July 25, 2017

Is an “Emotionless” Mario Götze a Problem for Germany?

Germany’s second group game against Ghana – a 2-2 draw – was one of the matches of the tournament, and now we know why the German Football Federation was so keen to line up a friendly with Cameroon in the weeks leading up to this World Cup.

Just as the Indomitable Lions pushed and pulled the German defence all over the place with their speed and direct running in Mönchengladbach a fortnight ago, the Black Stars likewise came close to beating Joachim Löw’s team, a result that really would have split Group G wide open.

Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan punished defensive errors to put Ghana 2-1 in front, before substitute Miroslav Klose popped up to tap in an equaliser and equal Ronaldo’s record of 15 World Cup goals. It was Mario Götze, despite scoring the opener, that made way for Klose, and it was an inspired substitution from Löw as the veteran scored with his first touch.

FC Bayern München’s Götze has played well in these two games, struck up a good understanding with club-mate Thomas Müller and will probably start the final group game against the USA. Yet his attitude worries me.

After the Portugal game I referred to Müller being the archetypal Germany international: technically limited but fiercely competitive and possessing the winning mentality shown by the likes of Oliver Kahn and Stefan Effenberg in days gone by. He is the bridge between the Germany of the past – efficiency, organisation and mental fortitude – and the Germany of the present, a team that excites and entertains.

Götze is nothing like him. To me he is almost too talented to be a genuine part of this Germany team and collective. He never gets flustered by opposition players, hardly ever seems to break into a sprint or a sweat and even when his team wins, he seems to be rather indifferent to everything. Look at his languid style of play, the effortless way he controls the ball and the way that he seems to find playing at a World Cup so incredibly easy, and you’d think that he wasn’t German at all.

That’s not to say that German players are incapable of finding the game easy, but to me it’s like Götze takes everything less seriously. He scored his first goal at a major tournament yesterday, in a World Cup, and yes he did the clichéd thing that modern players do by pointing to the sky, but there were no wide eyes as if he’d truly comprehended the gravity of the achievement, nor a fist-pump of roaring pride.

Think back to John Anthony Brooks’ reaction when he scored his first-ever international goal for the USA against Ghana last week, or Müller’s maniacal hugging of his team-mates when he scored his first World Cup goal back in 2010 against Australia.

They were reactions that you associate with playing on football’s biggest stage and where each player knew that they were making history. When Götze scored last night, however, he checked he wasn’t offside, slowed to a walk, looked to the sky and received his team-mates, all without smiling once.

His admirers will say how he celebrates makes no difference or that he has his own unique way of dealing with the occasion, but for me, it seemed like didn’t care as much, almost like he expected to score. It appeared to mean less to him or be less of an achievement to score at a World Cup than it did to his aforementioned contemporaries.

It’s that apparent indifference or inability to comprehend the gravity of a situation that separates him from a player like Müller. Götze is almost robotic when he plays because of his supreme talent, whereas Müller, although less gifted, exudes character and emotion, which not only makes him more likeable but also inspires his team-mates to a much larger degree.

Germany haven’t won an international trophy for 18 years and one of the reasons is that their recent predilection for attractive, entertaining football has come at a cost to the mental resilience that marked out German teams of the past. Götze is perhaps the best example of this new breed of player: exceptionally gifted and highly intelligent but lacking in emotion and character.

In his head, he believes he is more talented than the rest of the team. He fulfills his attacking tasks well because dribbling, passing, assisting and finishing come naturally to him, but he’ll never track back or put in a tackle the same way as Müller or even Toni Kroos.

This is as true at international level as it is for his club. He’s had a good first season in Munich, scoring ten and assisting ten in the league and playing his part in winning four trophies, but it all seemed to be so simple to him that I wonder how much pleasure he actually took from it.

Injuries and the form of players like Arjen Robben have also meant he’s not featured as much as he probably would have anticipated, nor truly become the <i>Wünschspieler</i> – desired player – that Pep Guardiola wanted when he took over from Jupp Heynckes.

At Borussia Dortmund, he was part of a true collective that gave everything for their team-mates, the fans and most of all for the coach Jürgen Klopp, and when he scored or assisted goals, you had the feeling that he was also enjoying himself.

I’ve had that impression far less since he’s been at Bayern after arriving for a record fee for a player moving within the Bundesliga and settling into a team that was already the country’s strongest by a distance.

I wouldn’t dare say that he didn’t enjoy scoring against Ghana, but I would say that his lazy, arrogant attitude – which also comes across personally in press conferences – is a worry for Germany in this tournament.

He is a huge attacking weapon capable of changing games, but he isn’t a player in the mould of a Müller, someone who will help out in defence and lambast, berate or encourage his team-mates, which is what you need if you want to win a World Cup.

Germany’s defence – particularly in the full-back positions – was dangerously exposed by Ghana on Saturday and there will further occasions before the tournament is over where Benedikt Höwedes or Jerome Boateng will be targeted because of a lack of protection from Götze on one side and Mesut Özil on the other.

His fans will argue his ability might just make the difference for Germany this year, and that you need players of his type in a team. I’d say that at this stage of his career he’s an individualist – one more too many if you count Özil – and not a team player, and that’s what you don’t want in your team.

Header courtesy of toovia

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Bernie Reeves

Bernie Reeves is a English freelance writer living in Germany and specialising in the Bundesliga. You can follow him on Twitter at @reevsinho9.

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