The World Champions have a few concerns that need to addressed before they head into the Euros in France.
On Tuesday, the German team landed at France’s Evian-les-Bains without attracting much media attention and set to work on their preparations for the Euro Cup. Die Mannschaft are the prime favorites to win the tournament on French soil as they go in as the newly-crowned World Champions. Head coach Joachim Low, however, has issues and positions that need attention.
With the abundance of talent in midfield at their disposal, the three time winners look solid in that position. We look at the other areas that need to be addressed by Low before going into his third Euro Finals as Germany’s manager.
This has been an obvious issue for Low since Philipp Lahm retired after the World Cup in 2014. The 56-year old has tried out various players over the course of two years for the position but none of them looked convincing enough to fill in Lahm’s big shoes. Shkodran Mustafi, Joshua Kimmich, Emre Can are the available options after Antonio Rudiger was ruled out of the tournament due to a ligament tear.
Bayern Munich’s Kimmich is inexperienced to start on such a big stage, so it is more likely he will be used as the second choice. Emre Can is always at his best when he plays in the middle, but he is used to playing in different positions for his club. It is to be seen whether he has convinced Low to play him at right-back with this performances in the Euro Qualifiers. Jerome Boateng is another option to play right-back as he has great ability while going forward, but his presence in central defence is important for the team’s solidity.
The more obvious choice for the position is Shkodran Mustafi. Even though he is a centre-back by trade, he is quite capable of playing on the right. His quality was questioned during the group stages in the last World Cup in Brazil while Philipp Lahm was moved to Central Midfield but has improved a lot at Valencia since then.
The last minute recruit Jonathan Tah who can also play full back could be the surprise thrown-in by Low just like he did with Mustafi back in 2014, after the defender was called upon due to Marco Reus injury just before the World Cup.
Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller both have a very big responsibility leading the German offense. While Gomez is the only out-and-out striker in the squad, Müller will be required to act both as a supplier and goalscorer if Gomez has an off day. There is no doubting the quality of the duo, but it will be up to the creative players surrounding them to supply the final ball.
Leroy Sané is another asset for Low heading into the tournament. The Schalke youth graduate has shone this season, earning a call-up to the senior squad, but will be under pressure as this is his first big tournament with the senior team. The 20-year old is at his best when the team is set up to play on the counter as he likes chasing the ball and making direct runs into the opposition territory at great speed. He can be used to great effect as part of a strike pair if Low decides to protect a lead by employing a more defensive formation of 4-4-2.
There is also the option of Mario Gotze who can play as a false nine in a 4-3-3 formation, but that strategy has not quite worked for this Germany side under Low.
Left-back is another under-staffed position for Germany. Jonas Hector has settled in quite well in this position and is the most likely starter. However, he is the only traditional left-back in the entire squad. The Koln player is very good with his overlapping runs but needs to be a little more cautious not to leave too many gaps at the back.
Benedikt Howedes was brilliant in a full-back role during the whole World Cup campaign and will most likely be the back-up for the position. Antonio Rudiger’s injury means that there is no third choice left-back in the squad and Low will be forced to play a three man defence if both Howedes and Hector get injured. Less personnel means left-back will be the most important position for Germany and Hector’s form and fitness will be the key for the team’s success in France.
This is another key area where the player employed will have to deliver consistent performances. Thomas Muller, Julian Draxler, Mario Gotze are all capable of playing in this position.
Thomas Muller is most effective when playing in the hole or through the centre rather than being employed to whip in crosses for his team mates, and Low is quite aware of this. That being said, it is the nature of Muller’s game to appear in the unlikeliest of the places at the most unexpected moment that will give Germany a cutting edge in attack.
It’s another issue with Martio Gotze, who likes to cut in from the left side and his influence will be minimum if the 24-year old is employed on the right.
The best option for Germany is to start with Julian Draxler on the right wing if they go with their traditional 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, as his direct runs and dribbling abilities are helpful in supplying the ball with penetration against stubborn defences.
The ridiculously talented German side have dearly missed the calm and composure Philipp Lahm brought in as a leader. He always had the ability to inspire the team whenever they took the pitch and his retirement has not only affected the right-back position but also the team’s capability to keep their heads under pressure
Adding to that, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s injury problems meant that they fell apart on many occasions and his deputy Manuel Neuer has found it tough to inject the urgency from his position between the post. For this tournament, it is obvious that Schweinsteiger will not be used in the starting stages but his inclusion in the squad will help the dressing room remain motivated.
It will be up to Jerome Boateng who has evolved as the leader of the defence to step up in Lahm’s absence, and for Toni Kroos to keep the engine-room calm until Schweinsteiger is fully fit. Though Mesut Ozil is not a born leader, it will be an added responsibility for the Arsenal ace to keep the attacking department firing as a unit. Thomas Muller also must put in brilliant performances to lift the spirits in the face of adversity.