Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Gundogan provides the floor on which Musiala and Wirtz can dance

Germany is unique because they play with three number tens. Ilkay Gündoğan provides the floor on which Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz can dance, with Gündoğan constantly adjusting his play to aid and accentuate the other two players’ strengths.

Ilkay Gündoğan speaking to SPIEGAL about his role in Germany’s new system under Julian Nagelsmann:

SPIEGEL: That’s why you’ve moved from the holding midfield position further up to the number ten spot and are playing there alongside the two 21-year-olds, Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala. We suddenly see a lot less of you. Why?

Gündoğan: My role has changed. We now play with three number tens up front. Each of us has a similar drive towards goal, makes similar runs, and wants to dribble with the ball. It’s all the more important that I pay attention to what Flo and Jamal are doing. How can I adjust my runs so that we find the right balance?

Figure 1.1 - Illustration of Germany's two formation options.

This is as balanced as Germany could be. It feels like a team. There are ways to release pressure. Everyone compliments each other well. The entire system is built around these three tens, so they can be close together and constantly be a threat.

SPIEGEL: But you are the captain, and they are the youngsters. Shouldn’t Wirtz and Musiala adapt to you?

Gündoğan: I see it differently. Unlike the two, I have experience. I need to adapt my game to theirs, not the other way around. If Flo runs to the left, then I shouldn’t sprint there too, but instead find a different path to create space. If Jamal goes into a dribble, I need to clear the way for him.

SPIEGEL: Do you do that with words or with your feet, by simply running elsewhere?

Gündoğan: Both. Many players intuitively do on the field what’s best for their own game. Flo and Jamal, for example, often come from the half-left position in their club teams. If one of them plays half-right in the national team, he naturally moves a bit more towards the center. My job is to recognize that and move to the right side, where space is created but also where a counterattack against us might occur if we lose the ball. Flo and Jamal shouldn’t have to worry about that; they should focus entirely on their artistry. I adapt to them so that we can be successful.

Without someone as experienced in thinking and mind as Ilkay Gündoğan this narrow formation might not work as well. He needs to constantly be moving in an unselfish way to create space for Musiala and Wirtz so they can dribble and create.

Without that space, everything would become cramped, and then the wide areas would become exposed because when Wirtz or Musiala move inside, there’s space open wide. Gündoğan becomes their most important player on the pitch.

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