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Opinion: Löw is a habit the DFB can't kick

DW Kommentarbild Jörg Strohschein
Jörg Strohschein
December 1, 2020

Joachim Löw has kept his job. By sticking with their man, the German Football Association is burying its head in the sand on all the negativity that surrounds the national team, writes DW's Jörg Strohschein.

 Fußball | Nations League A | Deutschland - Ukraine
Image: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa/picture alliance

Joachim Löw's analyses must be incredibly good. There's no other way of explaining how the 60-year-old has managed to stay in his job again, remaining in charge of the German national team until Euro 2021 and perhaps even until the 2022 World Cup, as the German football association (DFB) announced on Monday afternoon.

In the aftermath of the 2018 World Cup, Löw had already had to explain the total systemic failure which led to Germany's group-stage exit. His solution then, a complete restart with young, hungry players, fell on sympathetic ears. Two years later, his latest explanation has again met with approval, DFB president Fritz Keller and his board declaring their "unanimous" support for the 2014 World Cup winning coach.

Evidently, the recent 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Spain is considered an excusable anomaly, not a symptom of an utterly failed system. "A single game cannot and will not be the benchmark for the fundamental performance of the national team and of the head coach," announced the DFB in a statement. "Joachim Löw retains the trust of the board."

'Dark clouds' over 'Die Mannschaft'

This explanation conveniently ignores the developments of the past weeks and months in which Germany has struggled in numerous games against supposedly weaker opposition. A fresh start, new hope, a spirit of optimism – nowhere to be seen.

"Dark clouds," in team director Oliver Bierhoff's words, have closed in over "Die Mannschaft (The Team)" – as the heavily branded German national team pretentiously refers to itself. The DFB may consider their national team to be of great importance, but regular surveys suggest public interest in Germany is quickly fading away, as do the falling TV viewing figures.

And yet, these factors seem to have played little or no part in the decision of the DFB to stick with Löw. Have they grown so fond of their head coach, the unmistakable "Jogi" whose image has been inextricably linked to the German national team since as far back as 2006, that they can no longer imagine anyone else doing the job?

Ralf Rangnick, the mastermind behind the rise of RB Leipzig, a figure known as "Der Professor" in German football, is currently out of work and has declared himself open to new challenges …

Captains' criticism

Justifying their decision to stick with Löw, the DFB said that "the relationship between team and coach is intact" and that Löw had presented "a clear concept for the continued development" of the squad – comments that have raised eyebrows around Germany, not least among some of Löw's previously loyal captains.

Germany concede against Spain in the Nations League
Germany recently endured a thrashing at the hands of SpainImage: Marcelo Del Pozo/REUTERS

"He needs to ensure there is a spark between him and the players he trusts," said Philipp Lahm recently, while Bastian Schweinsteiger has also voiced criticism. As early as 2018, Lahm was warning that "Jogi must adapt his communication style for this new generation."

In other words: Löw no longer understands the needs of his players, most of whom are barely older than 25, and he can no longer coax an elite performance out of them.

In the past two years, Löw's teams have not exactly given the impression that they're bursting with enthusiasm, on the pitch or off. Lahm is speaking from experience in the most inner circle. The DFB, on the other hand, rely on platitudes. Löw's work is "high quality," they insist. He will "take all the necessary measures to ensure that the team delivers an exciting performance at Euro 2021."

Unapproachable and stubborn

In fact, one gets the impression that, if Löw had his way, there ought to be no need for explanations or justifications at all. The well-dressed Swabian with the quaint south-western accent comes across as stubborn, vain and unapproachable. Unable, or perhaps unwilling, to communicate his decisions clearly.

Particularly in times when things aren't running smoothly, such a personality breeds distrust. The idea that fans and supporters might conceivably want to see somebody else in charge after 14 years, seems delusional to Löw, who exited the DFB headquarters in Frankfurt in typical fashion via a back door on Monday.

Mission accomplished, nothing to see here. But he'd already wasted the first chance to make amends.