Righting Die Mannschaft: I

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Perfect timing isn’t it really? I’d planned to do a Germany save just before the group stages got underway in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, initially to try and recreate the 3-5-2 tactic used in the 1990 World Cup by the then National Team boss Franz Beckenbauer. However, that has since gone by the wayside, and instead I’m looking to have a nice national team save, hopefully until the end of Football Manager 2018.

Conveniently, World Cup holders Germany have since been knocked out of the World Cup, and serious questions have been asked about the state of German football. I don’t profess to be a expert on the current state of the German national team, but I do consider myself quite knowledgeable about German football history – probably the history I know best apart from Balkan and English football history – and therefore I can see the possible similarities between the current side and the side post 1974, when West Germany won the World Cup on home soil, before severely declining in 1978.

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 22.42.11That’s where this man comes in. I know it’s the same picture I’ve used several times now, but to all intents and purposes, Jonathon Aspey is the German National Team coach. It’s now my job to avoid the fate that befell Jogi Löw this Summer. I also need to continue the tactical development of German football. To a certain extent, I feel that they somewhat settled post the World Cup win in 2014, and personally, I feel that their style had actually regressed from the 2010 heyday, where they were easily the most enjoyable side to watch. I have a few plans to put into place to ensure that progression, whilst also bringing through the next crop of young German talent produced by the Talent Development Programme™.

In brief, that’s where I feel that German football has stagnated since the 2014 win in Brazil. To a large extent, the players that Jogi Löw relied on this Summer were the same players that he relied on in 2014, save a few additions around the periphery. This quote from Bundesliga.com shows this:

Eight of Germany’s starting XI against Mexico also won the FIFA World Cup in Brazil four years ago, with Marvin Plattenhardt, Joshua Kimmich and Timo Werner the only new faces.

The next generation of Weigl, Can, Tah, Sane, Goretzka et al. simply weren’t getting the chances, or being bled into the side enough. This is the same thing that happened following the 1974 World Cup, and by the time the 1978 World Cup in Argentina came round, they were old and past it. The same thing happened following the 1990 World Cup win, and quite simply, it’s not going to happen now, because my main focuses are the tactical development, and blooding in the next generation. Kroos, Müller et al. will still be important, but don’t be surprised to see them not as automatic starters. There are plenty of talented young players in the German ranks, and they will get their opportunity.

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2017 was largely spent finishing off Jogi Löw’s good work putting Germany in a fantastic position to qualify. We opened my tenure with a 3-1 win against Azerbaijan, with two goals from Müller, and another by Julian Brandt – who has more than staked a claim for a place in the team. I started that game aiming to use the 1990 inspired 3-5-2, but I quickly realised it wasn’t working, and switched to a 5-2-3 system, making the most out of the extensive amount of ‘playwingers™‘ Germany possess. Julian Brandt, Leroy Sane and Mario Götze are only three of many possible examples.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 19.53.33The 5-2-3 led us to easy wins in the rest of our qualification group, meaning we easily topped the table by 11 points – with a perfect 30 points – from Northern Ireland with 19 (who unfortunately lost in the playoffs to Holland). After that, I started to experiment, and created a 4-1-2-3-0 strikerless tactic – you can see from that screenshot how many young players I’m giving a chance – that I used throughout the first half of 2018, and began to feel that it was the system to go with moving towards the World Cup. It gave us wins against Italy and Cameroon in friendlies, and Tunisia and Australia in warm up friendlies. However, the Australia game was less than convincing, to say the least.

When the draw for the tournament came through, we drew a very favourable group, going up against Japan, Nigeria and Switzerland. Realistically, we should come through that without much difficulty at all, and then it just depends who we get in the Round of 16. On the bright side, we’ve got some nice facilities to call our home.

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Not a terrible group…

At that point, all that was left to do was to pick the squad. Some potentially important players were injured and therefore haven’t made it, particularly Ter Stegen, Gundogan and Reus – who would have been another great playwinger™. At the time, I was intending to use the strikerless 4-1-2-3-0, and therefore this squad is chocked full of midfielders, with precious little strikers (who were also intended to function in the 4-1-2-3-0).

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die Nationalmannschaft für die WM 2018

As you can see, there’s plenty of youth in there. The goalkeepers largely picked themselves, and I decided to take Timo Horn purely out of loyalty to him from Bournemouth, and I know exactly what he can do. I’ve included a ton of youth in the defensive ranks, keeping stalwarts Hummels and Boateng, but including young prospects such as Jonathan Tah and Willi Orban. I didn’t see much point in taking players like Mustafi and Howedes, knowing they’re not going to feature in my plans down the line. Joshua Kimmich was obviously included as not only the most promising young player, but one of the first names on my teamsheet. Another important point to mention is that Kai Havertz may be listed as a midfielder, but since pretty early on, he’s been playing on the left side of defence for me – yes, you read that – and has been doing a fantastic job with a 7.28 rating in competitive matches.

The midfielders are largely based on giving youth a chance, whilst still incorating a key core of experienced players. Kroos, Götze and Özil remain, but there are key new additions in Nadiem Amiri, Julian Brandt, Max Meyer, Julian Weigl and Leroy Sane. I see these 5 as being important players for die mannschaft moving forward, so it just makes sense to blood them into the team now rather than later, and they’re already more than good enough. I’ve dropped Sami Khedira from the squad – having left him out pretty early on – as I feel there are more promising players available and I don’t want Khedira to halt their progress within the team. ‘Upfront’ is pretty standard with Timo Werner joining another veteran in Thomas Müller, as mentioned previously these two were intended to play within the 4-1-2-3-0, likely competing for the Inside Forward role on the right flank. The media were pushing for me to include Kevin Volland, so time will tell if I’m proved wrong or right for not picking him. He did score 17 goals in the Bundesliga this season. Let’s hope I’m right.

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Thomas Müller scores the first goal of my time in charge of die mannschaft, as we go on to beat Azerbaijan 3-1. 

So, we’re now ready for the World Cup in Russia, and realistically – unless we get a ridiculously hard draw early on – I’ll be disappointed with anything less than a semi-final place. To an extent, the team is clearly in transition with what I’ve done to the team so far, but nevertheless, we should still be looking to go far with the quality we have. The next update will cover the group stages, and then I’ll see what I decide to do for each possible knockout stage. So, until then, thank you very much for reading, and as always, should you have any questions about this save, or just Football Manager in general, then please don’t hesitate to contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey) or via the comments section of this blog. Thank you again.

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