It is a brutal statistic. Under Hansi Flick, Germany has won just four out of their last 15 games (seven draws and four defeats). One of those four defeats came on Friday in a friendly against Poland. It was the second game in a row that Germany failed to collect a win as die Nationalmannschaft was held to a 3-3 draw in the country’s 1000 game earlier this week against Ukraine.
Those numbers make for difficult readings just one year ahead of Germany hosting the 2024 European Championships. Also, while an argument can be made that Germany was extremely unlucky at the 2022 World Cup, the results since the tournament in Qatar have been, at best disappointing.
“The result is absolutely disappointing,” Flick said after the game to the German television station ARD. “We were too jittery in the first half; the pace wasn’t there, we didn’t create enough convincing chances to score. The team tried in the second half, but they have to take their chances in front of goal. We need results. We’re going through a process, and the conviction is just not there yet. We have to get there. We’re in a phase that’s not quite easy. But we’ll get out of it.”
Since the World Cup, in fact, Germany has won just once, at home against Peru (2-0). What followed was an embarrassing performance against Belgium in which Germany somehow walked away by just losing 3-2 to Belgium. Those two results came in March and highlighted several shortcomings in Flick’s system. Shortcomings that were further exposed in the 3-3 draw against Ukraine and now the 1-0 defeat to Poland—it was just the second defeat to Germany’s neighbor in history.
Again, those games are just friendlies, but at some point, Germany will have to collect positive results to carry some momentum to the home tournament next summer. Flick needs to hammer down a competitive starting XI. But instead, it has been experiment after experiment after experiment since the World Cup.
Just one statistic that stands out. As pointed out by Sport1 journalist Patrick Berger, Flick has used 20 different defensive lines in his 23 games. Against Poland, Milan defender Malick Thiaw made his debut, and while Germany once again conceded a poorly defended goal after a corner, at least the former Schalke center-back was one of the positives throughout the 90 minutes.
Thiaw, alongside the always creative Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz, were the only players that came close to normal form. Kai Havertz, who was flanked by Musiala and Wirtz, was almost invisible. In fact, it becomes difficult to understand how an attacking three of three generational players fails to score against a limited Poland side.
Perhaps some of it is confidence. But there is also a lack of leadership from midfield. Both Emre Can and Joshua Kimmich have underlined their ambitions to be leaders, but whether it is for club or country, both seem to fall short in that category, and with that lack of impetus from midfield, it becomes difficult for the attack to produce.
But perhaps it is also the general tactical approach. Former Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, who like Kimmich now was accused of disappearing in big games until he won the World Cup, highlighted the lack of balance between defense and attack while speaking as an expert for German television station ARD.
“We also have to think about which players are nominated,” Schweinsteiger said. “Do we want players with enormous potential, or do we perhaps need a few players with the right mentality?” Schweinsteiger brought up the likes of Robert Andrich (Leverkusen), Rani Khedira (Union Berlin) and Christian Günther (Freiburg). “Players who have played on a high level for years and also have shown that they have a strong work ethic.”
Schweinsteiger raises an important point. It feels like that not the player pool is the problem. Musiala, Wirtz, Havertz, and Kimmich are enormous talents. But what that team is missing now is character players or water carriers that can turn a difficult game around.
It is the mix of talent and work ethic that makes a team successful. Germany is lacking that mix now, and Flick or someone else has just one year to find that balance if Die Nationalmannschaft wants to be a successful host on the pitch at Euro 2024.
Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcastand the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth