We’re underway in the 2012/2013 football season, and Bayern Munich, after suffering toxically tyrannous defeats last season to Borussia Dortmund and the nouveau riche Chelsea – have looked an entirely different team this season. It took one of the most embarrassing losses in history for the club to recognize that you can’t build a championship winning team with just 11 players. Rather, you need an entire squad, a problem which has dawned on the club since the arrival of Louis Van Gaal, who despite his ambitious utilization of Bayern’a youth system, failed to make any influential signings.
A complete squad is exactly what the German behemoths have now. Defense, midfield and attack have all been supplemented by a series of high quality – and highly priced – purchases. Despite this, there is one player who, in spite of the overarching competition, remains a staple in Heynckes’s formation – Toni Kroos. After an exceptional season, where he spread himself over two unforgiving positions (central and attacking midfielder), the 22 year old is set to push the limits even further this season, and truly shine as the attacking midfielder he was destined to be since his days as a youth player.
Indeed, the youngster has continued to produce some truly majestic displays of intricate passing and superb ball retention. Kroos is at the center of Bayern’s current formation, almost every attacking fluctuation passes through him, such is the extent of his influence on the game and in this Bayern team.
Of course, Kroos is supported by a highly talented framework of players. Primarily, he is supported by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is reliving his reputation as one of the worlds most influential midfielders after finally getting over his injuries woes from last year. He’s also the beneficiary of some incredible ingenuity thanks to an inform Müller and Ribery. Additionally, Kroos is slowly discovering another art which alludes most midfielders including Özil, Kaka, Iniesta and Carzola – scoring goals.
Of course, being an attacking midfielder is a multi-pronged responsibility, and in many instances a midfielders influence is somewhat at the mercy of the players surrounding him, particularly when making that all important killer pass. However, Kroos is improving in the art of moving in between defenders as well as finishing like it’s no one’s business. His tally is already becoming considerable. We are still a ways from the mid-season break yet he’s already set to overcome his personal best tally of 9 goals a season.
What is most important, and most valuable about Kroos is his ability to find the back of the net. Slowly but surely, he’s honed his shooting ability and is perhaps the best ambidextrous shooter of the ball, equally capable of finishing with both feet. However, he also has the ability to glide between defenders and positions himself exceptionally well for a goal, a skill which isn’t easily attainable and a luxurious quality that some of the worlds most talented midfielders don’t even possess in the increasing pace of the game.
If Bayern are to make any progress this year and ignore past realities which have stained their impressive history in Europe, Kroos will play a huge part of it. Not only has the midfielder developed and honed his game both offensively and defensively, but he’s also developing a style which will continue to reap the benefits until the end of his career.
How does this translate to the German national team? Kroos is still being used in a position he is only second best in, central midfield. His attacking midfield role is currently occupied by arguably the most adept number 10 on the planet, Mesut Özil, whose development and trajectory has been almost unparalleled in the last couple of years. Despite what some might deem as an underwhelming performances this summer in Poland and the Ukraine, Mesut is still Germany’s undisputed starter, and possess’s unbelievable vision and elegance with his every touch. Furthermore, the Real Madrid man has scored 14 goals for Germany, a tally equal to that of both Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos combined.
However, with his club – Özil’s goalscoring leaves much to be desired (although he is surrounded by some of the very best who happily do the scoring for him) and his finishing can still improve. If Kroos is to make his mark for Germany, he must convince Löw that his directness and straight-for-goal mentality is invaluable, then, and only then, can Toni begin complaining about not starting for his country. There might also be hope in Löw’s experimentation with a strikerless formation which might open up additional room for Kroos and even the opportunity for the two playmakers to share the pitch together effectively. Either way, Kroos’ development in the last two years has been very impressive and his influence and performances are only improving. The best of Toni is still to come.
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