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Ballack, Loew and headaches for Germany

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Ballack’s hurt, Loew crippled

As someone once so eloquently put it, “with Michael Ballack, you only realize what you had once he is gone.”  The Germany captain may just be a shadow of his former imperious self, but his tactical awareness, experience and just overall intelligence was critical to Germany’s hopes of playing a good World Cup in South Africa.

However, the Germans will have to do without their captain and his bags of experience come the World Cup. For a while there were rumours swirling, that Torsten Frings might be drafted in as replacement. Manager Oliver Biefhoff made it clear that there was no way back for the Werder Bremen rebel, because he did not fit in with the team philosophy. In other words, Loew and him do not get along.

The loss of Ballack is a huge blow, considering that this German squad is one of the youngest in living memory. And while this might give the impression, that Loew has been a beacon of light and a driver for change, it is really not the case. While Loew has been welcoming of capping young stars (mostly ones of dual nationality), none of the youngsters in his team seem very well suited to the team’s style of doing things.

Marko Marin is a perfect example. The Bremen winger was a pick in the initial Euro 2008 squad but ever since then, he has had only a handful of caps, most of which involve him coming on and playing for the last 15 minutes of a game. Although Marin has been very bright for Bremen this season, the trouble is that he is not yet attuned to the Germany system of doing things. This means that although Marin has been a constant fixture in the squad for the last two years, he has very little experience and playing time to draw from, if asked to step up during the World Cup.

Marin ... still not integrated

Tactics is an even bigger issue in that Loew’s system and formations so far have all hinged around Ballack.

Loew has used a combination of 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 for the qualifiers and Euro 2008, and he looks all set to use the latter for the World Cup. The trouble is that in both formations, Ballack played the most pivotal role. In the 4-4-2, Ballack’s tactical awareness and defensive skill meant that Germany could play without a true midfield destroyer for the last few years. Ballack’s role was also in playing the main distributor, delivering the first attacking pass out of defence. His ability to retain possession and bring other players into the game came in very handy for this role.

Also in the 4-2-3-1, Ballack was playing as one of the two deeplying central midfield players, allowing Loew, for example to use Podolski on the left-side of the three, despite the forward being not so good at tracking back.  With Ballack out, the balance of the team will thus be affected, since there are very few players in the current setup who will be able to perform the dual role as effectively.

What this means is that either Loew will be forced to ditch the system of his choice, or be forced to go back on his word of taking all six forwards to the World Cup. The rationale behindthat was that Loew assumed all six to be alternates for his ‘three’ positions up front. Loosely, Klose/Gomez for the central striker, Cacau/Kiessling for the right and Mueller/Podolski for the left

But with Ballack missing, the balance of the side will be affected if Loew uses wingers who are essentially forwards.

One good thing has be the emergence of Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the Bayern midfielder will now have to take on a leading role in the team, something he has not been quite good at in the past.

All in all though, Ballack’s injury has not just added to a long list for the Germans but given manager Loew plenty to think about, tactically and personnal wise.


Written by quazi zulquarnain

May 23, 2010 at 5:56 am