Player Of The Month November: Jamal Musiala

Dennis Separator December 3, 2022

A guest article by Constantin Eckner.

He is the talk of the town and well on his way to becoming a world star. That’s why Jamal Musiala already has a lot of weight on his shoulders, both at the club and in the German national team. But the highly gifted player is coping very well with this so far.

In the final group game of the German national team, a lot again depended on Musiala. With 13 successful dribbles and 24 touches in the penalty area, the 19-year-old eclipsed decades-old World Cup bests. The Maultaschen fan was unable to score a goal despite eight shots and two strikes against the upright.

Alongside the from-zero-to-hero story of repeat goalscorer Niclas Füllkrug, Jamal Musiala was responsible for one of the few positive stories of the DFB team at the disappointing World Cup.

In the final weeks of the Bundesliga before the World Cup-induced interruption and in the first two games of the tournament, the highly gifted attacking player once more reigend supreme. Even against Spain, Musiala seemed to hover a bit above everyone else despite the presence of Pedri. The fact that he occasionally overlooked the better-positioned player next to him can be forgiven, because when you have to weave your way through several opponents, you quickly develop the urge to wrap up the scene yourself.

Musiala often seems like an alien in the German team in the positive sense. While the other offensive players often show technically clean and well thought-out football, their young teammate embodies a disruptive element. Instead of moving around the opponent’s defensive formation, Musiala deliberately pushes into it and takes on two or three opponents at once. This deforms the opponent’s defensive structures, because suddenly everyone huddles up around one German, while other players become more and more uncovered.

Some ignorant critics already accused Musiala of acting selfishly. Even if he occasionally overlooks a teammate, this does not change the fact that Musiala does not represent the idea of selfishness in the way he puts his stamp on the offensive. But he will always face criticism in this country despite strong performances, because for decades Germany has defined itself primarily through its passing game. The ball kept moving neatly from foot to foot, but rarely was played straight through a defensive line. That only happened in the final third of the pitch or in the penalty area. Fortunately, things are a little different at FC Bayern, where dribblers have regularly been an important part of the offensive game in the recent past.

What Musiala has on any of them is his strength as a ball carrier in the tightest of spaces. This role is tailor-made for him, because, on the one hand, he intuitively sniffs out the best (and often diagonal) way to penetrate the opponent’s formation with uncanny precision, and, on the other, he can hold his ground in tight spaces like no other player in world football. That is why the duel with Pedri, who is said to have similar qualities, was so fascinating to watch last Sunday.

Despite all the praise, there are of course still things in Musiala’s game that he can improve, which, by the way, the teenager himself openly confirms. For my ESPN portrait, for example, Musiala talked about how he is still working on his finishing game and how the work with Bayern assistant coach Dino Toppmöller has already paid off because he is getting into good shooting positions more often. After all, it would be scary if Musiala was already a finished article at the ripe old age of 19.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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