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Löw's rebuild remains a disappointing construction site

October 12, 2020

It's been 27 months since Germany embarked on a rebuild following an early exit from the 2018 World Cup. Performances have yet to materialise and Joachim Löw is still trying to put together a convincing blueprint.

Fußball | Nations League | Deutschland - Spanien
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Charisius

The Euro 2020 tournament was set to be the definitive test to judge how Joachim Löw's Germany rebuild had progressed.

Based on recent performances, it's difficult to make a case that Germany would have been a contender. And another early exit would surely have signaled an end to Löw's tenure.

As it is, the corona pandemic scuppered any in-depth assessments and effectively handed Löw an extra 12 months to get the national team back on track.

But tinkered lineups and disjointed game plans suggest the rebuild is already behind schedule. Löw has failed to make use of the tools available to him and critics have started to question his progress reports.

Crucial Swiss test

Löw has dismissed the criticism - "I don't really care who says what" - and also been reluctant to accept anything needs to change - "If nothing has happened, I won't change a lot on the starting grid."

But there is a huge amount of pressure to deliver a statement victory against Switzerland after the lacklustre win over Ukraine and last-minute collapse against Turkey. Basic errors that went unpunished in Kiev won't be so easy to get away with against the Swiss.

Löw has used 41 players in the 20 games since the 2018 World Cup, which partly explains Germany's disjointed play. He doesn't know his strongest starting XI and it shows. "We have our line, we have our clear plan. We are already convinced," he said this week.

That conviction has been seen on the playing field far too seldom. Either the players haven't bought into Löw's game plan or they're simply incapable.

Fußball Länderspiel I Deutschland - Türkei
Kai Havertz (center) ought to be at the heart of Joachim Löw's rebuild.Image: Schüler/Imago Images

Selection issues

Despite much talk about a rebuild, Germany's brightest talent, Kai Havertz, has largely been ignored.

Of the last 13 internationals Havertz was available for selection, he's started just three matches. He was the best player on the pitch against Turkey, but was benched again against Ukraine.

Despite more than 150 appearances at club level, the 21-year-old still hasn't reached double figures on the international stage. That Löw can't find a way to build his team around Germany's most promising player is a glaring concern.

Youngster talk doesn't fly

There has also been constant talk about Germany's perceived lack of experience, so much so that some critics have been calling for the return of an in-form Thomas Müller. Regardless of Müller's credentials, the issue has been overblown.

Germany's starting XI against Ukraine boasted an average of 40 caps per player. France, the world champions, had an average of 53 in their recent draw against Portugal. Germany also had three players with 50 caps or more, while France had five. Both teams had an average age of 27. The gap is not the chasm some would suggest.

Experience isn't the issue, the issue is that Löw has struggled to find his ideal starting XI and a functioning game plan.

DFB-Pokal-Finale 2020 l Bastian Schweinsteiger und Trainer Joachim Loew
Criticism: Bastian Schweinsteiger (left)Image: Matthias Koch/Norbert Schmidt/picture-alliance

Difficult times

"I can see the bigger picture, not just a single friendly," Löw insisted ahead of Tuesday's Nations League game against Switzerland. "We have our line and we have a clear plan. We're convinced."

But other observers are not, with former World Cup winners Lothar Matthäus and Bastian Schweinsteiger issuing public criticism of the national team in recent days. 

"I think it would do the team good to play the same formation more often," said Schweinsteiger. "When you have big aims, when you want to be one of the best teams in Europe, you have to have a certain axis on the pitch, certain well-drilled automatisms.

"The team will want to know: how are we playing? Who is playing? What are the tactics?"

None of those questions would have been adequately answered at Euro 2020, which would have been problematic enough. But Löw has been given extra time, and it's still not clear.

The Switzerland showdown looms as another important litmus test in determining which direction Löw's project is heading in.

Janek Speight Sports reporter and editor