Summer-Round-Up: Where is Thomas Müller?
In the summer round-up we’ll keep you up to date every week with Bayern’s national players.
It wasn’t the big performance from Robert Lewandowski at this European Championships. Until the quarter-final against Portugal, the striker hadn’t scored once. And of course, he then scored for Poland to make it 1-0. The match went without major highlights into extra-time and finally to penalties, where Lewandowski and Sanches converted assuredly.
On the side of the Poles, Jakub Błaszczykowski was the only one to miss and thus became the tragic hero of the evening. Portugal will meet Wales in the semi-final, who defeated one of the favourites in Belgium by 3-1. Renato Sanches won the man of the match award for the second time in a row. Besides his equaliser, the 18-year-old gave a pleasing performance. 93.8% pass completion, three shots, one key pass, three interceptions, two successful tackles and seven successful dribbles were what he had to show for himself by the end. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, didn’t succeed with a single dribble over 120 minutes.
Already before the game, large discussions about Joachim Löw’s tactics had flared up. Germany played against Italy with a three/five-man defence. The coach thus went without some attacking penetration in order to stop Italy’s own attack. On the one hand, the argument goes that world-champions should reflect on their own strengths, and that adapting to the opponent was unnecessary. On the other hand, there are also those who are congratulating Löw for his tactical performance. Deviating from his system, in order to be able to better adjust to the opposition, doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Pep Guardiola’s time at FC Bayern showed that, too. Regardless of which side you’re on, Löw’s team controlled the game over the full 120 minutes, and in that the coach was right, even if the penalty shoot-out was fortunate in the end. With Müller, Özil and Schweinsteiger, three penalties were missed by the Germans. Kroos, Draxler, Hummels, Kimmich, Boateng, and Hector converted. Manuel Neuer, however, rose to become the big hero. Four Italians missed, and of those two were saved by the goalkeeper. Presumably he would have had Pelle’s penalty too, which rolled wide past his goal.
In front of Manuel Neuer, Benedict Höwedes lined up alongside the two Bayern defenders, Boateng and Hummels. Hector and Kimmich had therefore sufficient insurance for their runs forward in the wing-back position. In front of the five-man defence were Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira. The latter, however, had to be subbed off after just 15 minutes. A replacement in the semi-final against hosts France probably doesn’t come into the question. Another ex-Bayern player came to the field, in Bastian Schweinsteiger. The captain played an extraordinarily-good game and could be found everywhere. In fact, just in the second half one had the feeling that he was leaving one or two gaps with his attacking game, yet this wasn’t punished by Italy. The defensive unit functioned very well over the full distance. Particularly Mats Hummels anticipated many situations and was able to continuously roam forward due to the defensive security. It was of all people the usually flawless Boateng who was guilty of a lapse in concentration just before the end. After an unnecessary handball there was a penalty for the Italians. Bonucci converted and so secured extra-time for his team. So it was an individual mistake that cost Germany the victory after 90 minutes. Just this fact shows that the system worked exactly as Low had hoped. It was particularly interesting to see how Hummels and Boateng behaved in such a formation at the highest level. Whether Ancelotti could resort to five-at-the-back is questionable, but the performances of both defenders, and indeed the freedom that Hummels had going forward, are certainly an advertisement for it.
Also Joshua Kimmich showed again a solid performance, even though more was demanded of him than before. A couple of coordination problems with Schweinsteiger made him look bad in two or three situations. These, however, had no consequences and so his performance was a good one, which can certainly still be built upon. In spite of all criticism it should not be forgotten that Kimmich has only just made his fourth appearance for his country. 43% of the German attacks went down his side. Furthermore, the 21-year-old had 105 touches of the ball and won 54% of his duels. He converted his penalty under the highest pressure possible. Had he missed, Germany would have been out. It’s impressive how serene, quiet and self-confident Joshua Kimmich is. For Löw there can’t be any reason to take him out of the team.
A question has, however, been occupying Germany for days. Thomas Müller has gone missing. Certainly somebody who resembles his movements is playing in attack, and yet somehow he’s not the same. His double is squandering big chances, missing penalties and just seems clumsy in the penalty area. Unusual for a Müller. Right now, where the tournament has ended for Mario Gomez due to an injury, it would be important for Thomas Müller to come back.
If you try to find out where the real Müller has gotten lost, you come to the conclusion that it must have already happened during the end of the season. Already with FC Bayern the 26-year-old seemed tired, overplayed and lacking concentration at the end of the campaign. Guardiola even left him on the bench in important games. Yet to what extent is his lack of form important? Not as big as one might presume from the public reaction. Müller has suddenly just lost his touch in the box. There are nuances at play here. Maybe the attacker is currently thinking too much. One goal could completely change his situation. He’s still making important runs for his team, he gets involved in combination play, drops deep into the centre now and then, and racks up important kilometres for his side. What’s more is that he’s grinding out more chances than at the start of the Euros. Against Italy it was only acrobatic defending from Florenzi that denied Müller a goal. Without Gomez, Jogi Löw’s team is missing somebody who can make something from nothing in attack. Potentially it’d be Müller, who still hasn’t scored at a European Championships, who would be the perfect replacement for him. Whether he can overcome this curse could be decisive in whether the German national team is in the final on Sunday.
Kingsley Coman and his Frenchmen will certainly have something to say about that. France easily overcame Iceland on Sunday 5-2 and so secured their semi-final place. There they will now meet Germany. While Joachim Löw will probably have to go without Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Gomez and certainly Hummels, Deschamps can count on his entire squad. The hosts showed a flexible attacking display for the first time in this tournament. Griezmann is the key to success here. Atlético’s striker often rotates positions and so often pops up on the wings, though he prefers the centre. At the back, France can sometimes lose concentration. Evra and Sagna are prone to losing the ball, but France are also not always reliable in central defence. It will be the duel of a penetrative French attack against perhaps the best defensive unit of the Euros. At the same time Germany will however attempt to put a stop to France’s quick counter game by controlling the match. For Jogi Löw’s men, Kroos, Özil and Boateng take on the most crucial roles. Kroos must win control over the centre alongside his central-midfield partner. Should he manage that, it will already be a large step to victory. Boateng opening up the game is also very important for that control. He beats the first line of pressing and brings the midfield into position. Without Mats Hummels he must take on yet more responsibility. Going forward, above all it’s on Mesut Özil to create chances. Against a huge Italian defence he led many attacks cleverly. The Arsenal midfielder set up more German shots than anyone else. These will then need to be exploited and, as already mentioned, Müller will be above all very important for that. Perhaps, however, Löw will turn to Mario Götze, who seems to have been completely left out since the group stages. Whoever wins this duel, at least one Bayern player will certainly be in the final.
- Renato Sanches’ Portugal meet Wales in the semi-final of the Euros (Wednesday 6th July, 21:00pm CET)
- Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng, Mats Hummels, Joshua Kimmich, Mario Götze, and Thomas Müller’s Germany meet Kingsley Coman’s France in the semi-final of the Euros (Thursday 7th July, 21:00pm CET)
- The final of the European Championships with at least one Bayern player (Sunday 10th July, 21:00pm CET)
He’s only officially belonged to FC Bayern for a few days and already Renato Sanches is our player of the week. At 18 years of age, being the decisive player of his team should already be enough to justify this selection. That in doing so he put players such as Cristiano Ronaldo in the shade is equally worth mentioning. With seven successful dribbles, the new-boy from Benfica has seven more successful dribbles than Ronaldo.