Serdar Tasci: The other that is missing

Iconic German international Micheal Ballack wasn’t among the players coach Jogi Löw called up for the German national team for their Wednesday friendly with Italy. “Ballack is missing, yet again”, the media wrote, even though the German captain only has a few games under his belt following his lengthy injury absence at Bayer Leverkusen. However, Ballack isn’t the only player that will be absent Wednesday in Dortmund … German international defender Serdar Tasci will be missing, too.

To Tasci’s credit, the central defender from VfB Stuttgart managed to hide his disappointment well. When asked by German journalists about not being nominated for Wednesday’s German squad, Tasci replied that “we are facing a tough relegation battle here at Stuttgart, I have other things on my mind.”  The German-born son of Turkish parents last appeared for Germany in August, in the friendly against Denmark. Since then things have gone downhill for the 23-year-old.. His club has struggled, and Tasci was in the starting lineup when Bayern Munich torched Stuttgart with 11 goals in their Hinrunde ending Bundesliga and Pokal Cup matches.  Tasci, however,has started all four matches for Stuttgart since winter break, and deserves credit as being a factor in their second half turnaround.

The other that is missing

Tasci is by no means a poor defender. But, considering that a player of his inconsistent achievements thus far has already garnered 14 caps for Germany points to a larger problem of “Die Nationalmannschaft”: Their defense.

Spain has won the last two big tournaments, the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 Euros, and they have been rightly celebrated for their offensive playing style. But observant football fans would be quick to point out that Spain’s victories in those tournaments were also due to their fantastic defense. Their center back pairing of Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol has been a cornerstone of  Spaun’s success. Their ability to keep the opposition’s striker away from the goal, combined with their aerial dominance and their passing ability from the back going forward have been elementary to Spain’s recent successes.

Pique and Puyol are very much two modern defenders, and every national team needs two of them if it desires trophies. Germany’s two current first choice defenders do clearly not fit the part. Per Mertesacker is great in the air, good on set pieces, but this season has shown that he has a number of weaknesses. Arne Friedrich is approaching the end of his career, and is not an option for the long-term future.

Mats Hummels is very much the only defender in German football that has the talent and necessary understanding of the game that is required from modern central backs. Only injuries or a sudden dip in form will  hold the Borussia Dortmund starlet back, and he will be considered as a first choice German defender for the 2012 Euros.

But who should Jogi Löw play beside him?  That player’s identity is missing.  Holger Badstuber is certainly a talented defender, but has missed a lot of this season with injury. Jerome Boateng has loads of talent, but doesn’t see a lot of playing time at Manchester City. Jogi Löw seemingly has a solid handle on Germany’s midfield and attacking options, but work still remains ahead for him in upgrading Germany’s defense.

It will be interesting to see if young Tasci can regain Low’s favor and upgrade his form to vie for a place on Germany’s Euro 2012 team.  Is Tasci’s continued absence from Germany’s last matches after 14 caps a sign of Low’s overestimating his talents,  Tasci’s youthful inconsistency or a disturbing lack of “ready for prime time” young German talent at the central defender position?

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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