For a long period of my life I believed that the Zebra was closer to a dog than a horse and that they communicated with a complicated clicking language. This was proved to me as being utter nonsense whilst watching “Stripes”, a crappy film about a racing zebra that later comes on to a hot female horse. I don’t think that Disney would have sanctioned an ending to a film with inter species relationships, it would be a step too far, so I changed my scientific opinion. Anyway, all of this useless information is helpful to illustrate why a lifetime spent on the high Veldt working with the fauna wouldnt have worked. But thats the wonder of this game we love. I would never be allowed to write for well regarded zoology publications due to my glaringly obvious lack of any knowledge about the subject, whereas one quote from the Tagesspiegel describing me as a football writer, and bobs your uncle, I’m fully qualified to tell Uwe Neuhaus, a man who has managed and played professional football for his whole working life, how to set up a team to beat Duisburg. The zebras.
So, with that in mind, this is what I would do for Sundays game, and it is unremittingly English. Apologies Herr Neuhaus in advance, but I think its time for 4-4-2. Simple tactics for a simple game. In the Bundesliga both Stuttgart and Monchengladbach are playing what you would call a classic 4-4-2, and no-one would have the sheer balls to suggest that it’s working out particularly well for either, but it’s worked out okay so far for Kaiserslautern, who are playing the same fast and defined systen that made them look so much better than everybody else last year in the zweiteliga. It can work in this league, the key is a bit of pace and a bit of ball retention and movement. Union have the players for it, and it could be a cathartic process to say, “hey fuck it if they score a couple of goals, but we’ll just have to score more”, Helenio Herrera would go mental but why not try a reversal in the mindset of a team that is losing belief in the simple things that they were doing so well at the start of last season.
We’ll start at the back. All four goals Osnabruck scored on Wednesday came from defensive errors. There’s little that Herr Neuhaus can do about it, if you train all week on something and then Göhlert or Madouni simply let their marker go free in the box. So take the pressure off a bit, and try and make the opposition defenders deal with the tricky balls, both through the middle and from the wings. Dominic Peitz, while making Terry Butcher look undermotivated, needs more time to pick a pass out than most. It’s not his job. He’s a destroyer- my friend Dave loves Peitz and has nicknamed him “the Tree”, it’s quite apt- but his inclusion already makes the back four infer that they are not up to the job and need a babysitter. Think of it as a proto-Marxist manouevre, an arm around the shoulder, “Madouni (mate), you have nothing to lose but your chains”. I like Madouni. I like the way he shouts at his colleagues, there is something very English about him as an old fashioned centre half (he would certainly fit into the stereotypes of what is required from one in the home of football), but he can pass the ball quickly and succinctly.
Michael Parensen and Torsten Mattuschka, equally, can then have the space in which to move the ball. Either forward to Benyamina’s feet, or out wide to try and get Mosquera into the box where he is at his most dangerous. For this you need Brunneman on the left and (heres the gamble) Quiring on the right. With his pace Quiring could get behind most defenses in this league, and if he can start getting the crosses in could become a real secret weapon in Köpenick. His presense would mean that behind him Christoph Menz would have to stay disciplined, but he repaid the trust Neuhaus put in him in spades against Hertha, so why not let him rise to the occasion again? Brunnemann and Kohlmann have built up a good understanding on the left, and that side should be one of Unions strongest outlets.
So, and lets be honest, that just leaves the question of the strikers and I would give a final throw of the dice to Mosquera and Benyamina. Mosquera’s first touch always was a a bit clumsy to say the least, so get him into the box where he can be a real handful. Again with Benyamina, he doesn’t like to drop back or out wide chasing the ball around. Get it to his feet where he can use his pace to run at the Duisburg defenders while Mosquera pulls them around with his gangling movement.
It’s only the 6th game of the season and, in the immortal words of the Hitchikers guide to the galaxy, Don’t panic. It needn’t be written in large friendly letters, even though they do help. After the same amount of games last year Frankfurt had just a single point too and they stayed up. Unfortunately it is the default position of the football fan. We all know what is wrong, and we all know how to win every game. Down the pub I have reconciled the bipolarities of Menotti and Billardo whilst equally being able to be pragmatic and build ateam around Roberto Baggio at the same time. The armchair is a very easy place to coach from indeed. So Uwe, if you’re reading this feel free to ignore it. Don’t panic and stick to your job mate, chances are you’re better at it than most of us.