7M - What's wrong with Thomas Muller?

Posted Thursday, December 29, 2016 by 7M Sport

7M - What's wrong with Thomas Muller?

With a resounding 3-0 win over dark horses RB Leipzig, Bayern Munich move three points clear at the top of the table and welcome the traditional Bundesliga winter break. After suffering a slight fluctuation in the form, the Bayern players seem to have adapted themselves to Carlo Ancelotti's new system, except for one star.

Thomas Muller undergoes a slump in form this season. We may be shocked when realizing he has only scored 1 goal after 16 rounds in Bundesliga. After all, he has presented a most prolific season in the last term, bagging 20 league goals in the tally. Besides, compared to the last season when he nearly started for all the games for Bayern, Muller has served as a substitute more often in this campaign. In the latest top-of-the-table clash with Leipzig, Muller was dropped on the bench for the full 90 minutes, which is a signal that he becomes less important to the team. So we can't help asking a question: What's wrong with Muller?

Muller's dip in form may trace back to the Euro 2016 when he failed to find the net in his 6 appearances for Germany. He even missed a penalty in the shoot-out victory over Italy in the quarterfinals. His Euro slump has somewhat affected his mood. After wasting another penalty in a DFB-Pokal clash with Augsburg, Muller decided to give up taking penalties for Bayern, as it was his fifth miss from 12 yards since August 2015.

7M - What's wrong with Thomas Muller?

Apart from this psychological factor, Muller's failure to adjust himself to Ancelotti's new system is another reason for his poor run. Ancelotti took over from Pep Guardiola to be the manager of the Bavarians in this summer. Unlike Guardiola who likes to play 4-2-3-1, Ancelotti has a preference for 4-3-3 as he achieved success with that formation in Real Madrid. In Ancelotti's view, the most important word in football is balance. With 3 midfielders on the pitch, it is more balanced in both ends, and balance is the key to success. In 4-3-3 system, Muller is placed in a position of right winger. As is known to all, a winger should possess both dribbling skills and quick pace. Unfortunately, Muller has neither of them, since he is not that kind of player. As a result, Muller gets totally lost in the right flank, failing to impress for the German champions this season.

Ancelotti seems to notice the problem with Muller, he has changed the formation to 4-2-3-1 in Bayern's league fixtures with Mainz and Wolfsburg. In his familiar position as an attacking midfielder, or a No. 10, Muller finally revived. He stood in a more central role behind Robert Lewandowski to support the Polish striker. Moreover, he felt at ease in the build-up play with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. With more chances inside the box, Muller was more menacing to the opponents. In Bayern's thumping 5-0 win over Wolfsburg, Muller finally ended his Bundesliga goal drought after 999 minutes, which somewhat restored his shattered confidence. In the post-match press conference, Ancelotti also praised Muller: "The goal will do him good, but he does a good job on the pitch and works hard for the team even when he doesn't score."

7M - What's wrong with Thomas Muller?

However, Ancelotti's temporary change to his system does not mean that Muller is already out of the dilemma. The Italian coach has revealed that he has no plan to waver from the 4-3-3 formation in the second half of the season. In that case, Muller is naturally not Ancelotti's first choice in the right flank as long as Robben or Douglas Costa is fit enough. The more time Muller spends on the bench, the more severe the situation becomes. Luckily Bayern are in 3 competitions this season, so Ancelotti must inevitably rotate his squad in some matches. What Muller must do is to improve his breakthrough skills and try to impress his manager in the limited playing time.

We hope that Muller's omission from the starting XI will be a motivation for him to improve himself. After the winter break, a different Muller is expected. His goals are absolutely essential if the German champions want to replicate the treble glory in 2012-13 season.

(7M / Oliver)

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