It may be time to panic in Bayern. Not because RB Leipzig has drawn level on points with them at the top of the Bundesliga table, but because one of their biggest weapons is not firing and continues to struggle.
At this point last season,Bayern Munich’s outstanding German international, Thomas Müller, had netted 10 times in league play for the Bavarians — this season, he has no goals in five league starts and three substitute appearances, a total of 508 minutes on the pitch without a goal in 20 shots, although the 27 year-old World Champion does have three assists in league play and two goals in Champions League competition. Furthermore, this drought marks the first time since the 08/09 season that Müller has not scored a goal in any of Bayern’s first 10 league games. In that season Müller was an 18-year-old unknown with an uncertain future and he was still over a year away from his debut with the German national team.
Nearly a decade later and Müller has established himself as one of the best players in the world. However, recently he has been struggling with the part of his game that has been ever-present in his career. He isn’t scoring goals. And that’s unusual for the man has been at Bayern since 2000 as a youth player, the man who has 91 Bundesliga goals, 28 goals in the Pokal tournament, 38 in European competition and another 36 goals for Germany.
The lack of scores in the Bundesliga is troubling, but he also hasn’t yet netted in Bayern’s two DFB Pokal matchups either. Bayern have put in eight as a team and historically Müller scores about two goals every three matches in the competition.
This comes on the heels of this summer’s European Championship tournament. Again, a Müller who historically scores about once every other game as a member of the German national team was scoreless for the entirety Euros.
This did continue the staggering statistic that Müller, who won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup as a 20-year-old, has never scored in the European Championship in his career. Müller had been the 3rd leading scorer in qualifying for the tournament, but failed to find the net in six games as Germany made it into the semifinals before losing to France.
With how prolific he has been, it is shocking that goals should dry up in the way that they have for Müller.
A look at his statistics shows he has been just as active as he has always been. He created more chances with Germany’s World Cup winning side in 2014 than he did two years later in the European Championship. However, he managed to take four more shots in the European tournament, a tournament he didn’t score in opposed to the five he netted in the 2014 World Cup.
In the Bundesliga, the Bavarian native is creating about two chances a game just as he did last season when he tallied 20 goals in the league. Last season he averaged exactly three shots a game, only slightly above what he is averaging in 2016/17.
He’s generating roughly the same amount of chances and taking about the same amount of shots, but there is a difference in his production that could indicate why he is struggling. Last season, 61% of his 93 shots were on target in the Bundesliga. Likewise, in the World Cup of 2014, Müller was able to put 57% of his attempts on frame.
This summer with Germany, Müller only put 35% of his shots on target on his way to a scoreless European Championship. In this Bundesliga season it is even worse, only 29% of his shots have been goalbound.
The statistics and a quick look at Müller as he scampers around the field at the Allianz Arena show that the problem is purely mental. The 6’1″attacking force that German and Bayern fans know for his unflappable confidence in his own abilities has not yet appeared this season.
Coming off the bench in Matchday 10, as he seems to be doing more and more, Müller hit the post on a sitter in the 92nd minute. This is just one of what seems like a lot of gilded chances, the likes of which have routinely been easy money in Müller’s career, that have not resulted in goals.
For Müller especially, losing the mental edge is a catastrophic proposition. He isn’t the biggest, fastest, most graceful, or most skilled attacker in the Bundesliga by any stretch of the imagination. He became Thomas Müller because of his desire and his confidence more than any other traits.
Some believe that former coach Pep Guardiola is the reason for the drop in form. Among other perceived slights, keeping Müller on the bench for the Champion’s League semi final first leg against Atletico Madrid was reported to hurt Müller’s confidence.
Whatever the reason for the drop in form, it is now on new manager Carlo Ancelotti and Müller himself to right the ship. Ancelotti is known for working with the delicate egos of superstars like Müller, but really the only thing that can get a goalscorer firing again is scoring goals.
Müller may be in luck as he joins Joachim Löw and the German national team this week. There first game in World Cup qualifying will be against hapless San Marino, a side that Germany scored a record 13 goals against the last time the two teams met in a World Cup qualifier.
Bayern fans will hope that Müller can get into the lineup in that game and put a few in the back of the net. Bayern will need his goalscoring moving forward with Robert Lewandowski also slightly sputtering by his own standards recently. With pressure from RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin; the name Thomas Müller regularly appearing on the scoresheet again will be essential to Bayern continuing to stake their claim as the top side in Germany.
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