Ex-Bayern Munich and Germany player Bastian Schweinsteiger recently spoke about the state of German football and explained why he thinks legendary manager Pep Guardiola is partially responsible for the country’s footballing decline. The midfielder says that the classical German attitude towards the sport, tirelessly running and working hard on and off the ball, has been slowly replaced by a more controlled, short passing style - a trademark of Guardiola’s management.
Schweinsteiger played under Guardiola when the latter managed Bayern Munich for three seasons after replacing treble-winning coach Jupp Heynckes. Under Guardiola Bayern became known for their domination of possession, often passing teams to death and never relinquishing control of the game.
Perfecting a style which he revolutionised at Barcelona, Guardiola experimented with inverted wing backs (full backs who occupy the centre of the pitch rather than the flanks) to add more solidity in his midfield and allow his team to have more short passing options. The team was known for quick and direct passes, often between the same players or triangles, and progressing the ball towards the enemy goal without taking risks like long balls or dribbles.
Like almost everywhere he has gone, Guardiola was immensely successful at Bayern; winning three Bundesliga titles and two German Cups during his time in the country - the only manager of any nationality to manage such a feat in their first three years. But Schweinsteiger believes that it is precisely this tactical success which has slowly led to Germany’s decline.
“When Pep Guardiola joined Bayern Munich when he came to the country, everyone believed we have to play this kind of football, like short passes and everything. We were kind of losing our values,” Schweinsteiger said while speaking to TalkSPORT. “I think most of the other countries were looking at Germany as a fighter, we can run until the end and everything. The strengths got lost through the last seven, eight years. We forgot about that and were more focused on playing the ball nicely to each other. That’s one of the reasons.”
After winning the World Cup in 2014, the German national team has been on a steady decline and underperformed in every major international tournament since making the semi-finals of the 2016 Euros. World Cup-winning coach Joachim Löw fell out of favour in May of 2021 and was replaced by Hansi Flick, who previously guided Bayern to a treble in the 2020 season. Despite the promising announcement, however, the results didn’t improve. The national team has only won three of its eleven games this season and was whistled by fans following a home loss to Colombia in June.