Opinion: Löw′s attacking surprise papers over defensive cracks | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 24.03.2019
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Opinion: Löw's attacking surprise papers over defensive cracks

In a thrilling 3-2 victory in Amsterdam, Joachim Löw showed he still had a few tactical tricks up his sleeve. A new look attack took the Netherlands by surprise, but his team still requires a lot of work in other areas.

The absence of Marco Reus and Timo Werner from Germany’s starting eleven – the former out with a thigh strain, the latter with a loss of confidence – caused a fair amount of team sheet bewilderment ahead of kick-off. No strikers against arguably the best central defensive partnership in international football certainly seemed a bold way to kick off the latest new era.

As it happened, Löw actually went with two in attack, with Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry deployed as a pair of waspish false nines. It worked perfectly, too, as the Dutch struggled to cope with the unorthodox movement of two players whose natural instinct is to drift wide.

Both Sane and Gnabry scored before half-time, as Germany made a blistering start to the match. Sane's was a classic poacher’s goal, spanking home from close range after finding himself alone in the box, while Gnabry did his best Arjen Robben impression to smash a vicious drive into the far corner after cutting inside none other than Virgil van Dijk.

It was an excellent attacking performance from Löw’s team, particulary in the opening 45 minutes, and one which has given the 59-year old genuine food for thought. Timo Werner is evidently uncomfortable leading the line alone for his country. The future could lie in switching to a front two on a permanent basis, with Werner either incorporated or left out altogether.

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, this was far from a great performance when taking the entire team into account. Löw’s decision to retire Matts Hummels and Jerome Boateng is beginning to look like a daft one, as Germany once again struggled defensively. Antonio Rüdiger and Matthias Ginter are fine players at club level but appear a way off the grade on the international stage.

Euro 2020 Qualifikation Niederlande Deutschland Jubel Depay (Reuters/P. van de Wouw)

Memphis Depay celebrates scoring a Dutch equalizer in the second half.

At right wing back, 22-year Thilo Kehrer struggled all evening and Löw may have to rethink his strategy of deploying Joshua Kimmich in central midfield. The Bayern Munich player is, without question, a world class right back. Kehrer isn’t, and Löw's defense is already shaky enough without moving its better components to other areas of the pitch. 

A squad now a little light on top class players should do all it can to accommodate the few it does have. Leaving Ilkay Gündogan on the bench makes little sense, therefore, and it was telling Germany went on to win the game when the Manchester City midfielder came on in place of Leon Goretzka. Löw will need to get to grips with his midfield, and exactly who is best deployed within it, if he is to get Germany back to the summit of world football any time soon.

There are plenty of positives to take from a hard fought win in Amsterdam, beyond the three point haul, but Löw would be kidding himself to think this team appeared anything like the finished article. His biggest issue lies in defense. The backline nearly undid the hard work of an attack which offers a promising glimpse of things to come, and represented an astute tactical surprise on night of high drama.

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