Potential Worth Mülling Over

Thomas Müller is in a somewhat strange position. It seems odd to say of a player of such magnificent talent, but he has become something of a utility player for Bayern Munich. His ability to play in any of the four advanced positions has seen him used across the forward line, but predominantly behind the main centre forward or on the right hand side. Curiously, although he is the only player (including goalkeepers) to have featured in every Bundesliga game since the start of the 2009/10 season, he has voiced some reservations about his “situation“, which are strangely understandable.


Müller’s role has become somewhat uncertain since the emergence of Toni Kroos, who can play in a deeper midfield pair or as a number 10. Bayern barely had a full squad at any point last year: Bastian Schweinsteiger’s dislocated shoulder saw Kroos get numerous chances further back and Müller behind Mario Gomez, while a long term injury to Arjen Robben saw him get time on the right, as well. It is unknown, at this stage, whether he is will be first choice when the squad is full. On the few big occasions in which they have had no notable absentees, the DFB-Pokal final against Borussia Dortmund and the Champions League semi final legs against Real Madrid, Jupp Heynckes chose Kroos, perhaps illustrating he has greater faith in the 22 year old. His versatility means a decent amount of playing time will always be forthcoming, but he is too good a player to be a seat-filler, even at one of the best clubs in the world.


There is a big question as to where his future lies, positionally. He has shown he has the qualities for the wings and to play as an attacking midfielder; he has pace, strength and very good technique. He can modulate between being a tremendously direct counterattacking outlet to being a team’s central creator. He’s a brilliantly clever player, and his greatest asset is his phenomenal off-the-ball movement. When deployed on the wing he tends to roam inside and similarly drift wide when played centrally, dragging his markers around the pitch, creating masses of space for himself and the rest of the team. If the essence of attacking play lies in the ability to exploit space both with and without the ball, Müller is a master.


He has suffered for occasional profligacy in front of goal, but with his relative youth there is more than enough time for him to rectify this. His movement dictates that he will always get plenty of opportunities. He is very like Robin van Persie, in that sense; he was well-trained as both winger and number 10 when the time finally came to become a central striker. They share great intelligence, as well as a similar physique. Despite Müller’s technical inferiority, his ability to locate space is even better. The Dutchman is also quite a wasteful player, but he more than makes up for this flaw with his positioning and ability to create space for team mates. If the German were given a run as a ‘number 9’, he could become a striker as complete and maybe even better than the Dutchman.


But for Bayern, he is extremely unlikely to be given time in the position, with Mario Gomez, Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizzaro all ahead of him in the pecking order for the role. With the uncertainty over his place at the club, his disagreements with key players Robben and Franck Ribéry and the fact that his contract expires in 2015, perhaps he will end up leaving the club he supported since childhood and played for since he was 10 years old for the good of his career, if he cannot be assured of first team football when the squad is full. He has had a fantastic start to this season, amassing 4 goals and 5 assists in 6 league games – almost as many as he managed all last season (7 and 7). If utilised correctly, he could become one of the best.


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