Player of the Month – February

Georg Separator March 11, 2020

Flick’s men were particularly convincing in attack. FC Bayern scored three or more goals in six of their seven matches in February. Such a remarkable record is only possible if many players are in outstanding form at the same time. Our selection of player of the month hence was a close race. Ultimately, our editorial team chose a key player in attack who has seen a remarkable comeback to a long forgotten form in recent weeks: Thomas Müller.

Thomas Müllers February in numbers

In Bayern’s seven competitive matches in February, Thomas Müller featured in the starting eleven six times and was subbed off once. Five times he played in the central number 10 role behind Lewandowski in a 4-2-3-1, and twice on the right wing. In the seven games he scored two goals and made five assists. On average, he had a goal or assist every 71 minutes.

(Image by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Bongarts/Getty Images)

A “Kicker” grade point average of 2.3 and a Whoscored/Sofascore rating of 7.9 speak to the appreciation his recent performance has received. With a current total of 16 assists in the Bundesliga, Müller is still well on course to break Emil Forsberg’s record of 22 from the 2016/17 season.

Müller shines in old role

Right winger, number eight, number ten, false nine, center-forward: Thomas Müller has played in many attacking positions in his career and has left his mark on all of them. In recent years, however, he has rarely been the center point in Bayern’s attack, but has helped out wherever he was needed.

This could change in the spring of 2020. In February, he regularly appeared in the central position behind the main striker in Bayern’s 4-2-3-1 formation, three times of which he played in front of the duo Thiago and Kimmich. FC Bayern won all these three games with a total of 13 to 1 goals. In five of the six halves, FC Bayern presented themselves the best FC Bayern in recent memory, with only the 2nd half in Cologne being a substantial letdown in terms of the quality of their play. 

Now the sample obviously is too small for big conclusions. But Müller and by extension FC Bayern as a whole seem to have benefited so far when he plays in front of a strong central midfield. In this case, the share of responsibilities looks somewhat simplified as follows: Müller launches one of his famous runs by which he draws the opposition’s defense out of position. Kimmich and Thiago then play the ball through the thus created gaps either to Müller himself, if he can lose his opponent, or, if Müller’s opponent follows his run, through the gaps to one of the wingers or the center-forward.

In linking up with Goretzka or Tolisso, this has not worked out so far, which is partly due to the fact both these players like to push up into high positions themselves, as explained in this video [GERMAN]:

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An exciting summer ahead

As of today, it is not yet clear whether Thomas Müller’s football year of 2019/20 will finish in May, or whether there will be a return for him in the national team’s colors later this year. While Müller himself does not expect to be recalled to the national team by Jogi Löw, rumors about a possible participation of his in the Olympic Games in Tokyo are still alive.

In addition, this summer could set the course for Müller’s future at Bayern. His current contract is due to expire in 2021, a very similar situation to that of Thiago. Although Müller recently stated that he had seriously considered joining van Gaal’s Manchester United a few years ago, him leaving in 2020 seems highly unlikely. Müller is too important for the club as a leader, as a figurehead for supporters to identity with, and in fact as an actor on the pitch once more.

But this could have consequences for another potential signing. It is no secret that FC Bayern is interested in luring Kai Havertz to Munich this summer. The 20-year-old German international is presumably being courted by a good many top clubs in Europe, and Leverkusen will have a hard time holding on to him. The crux of the matter: Havertz also feels most comfortable in the very same freely roaming role behind the front line where Müller currently excels.

No matter how much money Bayern may have in the bank, even their transfer budget has limits. It will be one of the key questions for the club’s senior sporting management around Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidžić if and by how much they will be willing to flex their financial muscles to sign Kai Havertz or whether they prefer spending the substantial resources his signing would require on other positions.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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