LOSING 6-0 would normally prompt drastic action and kneejerk reactions in football boardrooms. In the football world of today, directors and owners have a particularly low threshold of tolerance. Hence, managers are often sent to the gallows prematurely even though change sometimes brings no improvement.
It is fair to say that Joachim Löw, Germany’s coach since 2006, is under pressure right now. Die Mannschaft have not lived up to the high standards the country expects of its football team.
Since the start of 2018, Germany have lost eight games, including six in 2018. Their performance in the World Cup, which saw them lose two of three fixtures and crash out at the group stage, started whispers that Löw’s time might be coming to an end. They failed to win a single Nations League game in 2019 but qualified for Euro 2020, where they will face a veritable “group of death” against France, Portugal and Hungary.
The defeat against Spain confirmed Germany’s elimination in the Nations League, but with Euro 2020 on the horizon, and qualifiers for the World Cup 2022 (draw to be made December 3), DFB officials may be a little nervous about the medium-term future. The Euro group will be no place for faint hearts or teams lacking confidence, on and off the pitch.
It was a really bad day for us – Löw
There is no great logic behind such a humbling defeat, it was about as unexpected as Barcelona’s drubbing against Bayern Munich a few months ago in the Champions League. The German side included Timo Werner, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané, as well as Kroos and Goretzka.
As one newspaper (Die Zeit) said as the post-mortem began: “Not much has changed since 2018, the team almost never convinces. With the personnel at his disposal, you should not go down 6-0 even to a technically outstanding Spain side.”
Generally, the media was negative about Löw and a reader poll conducted by Kickerrevealed 94% feel he is no longer the man for the job. Even so, some publications were still giving him the benefit of the doubt, claiming the team had let down the coach.
The general view was that Germany were terrible in Spain, conjuring up just two shots to Spain’s 23 and commanding just 30% of possession. It was their worst defeat since 1931. Little wonder that Löw reacted: “It was a really bad day for us…nothing worked out….neither attack or defence worked well for us.”
Löw’s win rate as national team coach is 64.4%, which is higher than legendary German coach Helmut Schön (62.59%) and certainly better than England’s Gareth Southgate (59.2%) and Spain’s Luis Enrique (53.33%) but lower than Didier Deschamps of France (65.7%), Belgium’s Roberto Martinez (78%) and Italy’s Roberto Mancini (66.67%). Crucially, it is Löw’s post-World Cup record that will concern people, a win rate of just 45%.
Football is a cyclical industry and Löw has had a good run – 14 years is remarkable in the modern game. The call for Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp to replace Löw is, at this stage, relatively muted, but the DFB and German fans may be afraid of missing out on arguably the most charismatic coach in world football.
Klopp is at his peak as a manager and still has four years to run of his current contract. If he stays at Liverpool until then, he would have completed nine years as coach. It would seem unlikely that he will go the distance – for all his success and popularity, nothing lasts forever and Ferguson/Wenger-type dynasties are a thing of the past. Furthermore, Klopp’s approach and work ethic means he may need a rest before then.
Klopp has said he wants to return to Germany at some stage and the national role would seem to be the most natural move. However, the timing is not right and he will surely feel there is unfinished business. Certainly, you cannot imagine Klopp moving to another Premier League club – at least not directly from Liverpool. Nevertheless, old hands like Lothar Matthäus believe Klopp is the only man who can take the role from Löw.
Meanwhile, Löw has received the dreaded vote of confidence from the DFB. German football rarely moves quickly to replace managers and it is worth noting that since Schön’s departure in 1978, they have had seven full-time managers. By contrast, since Sir Alf Ramsey was sacked in 1974, England have had 13 full-time and a number of caretakers.
It is very much a case of careful observation over the next few months. The DFB will not be happy if things have not stabilised as the Euros draw closer. But if Germany perform well in the delayed championship, then they may bide their time. If, however, the malaise continues, they may decide to cut their losses ahead of the World Cup qualifiers. Prising Klopp away from Liverpool may prove difficult, but it depends if patriotism tugs away at the heart strings. If he does return to Germany, a 60 year-old with a Beatle haircut might be a good fit on the banks of the Mersey!
Photo: PA Images