As Germany prepare for a full-scale assault on this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, a few problems in Joachim Loew’s squad still remain and could pose a threat to any potential success.
The Bundestrainer may have one of the strongest squads in the coming tournament, yet faults are already prominent; problems that arise from none other than Germany’s biggest club, Bayern Munich.
As perhaps the most notable situation that current looms over Bayern and Germany, Toni Kroos’ well-known transfer saga with the Bundesliga champions and Manchester United may now be over, as new coach Louis Van Gaal has publicly stated, reported here by the Guardian, but the player hasn’t exactly came out smelling of roses.
His reputation has taken a battering over the course of the season with the young midfielder, who once held so much promise, now comes across as a cold-hearted professional. Last season he was the apple in Bayern’s eye, now he’s the thorn in their side.
This hasn’t been helped by Pep Guardiola’s new tactics at Bayern either, which have effectively confined the German international to the role of a simple central midfielder. A position he’s perfectly capable of playing but not one that gets the best of his talents.
Under Jupp Heynckes last season, Kroos played as a true attacking midfielder in front of the midfield line, playing off the striker and creating plays at ease. Now under Guardiola he stands shackled further back up the pitch, if not off the pitch entirely when Thiago Alcantara plays in his place.
This encompassing situation will obviously have an effect on Germany, where Kroos is very much a key player under Loew. Yet whether he plays as a central midfielder or further up the pitch, this past campaign has been anything but consistent or comfortable for the former young favourite.
Another Bayern star who could potentially throw a spanner in the works of Germany’s World Cup ambitions is none other than the captain himself, Philipp Lahm.
Despite yet another successful season for Bayern and a number of consistent performances for Germany of late, these last 12 months have been a campaign littered with transition and constant change for Lahm.
In Guardiola’s first season at Bayern, we’ve seen the full-back become a defensive midfielder, where he has thrived, yet this has led to Loew feeling obliged to follow suit and move one of his best defenders into midfield, where he really isn’t needed.
Such a tactical ploy works for Bayern because they have the solid defensive pairing of Jerome Boateng and Dante, and other competent defenders in David Alaba and Rafinha. Yet this simply isn’t possible for the national team.
For Germany, Lahm’s inclusion in the defensive line is necessary simply because they don’t have a competent right-back as a replacement, or the same defensive cohesion that Bayern have worked on week after week over the course of the season.
Where Loew once had one of the best right-backs in the world, he now has a player that he clearly feels compelled to play in midfield and risk compromising his entire defensive unit.
The final potential headache for Loew is of course the shoulder injury that Bayern shot-stopper Manuel Neuer picked up in the DFB Pokal final against Borussia Dortmund last weekend. A moment late on in the game that would have surely put the German manager in a cold sweat.
Although Germany are blessed with goalkeepers – more so than perhaps any other nation in the World Cup this summer – those talented enough to step up in Neuer’s place all lack the vital experience that make the towering Bavarian star such a necessity in Loew’s line up.
As we now know, new Barcelona signing Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was put on standby before Neuer was given the green light to join the squad this week, yet neither he nor Ron-Robert Zieler could really fill any German fan with confidence if they were called upon.
Roman Weidenfeller is the natural replacement for the first-team spot, yet even he fails to provide the same stability. If Neuer’s shoulder injury does persist or return throughout the coming World Cup campaign, then Germany would truly struggle to replace his talents.