The arrival of Philippe Coutinho at Bayern Munich has been a roaring success so far with the magical Brazilian dazzling the Bundesliga with his vision and skill. There has however been one downside following the loan signing from Barcelona- Thomas Müller has seen his role diminished to that of back-up player.
Müller more than anyone is the Identifikationsfigur at the Allianz Arena but he has become the victim of Coutinho’s success and has been almost officially demoted to the substitute’s bench.
With the 30-year-old once again on the bench against a Hoffenheim this weekend, trainer Niko Kovac commented prior to kick-off about his decision. “Thomas is very important, but so too are the other players. If we need a player in an emergency, then for sure he will get his minutes”.
Reading between the lines- Thomas Müller will have to be satisfied with a subs role.
So far this season, he has only started three games and has not completed 90 minutes in any of them. The last five games in a row have been as a sub, and he has accumulated just 36 minutes of action in the past four outings. He was an unused substitute in midweek against Tottenham in the Champions League and was only introduced against Hoffenheim after 60 minutes with Bayern trailing 1-0.
The fact that he made an immediate impact with his cross for Robert Lewandowski’s equaliser will please him, but the fact that he was once again not in the starting XI will not. Indeed, he left the stadium very swiftly yesterday with only a very short comment to the reporters in the mixed zone.
“Nothing to say, as they say in England”.
It was around this time last year that Müller had a similar issue under Kovac, and his wife Lisa sent “that” ill-judged Instagram post. This time around both Mrs. Müller and the player have kept their frustrations to themselves, but those frustrations must surely be mounting.
It is fact of life that with such a talented squad, Bayern are going to have under-used players, and with the likes of Leon Goretzka, Ivan Perisic, Corentin Tolisso and Thiago all competing for midfield places, it will only remain tricky for Müller to reprise his former role as a first-choice.
Niko Kovac’s switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry as the speedy sidemen and Coutinho as the 10, only makes Müller’s task trickier. He is neither a speedy winger, nor a typical 10 à la Coutinho.
Times change, but the sight of Thomas Müller taking his place on the subs bench is one Bayern fans (and the man himself) are not used to, or overly comfortable with.
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