It’s a simple fact that the German National Team is in crisis at the moment, both on and off the pitch. While the off-pitch difficulties are complicated and messy, the on-pitch issues are readily apparent for everyone to see. There are coaching issues, selection issues, tactical issues, and a general perception that certain players have overstayed their welcome and are dragging the team down. One of these players, as recognized by popular opinion, is Thomas Muller.
Muller has been going through a bit of a rough patch of late. In the wake of the recent World Cup and Carlo Ancelotti’s disastrous tenure at Bayern, the reputation of Germany’s only raumdeuter isn’t what it used to be. These days, Muller has been subject to the kind of criticism that was impossible to envision just a few years ago. People who had once been been forced to hold their tongue have now come out of the woodwork to join a chorus of dissent against the midfielder.
Popular perception seems to paint Muller as a player who is “too-old” and “past-it”, and some people have even gone so far as to suggest that he should be removed from the national team setup to make way for the next generation. While that might seem reasonable considering Die Mannschaft’s recent World Cup debacle (which Muller was a part of), on closer inspection the idea that “Muller isn’t good enough anymore” really doesn’t hold up. In fact, Thomas Muller is perhaps one of the most important players for Germany right now.
The truth about Thomas Muller
Since the beginning of 2015, Germany has played 49 games — this includes friendlies, World Cup qualifiers, European qualifiers, the Euros, the Confederations Cup, and the World Cup. Out of those, Muller started 28 games for the national team across all competitions. Here’s where some fun facts come into play:
Games played by Germany with Thomas Muller = 28
Games won = 21
Win percentage = 75%
Games played by Germany without Thomas Muller = 21
Games won = 8 (!)
Win percentage = 38% (!!)
That’s a 37% difference, which is, to put it in layman’s terms, incredibly huge. You could argue that the games Muller didn’t play were experimental. Jogi Löw wasn’t trying to win those, just test out new stuff. If we look at other starters on the national team, you’ll get the exact same numbers. Right?
Well, not quite. Here’s Mesut Ozil for Germany, from 2015 to 2018:
Games played by Germany with Mesut Ozil = 23
Games won = 15
Win percentage = 65%
Games played by Germany without Mesut Ozil = 26
Games won = 14
Win percentage = 54%
The win ratio is only a little bit higher when Ozil played, which is not unexpected for a player of his quality. Overall, Germany won 29 out of 49 games since 2015, with a 60% win ratio. The win ratio goes up by around 15% if Muller plays, and down by a whopping 22% if Muller doesn’t. For a variety of reasons, no other player that has played at least 20 games for Germany in the last three years, has this kind of impact on the team’s form.
Now, one might make the argument that since Muller has stopped scoring for Die Mannschaft, he shouldn’t be on the team. Aside from his immense contribution in assists and linkup play, both of which are often invisible to the average viewer, Muller has scored 12 goals for Germany since January 2015. That might not sound like much but it’s about 11% of Germany’s total haul since that year. No one else’s contribution even comes close. Not even actual strikers like Sandro Wagner or Mario Gomez.
Muller is still only 28 years old (okay he’s almost 29 but still). He has at least three to five years of world class play left in him. There is absolutely no need to cut him out of the national team setup at this stage. Thankfully, Löw has shown no intention of removing Muller from the setup, and Muller himself has vowed to keep fighting. People should take note of that and show the man some support. Not for his sake, but for Germany’s.