After spectacularly crashing out of the World Cup, Germany were back in action against the newly crowned world champions, France in the new UEFA Nations League. Joachim Low recalled Leroy Sane to the squad after surprisingly leaving him out of the World Cup contingent. Ilkay Gundogan also retained his place in the team.
The match turned out to be a cagey affair and ended in a barren draw. Both sides played with caution as none wanted to be on the losing side in their very first match in the inaugural edition of the competition.
French manager Didier Deschamps fielded the same line up that secured gold in Russia, except for Alphonse Areola. The Paris Saint-Germain shot stopper made his debut for Les Bleus in place of injured first and second-choice goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda.
His German counterpart tweaked his line up a bit. Right back Joshua Kimmich was moved into defensive midfield to partner Toni Kroos in a 4-2-3-1 line up. Leon Goretzka played in the middle of a front three behind the main striker.
Gundogan was brought in for Goretzka in the 66th minute to provide more force to the attack. The City midfielder’s presence gave the French defence cause for concern as more chances were created by Die Mannschaft.
Leroy Sane replaced Marco Reus in the 83rd minute thereby adding more spice to the attack. Areola was forced into several important saves to keep the reigning champions in the game.
Sane did make a couple of runs at the French defence but they did not produce any serious effect. The 22-year-old showed flashes of his brilliance but he was nowhere near the level of the player that won the PFA Young Player of the Year award last term. In fairness though, seven minutes are barely enough to perform at your peak.
After being hauled off at halftime in the Community Shield game against Chelsea earlier in the season and failing to play any significant role in City’s games so far, the young man has been in the news recently. There has been suspicion of a strained relationship with the manager.
So when Guardiola chose to leave him out of the match day squad to face Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium, the action seemed to confirm that. He was pictured watching from the stands alongside injured Kevin De Bruyne.
The manager was questioned about the decision to leave him out of the squad entirely for the game but insisted he has no issues with the player. But the player’s failure to start a Premier League match this season suggests he may not be in the best shape both mentally and physically. He has also not been great in the few substitute appearances he has made so far.
As for Gundogan, having fully recovered from his nose surgery which had him wearing a face mask in the first few matches of the season, he is getting back to the form that made Guardiola bring him to the Premier League. That will only be good news for the team. Like last season, he could prove vital for the Sky Blues in the quest to retain the EPL title amongst other aspirations the Citizens harbour for the season.