Thomas Müller has had an almighty resurgence since Hansi Flick took over as caretaker coach. The Bavarian local is now, once again, among Bayern Munich’s most important players and is playing some of his best ever football. He recently sat down with Raphael Honigstein of The Athletic in a fascinating interview in which Müller was said to be in a great mood throughout — talking “well beyond [the interview’s] allotted time slot.” Honigstein and Müller discussed a range of subjects, such as Niko Kovac, Müller’s game, Bayern’s lack of dominance after the Pep Guardiola reign, and much, much more.
Muller gave great insight into his unique playing style at multiple points in the interview. It is well known that the right flank is not Müller’s best or favorite position. However, Müller argues that he can be an effective option when needed there — while still conceding that it’s “definitely not my dream position”:
If it doesn’t work out in a game, people are a little quick to say: “He can’t play there.” It gets a bit tiresome. I can be effective on the right.
However, as many Bayern fans know, Müller isn’t much of a dribbler and cannot help the team out from wide positions without support. He acknowledged this weakness in his game:
If I’m too isolated, when there’s no-one getting into the inside-right half-spaces, I don’t have that many weapons to help the team
He also added that Bayern’s specialist wingers like Serge Gnabry are better options on the wings than himself:
If I’m completely by myself and we lose the ball quickly, I’m less suited to creating danger than our specialists on the flanks.
Müller’s game is built around split-second runs into spaces, give-and-go play, and quick-thinking. He believes that Bayern and himself work best when the team has ample possession and fast-paced passing. This is because combinations and openings are easier to find. He said,
If our passing rhythm is high and we have lots of possession, you get more time as a forward to pick the right moment to make a run inside or look for a combination.
In the past few years, Müller has gone from being primarily a goalscorer to the team’s biggest provider. This is largely due to the change in personnel Bayern Munich has undergone — for example, Kinglsey Coman and Serge Gnabry replacing Ajern Robben and Frank Ribery.
Franck Ribery was more of an assister than a finisher. In all those years, we had so much possession and Franck would always look for you in the box. Now, we have Serge [Gnabry]. He’s best when he goes for goal himself.
Müller is perhaps the most unorthodox “world-class” player of his generation. Yet, much of his play is structured and calculated — relying on the perfect timings for the runs and passes he makes.
For my game, structure is super important. It has to be clockwork. My game becomes very good when Bayern are able to spend a lot of time in the final third in a controlled manner. That’s when my strengths come into play.
A few weeks ago, Müller used the analogy of a “shopping list” to describe how Bayern’s football has changed under Flick. Flick has provided a structure and plan for Bayern’s players to get behind. They now have a better understanding of what to do, of each other, and what the coach wants from them:
It’s simply easier, as an employee, if you can go down your list of tasks and know exactly what you’re supposed to do. If I, as the right forward, put pressure on the ball but my right-back isn’t 100 per cent sure what the right move is for him, the situation is already over. He’ll be too late, by that one meter. Then the opponent plays past me.
It goes without saying that it’s a lot easier if the whole team are on the same page.
Flick’s Bayern has played some scintillating football at times, and hard work is a big ingredient in Bayern’s current success. Müller talks about how Bayern have dominated their recent games:
It’s important to see why games like that, why performances like that happen. A lot of work goes into that. You have to make the runs, especially without the ball, to put pressure on the opposition and to get the ball back. That work needs to be done.
There is so much more interesting content in this interview which just can’t be covered in one piece. This really gave an insight into how the Raumdeuter’s mind works on the field, how Bayern aims to play, and what’s changed under Flick. Hopefully Bayern and Muller can continue their dominate performances against Chelsea tomorrow!