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A close analysis: Examining the effectiveness of Thomas Müller for Bayern Munich

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Müller’s omnipresence cannot be overstated.

ICC Singapore - Bayern v FC Internazionale Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images for ICC

Thomas Müller; the heartbeat of Bayern Munich. The Bavarian native has been an integral parts of Bayern’s squad for eight and a half seasons now, helping the club claim 6 Bundesliga titles, 4 DFB-Pokal titles, 4 DFL Supercups, and of course, the Champions League trophy in 2013.

Individually, Müller has tallied 170 goals and 142 assists from a total of 423 appearances across competitions for Bayern, and he is still as effective as ever under Jupp Heynckes. Since Heynckes took charge of Bayern after Carlo Ancelotti’s exit in October, Müller has turned in 8 goals and 8 assists in 16 appearances across competitions, a far better return than his 1 goal and 1 assist in 9 appearances total under Ancelotti.

Effervescence by Muller

It’s telling that Heynckes recently used the term “effervescence” to describe Müller’s play. That is exactly the style he brings for Bayern. Self-nicknamed the Raumdeuter (“space interpreter”) of the Bundesliga, Müller makes his presence felt even when he’s not directly involved in the goal scoring. His versatility makes him useful in a variety of different positions in the attacking third; as center forward, as secondary striker, as an attacking midfielder, or as a right winger—he can make an impact from several positions.

Impressively, in his 19 appearances in the Bundesliga this season, there have been only two occasions on which Müller has failed to record at least a goal, assist, shot, or key pass. Of the 55 goals total Bayern have scored in the league thus far, only 15 of them have occurred when Müller wasn’t on the pitch, meaning that 40 have occurred with him on. That equates to Bayern scoring 2.76 goals per match when Müller is on the pitch vs. 1.76 goals when he is not. Bayern are averaging a goal more per match with Müller, quite a telling statistic for his contribution to the team.

Chief provider for the prolific Robert Lewandowski

Of Müller’s joint second-best 7 assists in the league, 5 of them have gone to Robert Lewandowski. The Polish ace has already tallied a league-best 20 goals, meaning that a quarter of his goals have come directly from Müller. Only Augsburg’s Philipp Max shares as productive of an assist-to-goal partnership in the Bundesliga, having assisted both Alfred Finnbogason and Caiuby 5 times en route to his league-leading 11 assists. Additionally, no other player in the Bayern squad has assisted Lewandowski as much as Müller has.

Of Lewandowski’s 20 league goals, Müller has been on the pitch for 13 of them, and Bayern’s number 9 is averaging at least 0.84 goals per match when Muller is on the pitch. Behind every prolific goal scorer, there’s a relentless workhorse that makes the scoring possible. That’s exactly what Müller does for Lewandowski.

Stacking up against Europe’s elite

As if Müller’s contributions weren’t clear enough, he stacks up quite favorably against some of Europe’s top attackers. For comparison, Müller’s rate of goals and assists per 90 minutes in the league and the Champions League is 0.96, while Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne boasts a rate of only 0.83 goals and assists per 90 minutes in both competitions. Additionally, since Heynckes took charge of Bayern in October, Müller’s goals and assists per 90 minutes has spiked to 1.09, meaning that his production was arguably better than De Bruyne’s even when the faltering Carlo Ancelotti was still at the helm.