Joachim Löw may have thought the worst of it was over after the World Cup. But with the promised new start stalling, players past and present and the media are lining up to criticize a coach under increasing pressure.
“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” sings Roger Daltrey in The Who’s 1971 hit “Wont Get Fooled Again.” Both lyrics and title seem to sum up the sentiment shared by swathes of the German media and an increasingly vocal band of players after another tame and toothless Germany display.
“New start? Löw’s team are continuing the World Cup story,” wrote prominent German football magazine Kicker in the wake of Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Netherlands.
As Germany slumped to a record defeat against their neighbors, the same questions posed of Löw after the team’s catastrophic World Cup defense were being posed again.
Is he too loyal to the players who were world champions in 2014? Where are the goals coming from? Are his tactics outdated? Is this the end of the road? The last of these clearly irked the 58-year-old in his post-match press conference.
“For me, or what?” he replied, flustered, with his 12-year reign once again under the microscope. “We need to move on quickly [to the next question], I am the wrong person to talk to about that.”
Perhaps then his boss, Reinhard Grindel, the man who oversaw the review into the shambles in Russia, which actually amounted to waving goodbye to a couple of minor coaches, could provide some clarity. Fat chance.
“It was clear the team would suffer setbacks after the World Cup,” said the German FA (DFB) president. “It’s important we stand together as a team on and off the pitch.”
Unfortunately for Löw, unlike Mr. Grindel not all footballers are politicians at heart. “If you always lose like this, it’s no coincidence anymore,” said Joshua Kimmich, after Germany failed to score for the fourth time in their last five competitive matches. Julian Draxler was equally cutting: “It’s all too slow and too predictable,” said the Paris Saint-Germain winger.
But not all Germany’s stars were singing from the same hymn sheet. Mats Hummels, one of Löw’s trusted lieutenants, defended his team’s recent displays.
“In my opinion, we have not had a bad game since the World Cup but have not had any results,” the Bayern Munich center back said. “I do not think we can be accused of much at the moment. We have a good attitude on the field, we are lively, we work, we play situations out. We’re just missing out on our rewards.”
But, in a sign of the disunity and mixed messages that have come to define the Germany setup over the last six months, Löw admitted his team were all at sea.
“You can see the confidence is missing after the last few months, we have lost our way,” he said. “In the last 10 minutes, players have to take responsibility and not run around like headless chickens.”
The Germany boss has continued to keep faith with the core of the 2014 World Cup winning side despite the weight of opinion suggesting “Die Mannschaft” needed to move on after Russia.
Michael Ballack’s insistence that Löw “should say that things don’t work anymore when you’re so long with a certain team” in an interview with DW seemed to strike a national chord and Per Mertesacker, a key component of the 2014 side, then questioned whether the post World Cup changes went far enough.
Is this real change?
“They have changed a few players and a few staff were removed, but in terms of the big figures, they have stayed in their jobs,” the recently-retired center back told the BBC.
The lack of new blood on the pitch is a theme that much of the country’s media has picked up on, with the likes of Leroy Sane, Julian Brandt and Niklas Süle again overlooked for established but under-performing stars like Jerome Boateng and Thomas Müller.
“Germany is just a mediocre European nation,” wrote Die Welt, one of the country’s major newspapers. “Löw must break away from his base of World Cup winners. He is slowly running out of arguments. He must react — the team needs new impulses.”
Assuming he’s still in his position, Löw has a chance to try and breathe fresh life into his creaking side on Tuesday, against world champions France in Paris. Should he fail again, with relegation from Group A of the Nations League increasingly likely, the questions and the pressure will only get more intense. The old boss only has a few days to learn some new tricks.