Cologne, Germany – Thomas Müller is having a lot of fun playing football right now.
It’s not just his form, although his recent performances have been stellar. His two assists in Bayern’s 4-1 win in Cologne on Sunday give him four goals and four assists in all competitions in 2020. He has recorded 14 assists in the Bundesliga this campaign, tying his single-season best in the German top flight.
14 - @esmuellert_ is the first player since detailled data collection 2004-05, to achieve 14 Assists after 22 matchdays in a #Bundesliga season. He has tied his personal record from the 2017-18 season. Delivery. @FCBayernEN #KOEFCB pic.twitter.com/tAam8Cpo55— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) February 16, 2020
But it’s more than that to Müller. He reiterated to reporters afterward how good he feels playing the game.
“I don’t know if you could tell, but it felt really good on the field,” Müller said, doing his best to hold back a smile. “We played great football in the first half. Rarely have I seen such joy [on the pitch]. Every player was involved. We made good runs and had clean technique.
“We were extremely efficient in the first 10 minutes — not so much at the end of the first half, I have to say. We should have led 5-0 at halftime.”
Indeed, Müller and his mates made mincemeat of Cologne’s defense at the beginning of the game. But Müller in particular seemed to be on cloud 9, playing with a zen and a fluidity that come only when one is in the form of his life.
His six consecutive starts on the bench under Niko Kovac in September and October seem a distant memory. He also appears to be playing with the freedom of knowing whether his performance impacts his opportunities for the German national team, a side he doesn’t seem interested in playing for anyway.
His flick to Robert Lewandowski in the third minute was classic Müller: finding an unconventional way to play a perfect pass to his Polish partner-in-crime so he could finish the opening goal. His assist to Kingsley Coman minutes later was a maneuver perhaps only he could do, stretching his leg out just enough to ensure Lewandowski’s pass found the French forward.
“Certainly when we have energy going forward, run at our opponents and we win the ball, then we have options to play the ball forward,” Müller said. “When everyone is involved in the attack, it’s fun for everyone when you see that something comes of it.
Playing the No. 10 role behind Lewandowski, Müller ended the game with six key passes, according to WhoScored.com. His pass to Serge Gnabry in the 29th minute should have completed his assist hat-trick, but Gnabry’s shot clanged off the crossbar.
It was noteworthy that Müller thrived in the middle after playing on the right in the previous four league games. He frequently played centrally under Pep Guardiola at the end of the Spaniard’s tenure, but not as often under Carlo Ancelotti and Niko Kovac. When asked by BavarianFootballWorks whether that was where he preferred to play, Müller agreed.
“It’s no secret that I feel most comfortable in the middle,” Müller said. “But I am very flexible, able to do what the coach wants. But I have had enough time in the last 10, 12 years to recognize my strengths and where I like to play.”
No matter where he plays, Müller is playing some of the best football of his career. If he keeps going like this, it will be more and more difficult for him to hide that smile.