One thing you can guarantee these days about anything DFB related is that it will be controversial in some way, even when they’re doing something right (which you have to admit is a rare occasion these days) they somehow manage to screw it up and the past two weeks have been no exception. Even before the squad was announced there’s been plenty of drama due to Jogi’s decision last week to inform Müller, Boateng and Hummels that they would no longer form part of his plans (at least that’s what it sounded like then – Jogi has since backtracked a little on that – which is exactly part of the problem). The way it was worded in the press release (obviously I don’t know how exactly he put it to the players – which just adds another layer of confusion) is that Jogi is planning in the future without them, that 2019 is the right time to give the team a new face, in time for the Euros in 2020.
With what he said yesterday, he’s slightly backtracking on that now, or just being very pedantic – depending on your perspective. He got very short with the sky journalist who attempted to get him to clarify that point further, asking if the three had any chance of returning to the team in the future. Jogi’s reply did not make anything any clearer. He stated that he doesn’t know what will happen a year from now, that such a thing is a hypothetical situation. More to the point Jogi said that he told the players in question he’s planning the qualification for the Euros and the tournament itself without them.
But given their ages, that kind of is the same thing as ending their international careers. It’s not just the sky journalist he was short with, he commented on his displeasure at the way in which the press analysed and interpreted the situation. He doesn’t seem to see that if he had been more clear from the outset, there would have been less confusion on that point. But then communications and handling the press does not seem to be the DFB’s strong point at the moment. He claims not to be swayed by public opinion or what other people think he should do, that he’s guided by the courage of his own convictions. I have to say, it doesn’t come across that way. It comes across like he doesn’t have the courage to come right out and say that he has no future use for those players at all, and instead is hiding behind hypothetical situations and claiming he can’t answer that.
Surely he can answer, because if the development of the young players works out as planned, then there won’t be any place for those three. It not only makes it seem like he doesn’t have the courage to say that, it has the effect of making it seem almost as if he doubts that the younger players will progress to the point where those three won’t have a place in the squad. Whether he likes it or not, people can and will interpret it that way. Der Spiegel wrote a pretty good piece on the matter which included a paragraph about Jogi being in his own world and not affected by outside views – making the point that it’s not always a good thing to be that way. It is possible for a person to get too ensconced in their own world, too rigid and too fixed on their view of things. Believe me, I know a lot about that.
There is one very interesting aspect of this that article could have mentioned but didn’t, namely that things haven’t gone very well since Hansi left. I know the Confed Cup happened after he left, but that seems to have been an anomaly of sorts. In the case of the Confed Cup Jogi had no choice, he couldn’t take his A-team players. So whilst it’s right to credit him with winning the tournament, it’s wrong to praise his flexibility on the matter. For the simple reason he was forced into it, he had absolutely no choice in the matter, he had to make those wholesale changes in putting a squad together. But when it came to 2018 and the choice was entirely his, he couldn’t do it, he had the young players there but he stuck with his tried and trusted system and failed with that system. It would be very interesting to learn about the relationship he has with his assistant, how things worked with his previous assistant Schneider, and what the difference is between those two and Hansi. It’s a very intriguing subject to muse over.
The fact he came to that conclusion, how he did so and when he chose to inform the three players in question has come under a lot of criticism. Whether you agree or not with the decision itself, I don’t think there’s a lot to criticise in how it was handled, I mean Jogi went there himself to tell them in person. Doing it over the phone would have been extremely disrespectful on the other hand, as would simply not including them in the squad and not saying exactly why (or not making it clear that they won’t be part of the squad anytime soon) – now that would have been taking the coward’s way out. The timing was criticised because it was the week before Bayern’s big Champions League game with Liverpool, but that doesn’t really wash with me either – one, because Müller was banned for that game anyway and two because you’d have to be absurdly optimistic to believe Bayern ever had a chance in that game. They were going to lose that game regardless of Jogi telling them last week.
That said I do disagree with the timing, I think they took far too long to both reach this conclusion and make it known both to the players and the public. The way some people are acting it’s like this has come out of nowhere, but this has been coming ever since their premature end to their world cup campaign. And just in case that didn’t make it obvious enough the Netherlands game helped to make it that little bit clearer. Now I’m not saying they ended up drawing that game solely because Jogi brought Müller on late in the second half, I mean more on a symbolic level. He took Gnabry off and brought Müller on for his 100th cap, maybe I’m over-thinking this but I wonder if he was brought on then because they knew they wouldn’t be calling him up this year. Either way it pretty much summed up the disaster that 2018 has been for the DFB and for Jogi himself.
On the matter of them taking too long to decide, that has been a frequently reoccurring theme with the team in the past year. And if there’s any reason I doubt Jogi it’s that, simply because they aren’t consistent in the statements they make and their decision making process in general. It was only a few months ago that both Jogi and his assistant Marcus Sorg said that having that “axis of experience” (meaning Neuer, Müller, Kroos, Boateng & Hummels) in the team was necessary. They said that you couldn’t have a squad that consisted solely of young players with little experience, that it was important to have the right mix. Which is funny really, because isn’t that exactly what Jogi did in 2010? He brought together (partly due to injuries and other circumstances) a group of young players and moulded them into a team, playing exciting football in the process. The mainstay of that group then went on to win the world cup in 2014, but that’s history, all in the past. Some people don’t seem to want to accept that, and quite a few of them are Bayern fans who claim “die Mannschaft is nothing without Müller.” And there was me thinking football was a team sport. No one player should be that important to the team, and for what it’s worth for all his past greatness, Müller isn’t that important to the team right now anyway. Change is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.
You can’t ignore the hypocrisy in only leaving those three players out either, Hector as expected was not included this time, ditto for Nils Petersen (as much as I love seeing him in a German shirt, including him would have severely undermined Jogi’s point in focusing on younger players). But for reasons I cannot understand both Neuer and Kroos are still in the squad. How to explain Jogi’s inexplicable attachment to including Neuer in the squad? I suppose it could be stubbornness on his part, as if leaving Neuer out of the squad would be admitting he made a mistake in making him captain (which he did – I like Neuer just fine, but he’s not captain material). And as much as I like Neuer, it can’t be ignored that he’s nowhere near as good as he used to be since he returned from injury, he’s had time to recover and get back to his best, it hasn’t happened. Meanwhile Jogi has ter Stegen waiting in the wings, he’s more than ready now. And still Jogi keeps saying “he’ll get his chance.” Not when Jogi won’t believe in him and drop Neuer he won’t.
With all this negativity one might conclude I’m not looking forward to the upcoming games, or that there’s no reason to look forward to them. But there is, and I am, for whilst Julian Draxler is out injured, Matze Ginter has been named in the squad. Whether he’ll actually get any significant playing time or not remains to be seen, but I’m just pleased he’s in the squad. He didn’t actually play on Friday night against Freiburg, which means it’s the second game in a row he’s missed for Gladbach. However despite his slight muscle problem he’s supposed to be fit to play for next week. Good thing too, he’s kind of the last man standing as far as my favourite players go.