The first international break of the 2014-15 season throws up a very, very intriguing friendly in the form of Germany vs. Argentina—the two teams who recently contested the FIFA World Cup 2014 final.
No international football has been played in the mean time, so it means the two play each other back-to-back, with the former boasting a new captain in Bastian Schweinsteiger and the latter a new manager in Gerardo Martino.
Let's take a tactical glance at how this one could shape up.
"We won the World Cup, but that's in the past now," Joachim Low told reporters, per Sky Sports (h/t FOX Sports). "We have set ourselves new goals, for the present and for the future. We want to open the door to new players. We've got many interesting options. Our aim is clear: we want to launch an assault on the Euro 2016 title."
In the same conference, Low admitted it feels like a "new season" for his Germany side, but for many spectators it really doesn't. There'll be some changes, certainly, and there's a new captain in Schweinsteiger, but it feels like this machine is ready to roll on.
The team barely scratched the surface in terms of potential at the FIFA World Cup 2014 despite winning it, and with Marco Reus to come in, we're eagerly anticipating how this side could shape up.
Philipp Lahm needs a successor, Low needs to work out how he's going to play sans Miroslav Klose and the midfield needs a rejig.
Argentina begin a new era, too, with Martino taking the reins fresh off a disappointing one-year tenure at Barcelona. We say disappointing with a grain of salt—he lost the La Liga title to Atletico Madrid by three points—but expectations reach new levels in Catalonia every year.
The pressure will be on in this job, as well; the 2014 World Cup runners-up are in great shape, have key players at the right ages and will be looking to win the 2015 Copa America.
Martino's style, crafted at Newell's Old Boys, hinges on the Marcelo Bielsa-esque philosophy labelled "verticalidad"—the idea of moving the ball from back to front as quickly as possible, but via short-passing combinations rather than long-ball hoofs.
Barcelona knew this upon appointing him, so they've only themselves to blame if they feel their identity was clouded during Martino's 12 months at the helm, and it was no surprise to see Cesc Fabregas thrive in a more direct style.
How Martino sets Argentina up considering his principles, in addition to how he utilises Lionel Messi, will be of chief interest down the line.
Tactical Point 1: 4-3-3 for Argentina?
Martino's philosophy is malleable, so he (and therefore Argentina) is not restricted to a single formation. The 4-3-3 reigned supreme at Barca because that's the Barca way, but he can easily switch to a 3-4-3 look, and the basic 4-3-3 is very flexible.
There was some concern, however, that in Catalonia Messi wasn't a strong fit for Martino's intense pressing game. After a strong start against Levante, the diminutive forward's physical disadvantages played a part in him slowing down, then eventually he succumbed to injury.
Messi will need to overcome those again if he is to thrive, and it will likely result in him playing as a centre-forward later down the line. Direct wingers such as Alexis Sanchez and Pedro enjoyed Martino's reign at the Nou Camp, and Argentina have no shortage of players who can replicate their vertical runs in behind defences.
The big question is whether Martino has the needle player—a term for a playmaker who works balls through tight spaces in transitions—he wants at his disposal. In Barca it was Cesc, for Argentina it is...?
Tactical Point 2: Germany's Forward Conundrum
Klose, the scorer of clutch goals and deliverer of consistent international success, has hung up his international boots to allow another the chance to lead Germany's lead.
The issue Low faces is the options are sparse: It's the sole reason Klose went to Brazil this summer, and had there been anyone else, he likely wouldn't have started the final.
Mario Gomez has been nominated for the squad, and Low will look to him to lead the line against Argentina. But in the long term, there's every chance he sticks with a hybrid 4-2-4-esque shape to combine Thomas Muller, Reus, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze.
That assortment of forwards dips in and out and switches positions, with even Muller—typially designated the "forward" at the World Cup—drifting right to create overloads.
Questions further back abound too: Antonio Rudiger is a Low favourite, Sami Khedira should become key and Ilkay Gundogan's returning fitness puts Schweinsteiger's importance under the spotlight.
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