In an interview with Eurosport Chelsea’s coach Jose Mourinho demonstrated once again that he and Guardiola don’t always share the same opinion.
Bayern’s coach Guardiola converted Phillip Lahm to become a midfielder, who before then always played as a left or right back, during the season with his club. And for his club it was a huge success.
Germany’s national coach Löw felt that his captain could also play that role in the national team. An option that became even more interesting after Khedira and Schweinsteiger, who normally play the holding role in the midfield in the national team, missed most of the season because of injuries.
So in the end it was no surprise that Löw chose Lahm for one of the two positions in the defensive midfield. However, his performances in the first two World Cup matches weren’t what you would have expected from him.
He was already the weakest midfielder against Portugal, but then even worse against Ghana. The second goal from the Africans happened after a big mistake from Lahm and also in the rest of the match he wasn’t athletic enough to deal with the aggressive Ghanaian players in the midfield.
It was a negative development which nobody could have seen coming after his good season with Bayern. Well, not quite nobody. Mourinho analysed the German team after the match against Portugal for Eurosport and thought that the German captain would be better playing on another position.
“I love Philipp Lahm. As a wing back. His runs on the left wing are stunning when he then goes in the middle and shoots directly. It’s almost impossible to defend that. But it was Joachim Löw’s decision to let him play in the midfield.”
It was a decision that nobody else criticised after the match against Portugal but which was controversially discussed in Germany after the lucky draw against Ghana. Many experts like Stuttgart’s coach Armin Veh think that Lahm should play as a wing back again and the biggest German sports site Sport1 even thinks that “Löw should listen to Mourinho”.
Of course now it is easy to make statements like that as everybody could see that the experiment with Lahm in the midfield hasn’t worked yet for the national team.
At Bayern it was easier for Lahm because Guardiola’s system with only one defensive and a central midfielder is different. Bayern defended earlier and the wing backs moved to the midfield when the other team had the ball.
Like that they created a superior number in the midfield which made it easier to recover the ball. The consequence was that Lahm didn’t have so many decisive one-against-one situations.
It is Mourinho’s merit that the special one noticed a weak part in the German team before anybody else did. For that expertise he now receives a lot of praise from the German media. However, it is unlikely that Löw’s opinion will be influenced by that. He stuck with him in the 1-0 win over USA, and for the knockout clash with Algeria, don't expect any big changes.
It would be a high risk to play the Khedira and Schweinsteiger together in the midfield considering their lack of match practice over the past season. The lack of other convincing options makes it more than likely that Lahm will play in the midfield again against Algeria. Maybe Löw should have seen what Mourinho saw before the World Cup, but now it’s too late for major changes.