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Tactical Analysis: Germany’s Dutch Delight


While controversy may surround the goals scored in Germany’s 2-0 defeat of Wales at the Millennium Stadium, one thing that has gone under the radar was the small tactical switch that Jogi Löw employed in the victory. Germany now sits atop of group 4 with 16 points, four clear of second place Russia.

What was the small tactical change? It was a switch from two up front to a 4-3-3. And it was a very Dutch 4-3-3 with expansive attacking and possession (as compared to a Mourinho 4-3-3). I can’t say that I have watched every German game for umpteen years, so this may have happened before, but it seemed a very strange system for the Mannschaft. By using this system, quite successfully, Jogi proved himself to be an even better tactician than most of thought. He threw off the shackles of a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 or god-forbid a 3-5-2 and used a most non-Teuetonic formation, a formation most associated with the Orange rivals to the northwest.

It’s not that we haven’t seen it the 4-3-3 this year, however, it’s been at Schalke and early Gladbach, who both had Dutch coaches. And both used it in a very Mourinho style. This was using the attacking element of the 4-3-3 and it worked superbly. Now Löw has a new option going forward, which is always a good thing.

Yes, part of the decision was a response to Klose’s absence, but there are other options in a 4-4-2, where Helmes and Kiessling are good enough to produce the goods at Leverkusen as a pairing. There is also the options of putting Mesut Ozil in the hole or using the bumper crop of 21’s. I’m not saying these would be the right decisions, but a bad tactician builds around a set of rules, he doesn’t adjust the rules. Last night Löw did something remarkable by employing a new system to get the best out of his resources and, more importantly, get the win.

While Gomez failed to score again, and probably endured a lot of post-match bitch sessions, he did the other parts of the job as a target man. He was physically imposing and kept the two center-halves occupied. He also did a good job of distributing. It was his work on the by-line that led to the 2nd goal. The goals will come eventually, but it seems the fans and not the manager need to get their priorities straight when it comes to the Stuttgart forward.

Meanwhile, his partners at the top were Podolski and Schweinsteiger. Both did a superb job of expanding the field in the final third. Behind these three sat Ballack, Rofles and the Hammer. Rofles and Hitzelsperger were more defensive in nature allowing Ballack to play more box-to-box.

I’ve often been critical of Podolski at the national level, but it worked tonight. While typically incapable of defending, Hitzlesperger picked up the slack on the left. So whereas in Euro 2008, Janssen was hung out to dry because Podolski was wondering which night club he would go to in Koln, Hitzeslperger was there to provide cover for Lahm, who wasn’t defending the left alone and was allowed to get forward. And Rofles superb job of cleaning up in the middle and getting stuck in during a very physical match, gave Ballack the freedom to get forward when warranted, which led to his stunning opening goal from 35 yards.

So kudos to Löw for working around an injury and not getting bogged down in one fundamental system. This shows that he is much more ready for the pressures of 2010 than he was for 2008, and he barely lost that time.

Two other notes: 1) Andreas Beck may have looked nervous at times on Saturday, but was solid tonight. 2) I’ve often been a critic of Serdarr Tasci, but he sold me tonight. Not that Wales was Spain, but Tasci positioned himself properly and seemed to be the only head in the box when it became important. He had a superb two games, and I don’t say this lightly, but perhaps a season under the influence of a keeper like Jens (that hurt) has undone the one under a poor keeper. So Jens, you douche-monger…..good job. I need to go wash.

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  1. Double Pivot

    April 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Okay I went to the man himself and asked Rafael Honigstein. He said it was meant as a 4-2-3-1 but that Wales played so deep that he could see where the 4-3-3 confusion could have been found. A very diplomatic way of telling me I was wrong.

  2. Fsquid

    April 3, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I haven’t watched the game yet, it is on my DVR, but I can’t imagine a pur 4-3-3 being played by the Germans. Then again, I’ve been surprised more than once. Frankly, I think a pure top three line of Podolski, Schwei, and Gomez would be damn good.

  3. Muh

    April 3, 2009 at 3:18 am

    I think it was really a shame, not to see the Lahm/Jansen combo in the Wales game again, looking forward to that in future games.

  4. Jan

    April 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I’m not an expert on the 256 different tactical formations you can use in football, but every paper/webpage I read interpreted yesterday’s formation as a 4-2-3-1. The same that was used during the Euros with varying degrees of success/failure. Didn’t impress me back then and to be honest I wasn’t impressed with it against Wales either. Maybe with a bit more practice a better defensive midfield pairing than Rolfes/hitzelsperger and without Podolski, who is offering little defensive backup, then it could work. 😉

  5. Double Pivot

    April 2, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I disagree. It can’t be a diamond when Schweinsteiger is playing much higher on the pitch than Ballack. And Rofles was getting involved in the right channel as well as down the middle. And it’s not a two man front-line when Podolski was camped out on the left and went wide to expand the pitch at every moment.

  6. Tyler

    April 2, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I believe you are mistaking a 4-1-2-1-2 (diamond midfield) with a 4-3-3. Very similar, but Ballack was set as the CAM atop the diamond rather than being a third striker. This was the type of formation that led to Germany’s incredible increase in play right before the WC’06, so it’s very Teuetonic indeed.


    Tasci was average at best during the last two qualifiers. You cannot rate highly when he repeatedly loses his footing during a match when the opposition is in full attack. Per Metersacker, was the one doing the cleaning up at the back. He came to the aid of both Beck and Tasci numerous times, always a powerful, effective, and influential defender.

    I do agree that Beck looked a bit shakey at times, but had moments of creativity in attack. He really does look like a young Lahm on the opposite side of the pitch. If he develops well in the next year, Germany have a lot to look forward to.

    Podolski needs to calm down and listen to Ballack. He is a fantastic striker, but he needs to work a little harder and make an effort to gel with the team.

    Gomez seems to be gaining more and more confidence, he sure did put in the work effort against the Welsh. He really does provide well in attack, which is incredibly important for a good striking partnership. On one particular instance, he made a wonderful first touch and turn towards the goal, however he lost his footing and fell as he struck the ball. Had he not lost his footing, that would have been a brilliant goal and would have given Gomez the confidence he needs.

    I was really happy to watch Ballack take his game to a new level. Absolute domination in the midfield. He looks more powerful in attack and support than ever before. Ballack is a true CAM, when he is in his natural position, he is incredibly effective. Now with 41 goals in 92 games, he currently has the best goal to game ratio out of any midfielder ever to play the game. If Ballack can retain this kind of form, Germany will be incredibly dangerous in South Afrika.

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