When the eventual Confederations Cup champions Germany announced their roster for the upcoming friendlies and the tournament itself, it was no surprise to see many of the familiar faces omitted from the squad. The likes of Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos and Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller were all rested after their grueling club campaigns and due to the fact that they all featured for Germany in the Euros last summer.
All of the stars left out of the team have a lot to gain from the prolonged period of rest that is even longer than the Bundesliga’s annual winter break, and Müller certainly fits into this category after coming off of what appeared to be one of his worst seasons, in which he followed a 20 goal season with a paltry five scored in league play last season (nine goals in 42 matches in all competitions). Articles abounded about his lack of scoring, and even Bayern executives have declared that the 6’1″ star must do better in 2017 -2018. But besides his goal scoring drought, which included a scoreless streak of almost 1000 minutes, Müller had plenty of positives to take away from what was still an impressive season.
Yes, His Goalscoring Was Down
The goalscoring drought that Müller had this season is part of why his lack of goals stands out right from the onset. The German had scored double-digit Bundesliga goals in all but one season before this past campaign — the 2011-12 season was the last time he didn’t notch double digits. Furthermore, the 20 goals he had in 2015-16 was a career high for him in the Bundesliga, which is why his sudden inability to score this past year was even more shocking.
Besides his dramatic dip in goals, Müller also had a dip in shots, as the German averaged only 2.2 shots per game this past season. While that is still a good amount of shots, he averaged 3 shots per game two seasons ago and 2.6 per game before that, and his 2.2 per game was his lowest since that 2011-12 season. That significant dip in shots per game from one season to another displays that perhaps Müller either wasn’t confident because of his lack of goals and shot less as a result, or he wasn’t looking to score as much. With his at times ruthless scoring ability and his hunger on the pitch, the first scenario is most likely the cause for such a drastic fall in shots per game. But, even though the amount of goals he scored was certainly underwhelming, and he was shooting much less that he has in the past, Müller showed his versatility as a player by impacting the game in other areas.
Improvement As a Passer
Passing is something that can be overlooked when evaluating a player with a goalscoring track record like Müller’s, which is why a lot of people looked past the 12 assists that he compiled last year. The German ended up with seven more assists that he had two seasons ago and his total was second in the Bundesliga, which shows that his goalscoring form didn’t prevent Müller from having an impact on the game. And his assist total was a career high for the 27 year-old, beating out his previous high of 11, a total he achieved several years ago in 2010-11 and again in 2012-13.
His most impactful season as a passer is part of the reason why despite Muller’s goal total being cut drastically from 2015-16 to this past season, Bayern as a team actually scored nine more goals in the previous campaign than they did two years ago. While that stat definitely says a lot about Robert Lewandowski and his ability to score goals, it also displays the influence that Müller had due to his passing. Nine more goals in a season is a solid increase, and since Lewandowski has bagged 30 goals in each of the last two seasons, Müller’s impact as a passer has to be one of the main reasons for Bayern’s goal increase.
Besides having his career high in the main passing stat that is assists, Müller was also impressive in other areas in the passing game. This is made clear by the fact that the Bayern man compiled 2.1 key passes per game, which was a career high for him in the Bundesliga. He also averaged 36.5 passes per game, and that was also a career high for Müller in the league season. Since assists are also dependent on a teammate scoring, some would say that his increase in assists doesn’t mean a lot. But these passing stats prove that he wasn’t just getting assists, as the German international’s overall contribution as a passer improved as well this season.
Where it Stacks Up
Clearly Müller’s goal output and his shots per game saw a definitive decrease from two seasons ago, but his passing was better than ever as his 12 assists, 2.2 key passes and his 36.5 passes per game displayed. With that being said, how does this past season compare with the other seasons of the man who has been at Bayern since 2000?
His 7.30 WhoScored.com match rating was actually better than his 2014-15 mark of 7.27, even though he scored 13 goals that year. Müller’s match rating was close to his 2013-14 mark of 7.36, and it was approaching his 2010-11 rating of 7.37. His clip was also very close to his 7.31 mark in 2011-12, and it wasn’t too far off from his 2009-10 rating of 7.39. Even though his match rating was clearly worse that his 2015-16 total of 7.49, his 7.30 match rating wasn’t much worse than other seasons in his career. Also, his average match rating for his entire career in all competitions stands at 7.33, which shows that he was almost equivalent to his normal level of effectiveness as a player despite his poor goal return.
Besides his match rating comparing favorably to his own rating from previous years and in other competitions, Müller’s mark was also better than some of the best players in the Bundesliga. For example, Müller had a better match rating than Leipzig and Germany hotshot Timo Werner, even though Werner scored more than 4 times the amount of goals Müller did. The longtime Bayern man’s mark was also better than other top 10 Bundesliga goal scorers Andrej Kramaric, Mario Gomez, and Vedad Ibisevic, despite the fact that all of them had more than double the amount of goals that Müller had.
In addition to his match rating outperforming some of the top marksman in Germany, he also was 17th in the entire Bundesliga, which despite being a bit lower that Müller has been in the past, still displays that he was one of the very best players in all of Germany. Not many forwards that score just five league goals are top 20 players in their league during the season, but Müller this past year was.
The fact that he was still such a quality player for Bayern even with his goal drought displays just how good of a footballer Müller really is. It’s easy to just see the goals and say that he had a down season, but his effectiveness as a passer was at an all time high, and his match rating was on par with most of his previous seasons. Also, he was still better than a majority of the top 10 Bundesliga goalscorers including Werner. To top it all off, he still had a top 20 match rating in the league this past season, which epitomizes the all around play of Müller. For his entire career the World Cup winner has been a top class player, and if he’s scoring goals or not, that will continue to be the case.
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