He had just scored a hat trick and yet he seemed lonely. Mario Gomez seemed lost following Bayern's 6-1 victory over Wolfsburg in the DFB Pokal. The oft criticized striker was the goal machine of Bavaria last season. This season, the machine has to remain content with being switched off for long periods. The rust however has not settled yet.
Of course this is brilliant news for Jupp Heynckes. Heynckes rarely ever criticized his players; he only appreciated Gomez last season. Uli Hoeness and Mehmet Scholl however had different views about the Bayern München star. The stats speak in favor of Gomez. However, the growing feeling is that he does not make the team better; it is in fact the team which makes him better.
Gomez was asked to see a psychologist by a certain Joachim Löw when he used to have trouble scoring for Germany. This season, the same could be recommended. Gomez does not seem like himself. He does not celebrate his goals in the manner in which he used to. The tipping hat has become an extremely rare sight. While one can write a novel about Gomez's faults, one can simply not look past his qualities.
Gomez scored a double against Manchester City in last season's group stages and a hat-trick against Napoli. The hat-trick against the Italians was pulled off with plenty of swagger. He scored plenty of important league goals, including a winner against Hannover 96, last season. Yes, Gomez failed against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea. However, there are arguments which can be made for him.
In the DFB Pokal finale, he earned Bayern the valuable penalty at 1-0 down. Also, in the Champions League finale, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben were equally guilty of being wasteful. Lest we forget, he scored the winner against Real Madrid in the first leg. While he missed tonnes of chances in the second leg, he was the reason why the Real back four could never rest. He earned Bayern the penalty which Arjen Robben converted too.
This season, whenever the half Spaniard has been called on, he has performed admirably and scored goals. His goals against Hannover 96 were not surprising ones at all. Gomez, if anything, seems like a better finisher this season. He needs lesser chances to finish. Sometimes, he has been compared to Luca Toni. However, he is not too much like the Italian because at least talent wise, Gomez has a lot more to give.
He has improved his overall game too. His passing has improved. He does not have the pace of Mario Mandzukic but he is quite fast in his own right. Also, he can win a physical battle but is seemingly just not as brave as Mandzukic when it comes to taking an elbow. When Mario Gomez returned from injury, the first noticeable difference was his size. Half of the bulk of Gomez seemed to have disappeared. Perhaps, he intentionally lost his bulk to speed himself up unless of course he lost muscle while recovering from the injury.
Gomez, despite being relegated to the position of bench warmer extraordinaire this season, will have the chance to show that he still has what it takes to be a starter for Bayern München against FC Barcelona. He will want to show everyone that he is highly capable of performing against the best. The equation for Gomez is simple; he has to bully Barca's defenders and score goals. He will be loved by the Munich public once again. Gomez was loved last season despite what happened at the end of last season. He can win everyone back again.
Mario Mandzukic will be watching; Pep Guardiola will be watching; Uli Hoeness, despite his tax worries, will be watching. This is a chance for Gomez to scare his competitor, to impress his future coach and to change Hoeness' impression of him.
Everyone in Bayern colors will be hoping that he manages to do just that. The return of the tipping hat would be a perfect match for a day of grand traditions.
And about the hair- well let's hope that he messes it up for once. A welcome to the top for Mario Gomez would be perfect for just about everyone coming into the closing stages of the season. It would reignite him and his team. Will he stand up to the challenge?