Home Bundesliga Nagelsmann is fine-tuning the German National Team.

Nagelsmann is fine-tuning the German National Team.

by James Olley
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Issues emerged for the German National Team after a 2-2 draw with Mexico. New head coach Julian Nagelsmann must improve the defense and sharpen the attack.

Nagelsmann’s new era has started smoothly. During the tour in the United States, Germany defeated the U.S. 3-1 and drew 2-2 against Mexico. Considering the team’s recent crisis under Hansi Flick, this result is quite positive. Furthermore, Nagelsmann has shown his readiness to implement reforms to rejuvenate the “Tank.”

Quick vertical attacks are a new feature under Nagelsmann’s leadership. The former Bayern Munich coach demands direct, high-intensity, and fast-paced attacking from his players. This has made Germany’s offense more dynamic, resulting in 5 goals in the last two games. However, after the draw with Mexico, Nagelsmann himself expressed dissatisfaction, stating, “We are not quite stable in ball possession. Sometimes, we can’t transition quickly in the first few meters.”

Unlike the match against the U.S., Nagelsmann used a no. 9-less formation against Mexico. Thomas Muller played as the highest forward, but he moved widely to connect with the trio of Florian Wirtz, Jamal Musiala, and Leroy Sane. This “virtual no. 9” style allowed Germany to vary their combinations but created challenges in the final third due to the absence of a “target striker.”

The fact that Nagelsmann had to introduce Niclas Fullkrug in the second half showed that the attack was not operating according to his plan. Fullkrug’s valuable equalizing goal from a rebounded shot indicates that Dortmund’s forward will have an essential role under Nagelsmann, who still envisions using a “virtual no. 9” style for versatility. However, the first half against Mexico revealed that Nagelsmann has work to do.

The performance of Pascal Gross in the midfield is a positive signal, especially in light of Joshua Kimmich’s fitness issues and Leon Goretzka’s injury. Nagelsmann values Gross as the “guardian for team captain Gundogan” due to his sweeping and efficient play in midfield. But to prepare for Euro 2024, Nagelsmann must choose between the fresh air brought by Gross and the experience of Kimmich and Goretzka, who are struggling to regain their top form.

A porous defense is a challenging issue for Nagelsmann.

Nagelsmann’s most challenging issue is the lack of solidity in the defense. Mexico exploited the high defensive line for sharp counter-attacks. Among the defenders, only Antonio Rudiger provided reliability regarding interceptions and challenges. Robin Gosens played too high, leaving the flanks exposed. Jonathan Tah was out of form, and Niklas Sule was too slow. The second goal conceded to Mexico was partly due to Sule’s inability to keep up with Erick Sanchez.

Overall, the outlook for the German National Team in the first two matches under Nagelsmann is positive. There’s a new spirit, more dynamic and direct gameplay. The main positives are Jamal Musiala’s potential, Pascal Gross’s tidiness, and Ilkay Gundogan’s leadership. However, the defensive system remains a chronic issue without a solution. If Nagelsmann cannot strengthen the defense, Germany may struggle to make a big impact at the European Championships on home soil.

Nagelsmann assures Gundogan’s captaincy Head coach, Julian Nagelsmann has affirmed that Ilkay Gundogan will remain the captain of the German National Team, even when Manuel Neuer returns. “Ilkay will still be the captain of the German national team. The captain’s armband is crucial and needs continuity; it cannot constantly change. I am delighted with Ilkay,” Nagelsmann stated in Bild. Neuer, usually the team captain, is set to return to action after recovering from an injury. Still, it is clear that Gundogan will be Nagelsmann’s long-term captain.

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