Who does Löw call on to replace Ballack?

Michael Ballack's injury

Michael Ballack's injury

News broke a fortnight ago that Michael Ballack will miss the World Cup. Rather than just being shorn of a key individual, one who possesses crucial experience and talent, Ballack’s absence is also a blow to the coaching staff’s 4-2-3-1 system.

Bastian Schweinsteiger would have been flanked by the Chelsea man in that ‘2’; the pair supporting a creative and nippy trio of Lukas Podolski, Piotr Trochowski, and Mesut Özil. Now, however, the 33-year-old’s absence leaves Germany shorn of a partner for the aforementioned Schweinsteiger in the wavebreaking/spraying/covering berths.

Ballack thrived in an insurance role during Chelsea’s recent FA Cup final win against Portsmouth. Shielding the centre-backs or slotting in at left-back when Ashley Cole surged, Ballack did his job with all the assurance and class you’d expect from a world class veteran.

Germany play equally surge-minded full-backs in Jerome Boateng and Phillipp Lahm, and Ballack would have provided ample cover for either of those two whenever they bombed upfield.

In the squad Löw and Bierhoff undoubtedly thought long and hard over, the former Fenerbahçe manager has included just two outright defensive midfield and centre midfield options – Sami Khedira and Christian Träsch, both of whom play for Stuttgart. Although creative, classy and highly competent, the 23-year-olds boast a mere two caps apiece.

But it now appears that Khedira is likely to get the shout if a 4-2-3-1 system is used because potential Schweinsteiger-partnering candidates in the preliminary list continue to suffer. With Simon Rolfes already ruled out due to ongoing injury woes, Träsch has now been sidelined for a short period of time: a nasty collision with an advertising hoard during a friendly game leaves him on his backside for at least a fortnight. Continue reading

How do you solve a problem like Diego?

Mr Del Neri

Gigi Del Neri

New Juventus coach Gigi Del Neri did an impeccable job with Sampdoria last season. The port city side finished 4th, claiming a Champions League berth at the expense of Del Neri’s new employers in the process.

Juventus’s woes stemmed from the fact that rookie coach Ciro Ferrara struggled tactically, and constant tinkering with his system cost Juve points and Ferrara his job.

Short-term replacement Alberto Zaccheroni also tried implementing too many formations after he came in, and after losing 15 times in a 38-game season, Juventus were lucky to eventually finish in 7th.

Sampdoria, meanwhile, found a system, stuck by it, and soared beyond their pre-season Europa League-spot target. Yet rather than enjoying the fruits of his labour with the 1990/91 Scudetto winners, Del Neri will lead Juventus’s revival.

The Bianconeri failed at incorporating central-playmaker Diego at the core of every system wheeled out last season. Worryingly for the €24.5m signing, Del Neri would have no room for him in his 4-2-2-2. So does this spell the end for the ex-Bremen man’s time at the club already? Continue reading