After nearly 10 months without a fixture, international coaches starved of time with their players have been able to get back to work this week. But for Germany coach Joachim Löw, whose side conceded late to draw 1-1 with Spain on Thursday, the changes to the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons are dangerous for players and difficult for coaches.
The World Cup-winning boss described the upcoming campaign as a “hammer programme” that will have “an impact on health, fitness and quality.”
With three matches scheduled in October and November’s international windows, players whose clubs are in European competition will barely have a midweek off until Christmas. The coronavirus-enforced rescheduling has even meant the traditional German winter break has been reduced dramatically for many sides, with a cup round scheduled for December 22 and 23 and the Bundesliga resuming on January 2 in 2021. Usually, the break is four weeks but it has been up to six in the past.
There was some promise of respite at club level on Thursday, with the DFL (German Football League) announcing that the Bundesliga would continue to allow five substitutions for the coming season. Other leagues, such as the Premier League, have reverted to three substiutions, as was the case in the Nations League.
“I have to express criticism here: If not now, then when? You could say that five changes would make sense,” said Löw after the game.
Spain’s coach Luis Enrique had a similar perspective. “I regret that I could not make five substitutions, then I could have given the players more rest,” he said.
Naturally enough, the more successful clubs are, the more games they play and perhaps the greatest worry for Löw in a tournament year, perversely enough, is Bayern Munich. The treble winners likely make up at least half of his preferred starting XI (Manuel Neuer, Süle, Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry) but another season like the one just gone would surely take a hefty toll.
Neuer, Kimmich and Gnabry all played more than 50 matches last season and Bayern will have just 26 days to fit in rest, recuperation and preseaon training before their title defense begins against Schalke on September 18.
“We have to watch out: the health of the players is above everything,” Löw said. “Some are really knackered.”
Such a sentiment echoed that expressed by Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in club magazine, ’51’. “We cannot forget in all the euphoria that we are approaching a season which means more stress than ever before for the players,” he wrote.
Thankfully for Rummenigge, Löw had already been true to his words of caution, omitting all the Bayern stars from his squad bar Süle and Sane, who are working back to full fitness after long-term injuries. Furthermore, the Germany boss will shuffle his pack even more for the second Nations League clash with Switzerland on Sunday.
Chance to impress
“Logically we will bring in some fresh strength in Switzerland,” he said, before admitting he had little time to tweak things ahead of the clash with a team who lost 2-1 to Ukraine in Thursday’s other Group D game. “It was an intensive game. We will not train so much in the next days, we will recover.”
Fringe players like Kevin Trapp, Thilo Kehrer, Julian Draxler and debutant Robin Gosens got rare opportunities to start for their country on Thursday. The likes of Julian Brandt, Florian Neuhaus, Suat Serdar, Robin Koch and Luca Waldschmidt may be in with a chance to stake their claim against a Swiss side ranked two places above Germany in the FIFA rankings. Kai Havertz won’t play though, he’s in London finalising the deals of his move to Chelsea.
While the September games may be useful experiments for Löw, the longserving coach will be aware that, with the rescheduled Euro 2021 starting less than a month after the Bundesliga’s conclusion and just 13 days after the Champions League final, there’s very little time to tweak or train. The core of his team will be hoping to be there once again, but Löw might secretly hope his former assistant coach Hansi Flick loses the Midas touch, just for a little while.