Monday, July 5th, 2021
Where did all the strikers go?
Flick’s gigantic Germany problem
At FC Bayern, Thomas Müller was one of the most important players for coach Hansi Flick. The loudspeaker was not noticed at the European Championships. That was also due to the lack of a real striker. A problem that will remain. Coach legend Arsene Wenger has doubts about the German training for young talents.
Even Hansi Flick will not be able to remove this cardinal problem with a snap of his finger. It doesn’t work without goals from a striker! The current European Football Championship proves this again emphatically. And the former center forward nation Germany was not only bare in the front in the early knockout stage against England. Looking at the upcoming World Cup in Qatar in November 2022, it doesn’t look good either. The most dangerous attacker in Joachim Löw’s 26-man squad was the two-time goalscorer Kai Havertz – an attacking midfielder, not a storm edge.
Oliver Bierhoff, Germany’s golden goal scorer in the European Championship triumph 25 years ago in the Wembley final against the Czech Republic, addressed the problem again as the national team director. The 53-year-old has been missing his own successor for a long time. “The killer instinct is missing,” said Bierhoff the day after the 2-0 draw against England when he had to draw the next disappointing tournament summary with Löw. “Sometimes we don’t have any players in the penalty area either,” said Bierhoff, one of the reasons for the German fall into mediocrity.
Wenger makes a tough judgment
The former Arsenal master coach Arsene Wenger sees it that way. In “Kicker” he names the German storm as the major weak point. “In the past, the national team always had great strikers like Gerd Müller, Uwe Seeler, Horst Hrubesch, Klaus Fischer, Jürgen Klinsmann, Oliver Bierhoff … that is no longer the case today,” said the 71-year-old. “Who is playing in the storm at the two big German clubs? Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski.”
Wenger’s judgment is devastating: “Germany has to question itself whether the youth work is really right when you once had a lot of good strikers and no longer today.” It looks different with other nations. England has Harry Kane (3 EM goals) as the angular target player in the attacking center, Italy Ciro Immobile (2), Spain Alvaro Morata (2). The Danes, next to the big three the fourth EM semi-finalist, can offer Kasper Dolberg (3) or Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen (2) in the lead. Farther than Germany, other nations came with a clipper up front; The Czech Republic with Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick (5), the Belgians with crusher Romelu Lukaku (4) or Switzerland with the former Frankfurt Haris Seferovic, who scored three times.
The German group opponents Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo (5 goals) and France with Karim Benzema (4), who also failed in the round of 16, had at least successful strikers in their team.
Bierhoff demands time
“We have to improve in one position or the other. We have to tackle that,” said Bierhoff, who does not only see the association as a challenge. “That is where German football has to team up.” The DFB has already started to tackle the striker problem in the youth work. But Bierhoff knows that such processes take time: “These are measures that do not take effect overnight.”
Flick lived in paradise as head coach at FC Bayern for a year and a half. There he had Robert Lewandowski, currently the world’s best center forward. The Pole was almost a title guarantee for Flick. The Bayern system as a blueprint – it won’t go on as simple as that for the 56-year-old title collector Flick in the DFB service.
The center-forward problem for the national team is not one that came out of nowhere. Mats Hummels named it after the semi-finals at the EM 2016 against hosts France. When the then suspended defender was asked after the 2-0 draw in Marseille what was particularly missing, Hummels replied: “Above all, someone was missing to shoot the ball.” By the way: France’s match winner five years ago was a certain Antoine Griezmann. He defeated Manuel Neuer twice. Griezmann’s position is on the attack.
The manhunt is ongoing
Germany, the nation of great center forwards such as Uwe Seeler, Gerd Müller, Jürgen Klinsmann, Rudi Völler or Bierhoff, has been looking for a classic goal getter since the retirement of record scorer Miroslav Klose after winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “We have been dealing with this for a long time,” said Bierhoff, who is also responsible for the youth teams in the association: “These are trends that I have not only been addressing for six months.”
For years, Löw had a soft spot for Made in Spain football, both for the Spanish national team and for FC Barcelona. So the wrong nine also became the model for the DFB selection. Mario Götze embodied this role in Löw’s DFB world, sometimes also Marco Reus. Götze shot Germany and Löw to the world title in 2014, which had an effect.
Flick will have to improvise when he starts as a national coach. For example with Serge Gnabry, who attacked him on the wing in Munich. He could also rely on Timo Werner, who once started furiously with goals in the national jersey as a center forward, but somehow lost his way. In addition, a perspective player like Lukas Nmecha (22) could come. The 1.85-meter-tall center forward from Manchester City, who was last loaned to RSC Anderlecht, became European champion with the German U21 team this summer.