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Arndt´s Analysis – The Inside Story: Funkel Shows a Touch of Rehhagel 

With a 3-1 win against FC Erzgebirge Aue, Friedhelm Funkel´s side rewarded their new manager with a successful debut in his first home fixture in charge of TSV 1860 Munich. Once again though, 1860 were only convincing in the first half. The performance served as a reminder of an Otto Rehhagel team. Rehhagel, the famous German coach who won the European Championship with a defensive and destructive Greece, would have watched on fondly as Funkel’s side picked up three points.

Rob Friend: The X-factor

In contrast to under Schmidt, Rob Friend is favoured under Funkel. The imposing Canadian sat on the bench for the majority of last week’s game but it is clear to see that the new 1860 manager trusts him. Friend started against Aue for the first time since matchday one and put in a man-of-the-match performance. With one goal, one assist and a dedicated performance, Friend justified his appearance.

1860 happy with a win. Photo: DPA

“Controlled attack”

“Controlled attack” is a Rehhagel concept; teams try to play attacking football, but they never forget their defensive duties.  Years later, Friedhelm Funkel seems to have adapted this style and is certainly one reason for Friend´s comeback. In contrast to the most mangers in professional football, Funkel nearly completely refuses to play wide. A crucial point in modern football is that the left or right back has to attack if they have the ball. He is a partner of the midfielder in front of him and has to support him all the time. But that is not the game Funkel prefers. His four defenders all operate on the same line. The full backs rarely cross the halfway line. The centre backs must pick out a central attacker with either a short or a long pass. And that is where Rob Friend is important. With his height and power he has to hold up the ball in the opponent’s half and try to play in his supporting teammates. The defensive midfielders, Stark and Wannewetsch in this case, have a subordinated role in the build-up. For fans of attacking football, this is hardly thrilling, but in the first half it was the recipe for success and a 2-0 lead at half time.

Aue take charge

But this defensive style has a lot of drawbacks too. 1860 suddenly played very carefully in the second half and let Aue take control. The visitors were the more active team and had some chances to get a goal back. If they had scored during that stage, the victory could have been in jeopardy. It was clear that the home team were struggling to turn from defence to attack. Fortunately in this critical situation, Friend was there. He scored the crucial third goal and decided the game.

Outdated philosophy?

Although you can or have to criticize 1860´s performance in the second half, there were three points at the end of it. But the concept of long passes to Rob Friend is easy to defend against and the next opponents will be aware of that after this game against Aue. Funkel´s system appears to be outdated, despite their win. Preventing long passes to the Canadian striker virtually removes 1860’s attacking threat. But that’s all still up in the air. For today, Funkel´s success shows that he’s right. In the words of Otto Rehhagel: “You play modern football, if you win.”

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