Two competitive defeats in a row. Winless in four competitive games. The alarm bells continue to ring concerning Germany, and after their recent international action, Die Mannschaft have slipped to the cusp of relegation from their UEFA Nations League group. Two losses in four days, scoring just once and conceding five, all is far from well with Joachim Low’s team, who suffered a record sixth defeat in a calendar year.
But while the defeat to the Netherlands on Saturday at the Johan Cruyff Arena was a hapless showing, the loss to France in Paris offered a cause for optimism. For the first time in quite a while, Germany didn’t look hapless, didn’t look unsure of how to play, as they put France on the back foot, particularly in the first period. The counter-attacking intent was there, as well as the tactical flexibility- the team switching from 3-4-2-1 to 4-4-2 when the need arose. The French defence were got at, and only a few misplaced passes in the final third prevented Germany from leading by more than one goal at halftime.
For all of Low’s criticism, he also displayed ruthlessness in the line-up. Having hugely underperformed in the defeat to Holland, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng were dropped to the bench, while further changes saw Nico Schulz, Serge Gnabry, Thilo Kehrer, Niklas Sule and Leroy Sane all start. Low has always subject to some form of criticism for opting with the regulars – Thomas Muller serving a case in point – no matter how out of form or declining they look to be, but there was something of a newness to this German side that begun at the Stade de France.
The performance was certainly much more improved than the previous games, especially up front. But if there was just one constant from their previous wretched displays, it was that the sense of security that has been lacking in the German side at the back didn’t change. That defeat to France also means Die Mannschaft have now gone 13 games without a clean sheet, and for all their initial domination, France scoring was very much in the question.
The German defence remains to suffer from its recent plague of vulnerability, and the fact that even when the French looked very much second-best, a goal from the world champions looked inevitable is the eternal worry. An unmarked Antoine Griezmann headed home France’s equaliser, while late on Ousmane Dembele almost breezed past the German defence, just two examples of how suspect Germany still are the back. Little wonder Low opted to tinker with the backline in this international break, the solution still far from found.
Germany will hope that by November, when they play the Dutch again, further improvements will show. They’ll also hope to have curbed their uncertainty at the back, which at the moment is the biggest cloud over their gradual progress.
Image Credit: Bavaria Works