more pull to the goal. His team also had more chances than now at the 1-2 draw.

Löw’s new tactic seems to be a reaction to the 3-0 win over the Netherlands and the criticism that followed. It was clear afterwards “that we had to set completely new stimuli,” Löw said on Tuesday evening. It almost sounded as if that wasn’t already clear after the preliminary round of the World Cup. So the change seems less intrinsically motivated than driven.

FIFA pirate spin

Joshua Kimmich Honours 

Club 

Bayern Munich
  • Bundesliga: 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18
  • DFB-Pokal: 2015–16
  • DFL-Supercup: 2016, 2017, 2018

International 

Germany
  • UEFA European Under-19 Championship: 2014
  • FIFA Confederations Cup: 2017

Individual 

  • UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 2016 
  • UEFA Champions League Breakthrough XI: 2016 
  • Germany national team Player of the Year: 2017 
  • UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season: 2017–18 
  • FIFA FIFPro World XI 3rd team: 2018 

Löw played 0:0, but he still lost

The question also arises as to how sensible a more defensive approach would be. According to the official World Cup report published by FIFA on Tuesday, the German team in Russia were on average twice as likely to enter the opponents’ penalty area as other teams during the tournament. They had more chances, but scored too seldom.

Well, against the French, even the opportunities were missing. A poorly played counter-attack by Sané (19th minute), three standard finishes, a dubious penalty kick, there was not much more. Löw played 0:0. But he still lost.

Since the coach took office in 2006, the football of the national team has changed a lot. Initially, the focus was on compact defence and counterattacking. In 2010, the DFB team overtook England and Argentina at the World Cup, with Germany waiting for the ball to be conquered and then tightening the pace: a steep pass, a clap, a steep pass, a finish. At that time Mesut Özil and especially wall player Miroslav Klose played key roles in the attack. Types of players missing from the current squad.

Leaving the ball to opponents will not work.

The more successful Germany played, the more defensive his opponents became, there was no room for counterattacks. Löw pushed the ball possession game, his team also had to find solutions against deep defensive lines. In their 2014 World Cup win against Argentina, they had 64 percent ball possession in the final.

Germany still has one of the best national squads in the world today. It won’t work to leave the ball to the opponents, outsiders would simply shoot it back into the German half. According to the motto: “Do it, we don’t have to“.

Löw knows that. Over the past decade he has been dealing with the problem, inspired by the style of play of the Spanish national team and FC Bayern under Pep Guardiola. This is how Löw’s work as coach came about, which was indeed marked by courage and dominance. Pirate Spin is an exciting casino that offers players an awesome theme based on seafarers.