Thomas Müller hasn’t scored a Bundesliga goal since last season. On Saturday, he had his best chance to end his drought in a 1-1 draw with undefeated Hoffenheim. From about six yards out with acres of Bavarian real estate all to himself, Müller hit the post. Such has been Müller’s season so far.
The form of the 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner has been concerning for the brass at the Säbener Strasse. Dating back to last year, Müller has been unable to find the back of the net with much regularity. He suffered through a dreadful European Championship and has since been taken off penalty duties for club and country. He has scored on a few occasions this year, twice in the Champions League and once in the DFB Pokal but hasn’t tallied in the league.
Bayern Munich has struggled going forward this year, and a large part of that is Müller’s poor form. Up to this point, last season Müller had already reached double digits in the Bundesliga. The club has scored 24 goals this season, good enough for second-best in the league. The second best attack in the league isn’t what most would consider struggling, but in big games, they’ve come up short. Saturday’s draw with Hoffenheim was a frustrating day for Bayern, and especially Müller.
Bayern hasn’t been able to put as much distance between their opponents as they did the last few years. After ten matches they’re unbeaten, but they are level on points with newcomers RB Leipzig. Hoffenheim isn’t far behind either. Drawing on Saturday is not what Carlo Ancelotti wanted. It was the biggest game of the season for Bayern, and Müller was left on the bench to start. Pep Guardiola was heavily criticized for leaving the German on the bench in last season’s Champions League semi-final, but Ancelotti doesn’t seem comfortable putting Müller in the starting 11 for a crucial league match. While Guardiola was criticized, Ancelotti seems justified.
What does @esmuellert_ need to do to score in the #Bundesliga? Post AGAIN! #FCBTSG pic.twitter.com/fcB7jcdvnO
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) November 5, 2016
There is the suggestion that Müller a square peg trying to fit in a round hole under Ancelotti. This season, he’s been deployed primarily on the right in the Italian’s 4-3-3 system. While Bayern have struggled to create consistent chances with the 4-3-3, that’s been more down to the fact that the midfield has been outnumbered on too many occasions, it really doesn’t have anything to do with the forwards. Müller has also been accustomed to playing on the right, in the German lineup he’s enjoyed most of his success in 2010 and 2014 playing out wide. It’s also worth noting that Müller’s unique skill set as a “Raumdeuter”, or space interpreter, means he’s always been able to adapt regardless of his position. That said, a change of formation might be best for no other reason than to shake things up in Munich.
The likely issue with Müller is one of confidence. The old cliche being “form is temperary, class is permanent” is applicable here. The 27-year-old is admittedly not having fun right now, but he has shown he’s still capable. His goals in the Champions League and cup show he can still score, and he’s already racked up a fair few assists. The Bundesliga score sheet is all he’s missing, unfortunetly for a player of his stature, it’s a pretty glaring problem.
Müller might just need one good game in the league to change his fortune. Even though, historically, he’s been able to play out wide the best thing for him might be a change of position. If he can get a different look at the game it might benifit him. That would require a change in formation by his coach, something that would possibly kick start the rest of the team as well, but that’s another story. Müller’s two biggest chances to score were this weekend, and a month back when Timo Horn pulled off a stunning stop to keep the World Cup winner at bay. Both those chances would have given Bayern wins rather than a pair of draws.
Four more points in the league have rested at Müller’s feet this season, and he’s been unable to be clinical in front of net. It might just take one bit of luck to turn the tide for the player who should “always start” according to Louis van Gaal. As time goes on without a goal, however, it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep him in the lineup. Müller’s going to be given the benefit of the doubt for some time, but eventually, he’s going to have to start scoring.