When the news broke that Bayern Munich star Thomas Müller had a knee injury and was likely going to miss the upcoming Hungary match — and also potentially the round of 16 — it became a bit of a doomsday scenario.
Müller, who had been under a Joachim Löw-induced exile from the German national team for two years, is now essentially considered…essential to Die Mannschaft’s lineup.
While his scoresheet is not necessarily filling up, Müller has been the engine driving the entire team with his pressing, his movement, his passion, and his leadership.
How do you replace all of those traits? The easy answer is that you don’t.
Physically, though, someone has to fill that role, so let’s take a look at the possibilities to take Müller’s place in Löw’s 3-4-3 formation — which requires the front line players to constantly be moving and active for it to be effective.
The Easy Way Out: Leon Goretzka
Inserting Goretzka into Müller’s spot would essentially turn this into a 3-4-1-2 formation, but the Bayern Munich man is capable of making it work. Why is Goretzka the easy way out? Because it would allow Löw to avoid benching İlkay Gündoğan. Gündoğan has not been great and Goretzka is probably a better player right now, but Löw has always shown a reluctance to let go of certain players (think Sami Khedira in 2018). This would allow Löw to avoid what would probably be an awkward benching for the manager to make.
The Obvious Call: Leroy Sane
Most people expect Sane to slide right in to a starting role. The problem is that Sane has not looked great and — in fact — has seemed to be hesitant at times in playing a more narrow role. Sane is immensely talented and extremely quick, but in the 3-4-3 he has tended to wander a bit too much and has had trouble establishing himself as a consistent offensive threat. Sane will likely get the nod, so hopefully he has worked out the kinks that were preventing him from positively impacting games for Germany.
The Understudy: Florian Neuhaus
In an odd way, the player most equipped to play like Müller might be Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus. Neuhaus has the energy and ability to press effectively — and is also creative, unselfish, and offensive-minded. Neuhaus will also drop back and defend. It might not be the prototypical selection, but it is one that could work. Like Goretzka, the formation might look more like a 3-4-1-2 with Neuhaus filling in.
The Redemption Story: Timo Werner
Make no mistake, Chelsea’s Timo Werner is firmly in Löw’s doghouse. Werner’s lackluster performances for Germany in 2021 have frustrated Löw to the point where it feels like Werner might never climb out of the doghouse. Battling with his confidence, Werner needs an opportunity to get back on track. Could Hungary be the time to give him that chance?
The Darkhorse: Kevin Volland
Volland is as close to a traditional German striker as there is on the roster — and even that is a stretch to say. Volland is good, however, and has a nose for the goal. He cannot provide everything that Müller brings to the table, but he can get give Germany a confident, hungry player who is goal-driven.
Normally, you might also see Jamal Musiala included in the mix, but it does not appear that the youngster is quite ready to get the nod from Löw just yet.
Who would you pick to replace Müller? Tell us in the poll below...
Who should replace Thomas Müller in Germany’s starting XI against Hungary?
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