A solid defense is built on the foundation of a good goalie. However, a surprising amount of goalkeeping errors this season has exposed a number of defensive rocks as having feet of clay.
Back in the old days, Germany had a world class national team goalkeeper who held the job for club and country until the end of his career.
But this era appears to be at an end following Jens Lehmann's selection over stalwart Oliver Kahn for the 2006 World Cup. The decision to swap out goalkeepers at the drop of a hat -- or a ball -- now seems to have been the start of a trend that the Bundesliga may be following as well.
While Arsenal's Lehmann was picked by coach Jürgen Klinsmann because of his expertise in making the game flow faster than Bayern Munich's Kahn, the changes between the posts at many clubs in the Bundesliga come after an unprecedented series of errors.
"Goalkeepers in crisis," Kicker magazine exclaimed Monday in an article that detailed the chopping and changing going on at a number of Bundesliga sides.
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Five clubs have already changed their man between the posts this season, and half a dozen recent blunders further highlight the issue -- led by the latest stunt by Tomislav Piplica of Energie Cottbus, who headed a free kick from Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger into his own net.
"The number of changes is unique for the league," said former SV Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Uli Stein.
SV Hamburg went from Stefan Wächter to Sascha Kirschstein and back to Wächter, but the switches have failed to halt a slide that sees them languishing in 17th place.
Bottom club Mainz 05 benched veteran Dimo Wache and replaced him with Christian Wetklo in the away match at Borussia Mönchengladbach last week. The new man blundered for the hosts' goal before Mainz got a 1-1draw. "The little error didn't matter -- before that he saved us," insisted Mainz coach Jürgen Klopp.
Wache admitted that "the situation isn't easy if you have been first choice for 11 years."
Experience counts for little when dropping the ball
The ball went one way, the keeper and his career the other
The statement could be echoed by Schalke 04's Frank Rost, who suddenly finds himself benched, with newcomer Manuel Neuer now coach Mirko Slomka's first choice keeper.
Neuer has let in just six goals in nine games in which Schalke won 23 of a possible 27 points to rank level on points with league leaders Werder Bremen. "It all happened so fast, there was no time to think about the whole situation," said 20-year-old Neuer. Kicker dedicated two pages to Neuer's rise to prominence under the headline "A New Lehmann?"
Other goalkeeping aspiring to succeed Lehmann one day are not doing so well either, with Bremen's Tim Wiese, Robert Enke of Hanover, Dortmund's Roman Weidenfeller and Simon Jentzsch of Wolfsburg not flawless last weekend.
No goalie crisis, claims national keeper coach
Germany goalkeeper coach Andreas Köpke dismissed the idea that the series of errors could have a negative effect on the national team which in the past has seen such greats as Kahn, Toni Schumacher, Sepp Maier and Köpke himself.
"I see no reason to believe that the quality of goalkeepers is declining," said Köpke.