The last time we asked this question it was for Spain and the answer turned out to be a yes. Spain were the the first national team go in without a recognised striker in a major tournament . So will Germany do the same?
Against Kazakhstan, Joachim Loew played Mario Goetze up front on his own. Goetze, an attacking midfielder who can play on the wings, played as a false 9. This decision to play without a recognised striker made perfect sense as Germany have an abundance of attacking midfielders just like Spain. And Germany not having a world class ‘all round’ striker means it makes Loew’s decision a lot more easier. Mario Gomez may be deadly before goal, but his all round ability is not up to the mark. Against Italy in the Euro 2012 semi final, Gomez’s shortfalls were clearly visible as Germany struggled to break down the Italian defence. This is the reason why Miroslav Klose was being preferred to the Bayern Munich striker in the initial stages of the tournament.
Although Loew insisted that they will continue to use a traditional striker, Germany will look to make changes to their system which saw them lose to Spain and Italy in the world cup and the Euro respectively. In both the games, Germany’s attack hardly made any dent in the opposition’s defence. But the way Germany was playing was a lot different in both the games. In the world cup, the Germans were more of a reactive side. They waited for sides to attack them and then hit them on the break. This worked wonderfully well against England and Argentina. But when up against Spain, when they conceded the first goal, they struggled to break down an organised defence who denied them any space. Against Italy, however, it was a different story. Loew tinkered with his system to play Kroos along with Ozil in midfield to counter Italy’s diamond. No one knows what would have had happened if Loew had decided to stick to his original plan. But Gomez’s lack of involvement and also the fact that they lost out in midfield with Pirlo dictating play, was the reason for their downfall.
In Khedira and Schweinsteiger, they have a world class double pivot who have an excellent understanding with Mesut Ozil. Thomas Muller, to a naive football supporter, may not seem to do much. But he has a knack of being in the correct position at the correct time. Also, the fact that he is a good and intelligent finisher is a bonus as it gives Germany the option of switching Goetze and Muller, increasing the fluidity of the front four. In Reus, they have another exciting talent who can play on the left, who too can take up advanced positions and finish neatly.
So, a fluid front four, backed by a solid double pivot who too can join attacks and make use of the space provided should be the answer to Germany’s problems of choking when it matters. Loew certainly will have this in mind when he next makes his team selection, although he did mention that playing with a established striker only makes sense, as you want the few chances you create at international level to fall to you best finisher. But Spain have proved that playing without a striker is successful, and although you can say that Barcelona did that before, they did it with Lionel Messi. In Mario Goetze, Germany have got someone who is between a perfect central midfielder like Cesc Fabregas and a natural striker. Also, with Mario Gomez on the bench, Germany can always change to a plan B which Spain currently lack. So, although playing with Goetze seems like a logical move, it will take time and hours on the training ground to make it work on the pitch. And Loew knows that as a national team coach, he doesn’t have both. So it remains to be seen whether he opts for the usual 4-2-3-1 or he plays with a false 9.