Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac has a superb roster, but also the unenviable task of trying to keep so many top talents happy. One of the first big challenges of the season could be heading his way as the coach is trying to sort out how to best use Thomas Müller and Philippe Coutinho.
Per Kovac, the solution will likely will not include using the players together, which could present an issue. As told to Bundesliga.com, Kovac is very skeptical that playing the two stars in tandem would work:
That would be too attacking. Both players have their own qualities getting forward, but we need a good balance. I haven’t ruled it out altogether, but at the moment it’s not an option.
Given the positional limitations of each player, Kovac will have to get creative to keep both of them happy. Müller can play as an attacking midfielder/second striker or as a wing, while Coutinho is more of an attacking midfielder or wide midfielder — not necessarily a true winger. No matter how you slice it, Bayern Munich is stacked in all of those areas.
So far this season, Müller has one goal and three assists in seven games across competitions, while Coutinho no goals and no assists in four games across competitions.
Good luck, Niko! While nothing has been made official, it appears that Kovac either is using a rotation between the two or simply prefers Coutinho to this point.
That Müller has seemingly lost his starting role already — or is preparing to take a reduced role — is off-putting in many ways, particularly since it does not seem as if he did anything to lose his position. That is not to disparage Coutinho’s skill or ability, but Müller has been a top-performer for the Bavarians this season and had an extremely good 2018-2019 campaign, while Coutinho has just arrived on a one-year loan.
In addition, past years would have allowed Bayern to work Müller into the wing rotation in past years given the injury history at the position. The Bavarians, however, are committed to Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry as wingers, which makes Müller’s role even murkier. Given the emergence of Ivan Perisic as the club’s top option off of the bench on the left wing and Alphonso Davies continuing his development there, Müller has even fewer options to get on the field than ever.
The whole situation becomes more puzzling when one factors in the fact that Bayern Munich’s commitment to Coutinho is only on a one-year loan. It is very curious that the Bavarians would invest so much field time in a player who has no obligation to the club after this season and whose purchase option is rumored to be a whopping €120 million. If Coutinho was clearly and undeniably Bayern Munich’s future at attacking midfielder, the move would make more sense.
Regardless, with the club already linked to big-ticket players like Manchester City’s Leroy Sané and Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz for potential moves next summer, the question becomes this: Is it even viable for Bayern Munich to add Coutinho to already expensive summer 2020 shopping list?
If I was to put my tinfoil hat on — divining whether Bayern Munich might attempt to purchase Coutinho or not — this seems like a subtle push by the club to get Müller at least to think about leaving the club. For three years now, Bayern Munich has tried to replace him — first with James Rodriguez during his two-year loan and now with Coutinho. If the Bavarians truly believed in Müller and wanted Müller as part of the core group of the squad for the next two or three years, Bayern probably would not have actively brought in players to replace him.
So far, Müller has always proven his mettle when challenged, and so far he has kept quiet and not complained. The 30-year-old, however, will surely not sit idly by if he feels that he should have a more active role in the lineup.