Germany coach Loew's Mueller problem
Paris, June 20 (IANS) In contrast to other favourites at the Euro football championship, German head coach Joachim Loew is facing a striker problem. After the goalless draw against Poland and in advance of the third match against Northern Ireland on Tuesday, Loew faces a major discussion about his tactical approach. At the centre of the debate is the Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller.
It might be one of the curiosities of Mueller's CV that he is yet to score a goal at an European Championship. In contrast at the World Cups, Mueller has found the back of the net on ten occasions and was the leading scorer at the 2010 World Cup (five goals, three assists). He followed up with another five strikes in 2014.
To understand the grief that erupts among German fans, one has to know about the meaning of the name Mueller in German football. Decades after legendary Gerd Mueller (68 goals in 62 games for Germany), today's Mueller is, not only due to his famous football-name, a fan favourite. The 26-year-old stands for unexpected goals and passes as well as being a true Bavarian. What could be of more value on the stage of professional football than a sporting icon people can identify with?
Now at Euro 2016, it is time to mourn as Mueller is not Mueller any more. His name might be written on the back of his shirt, but inside the package, fans fear lives a suffering character at the moment. It is not only that Mueller is not hitting the target but "what gets me thinking is that I and my striker team-mates aren't managing to create chances up front", the German striker says.
Looking at Spain's impressive 3-0 victory and the flood of chances created by the Iberians, Loew must be worrying. France managed to create chances as did the Croatians. But Germany, which for decades has produced top class strikers en masse. Miroslav Klose (71 goals in 137 games) was the last stand out figure.
Mueller now in a way has to suffer from changing tactics in modern football as many coaches favour a "false nine" tactic, meaning they play without an out-and-out striker. As Loew in France has so far relied on Mario Goetze as "false nine", Mueller had to take refuge along the right wing -- not the position he likes best as he likes to come wide or as a central forward. But without Klose in the squad, preferences of Loew seem to have changed.
Loew now is expected to restructure the German attacking line-up not only because an influential character like ace defender Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich) has demanded, "we have to create more chances or we won't get far in this tournament."
When still in Germany before leaving for France, Loew was accused of not playing his strikers out of position. Like Mueller neither Julian Draxler nor Goetze are specialists for the flanks. To create chances though, power down the flanks is desperately needed. Germany lack this power currently.
Against the underdogs from Northern Ireland, Loew is expected to think about replacements such as Andre Schuerrle (Wolfsburg), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray Istanbul) or Leroy Sane (Schalke 04) for the left flank to support left-back Jonas Hector (Cologne) to liven up Germany's attacking game. Mueller might be an option as spearhead as well as Mario Gomez (Besiktas Istanbul).
Dark clouds at the same time are spotted along the right wing. Right-back Benedikt Hoewedes is far from providing the necessary assistance when going forward, meaning "right-winger" Mueller cannot count on support from the back. After former team captain Philipp Lahm's retirement, one of the planet's best right-back, Mueller is lacking an appropriate partner.
In contrast to the situation at the Bavarian club, Mueller in the national team cannot hope for help from the outside when in the box to spring a surprise. "At Bayern Munich we have the option of players like Kingsley Coman, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Douglas Costa who are strong in one-to-one situations along the flanks," a frustrated Mueller said in Paris.
At the Euro 2016, Mueller seems to coach Loew to be cut off in a generally not well working offensive German team. "We can't deny that our game is somehow left wing oriented at the moment. Benedikt Hoewedes is a rather defensive player," Loew admitted.
It is unlikely Mueller will lose his place in the starting eleven. Mueller, German fans say, must be part of the first team by all means. A total of 20 goals in the 2015/2016 Bundesliga on top send a clear message in Germany's Mueller debate as well.