In what was regarded as a pair of controversial decisions from Thomas Tuchel, Thomas Müller did not start either leg of the Champions League quarter-final matches for Bayern Munich against Manchester City. Instead, he went with an attacking quartet of Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, and Kingsley Coman, though Serge Gnabry replaced Choupo-Moting for the second leg. On both occasions, Müller was only used as a substitute off the bench for brief cameos.
Müller was also left on the bench to start in Bayern’s recent 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga as Tuchel started Gnabry, Sane, Coman and Sadio Mane in attack. It took a good while for Bayern to break the deadlock against a resolute Berlin defense, but both goals came shortly after Müller replaced Mane. It begs the question; should Tuchel still be starting Müller? For what it’s worth, former Bayern and Germany midfielder Lothar Matthäus feels that Musiala’s presence in the lineup is part of the reason Muller seems to be more dispensable as of late.
“Since Jamal Musiala has become almost indispensable in the team, things have become even more difficult for Thomas Müller. Musiala has made Müller replaceable,” Matthäus wrote in a column for Sky Germany (via @iMiaSanMia). Of course, Müller’s name is synonymous with FC Bayern Munchen, but he won’t be a starter forever and he’ll eventually have to accept a limited role in the team, but is it that time already?
“It’s not an easy time for ‘Mr. FC Bayern.’ Nobody in the current team represents this club anywhere near as much as Müller, but Thomas Tuchel does not see the ideal position for him in this squad,” Matthäus continued. This is similar to when Niko Kovac sort of exiled Müller with his team selections and then Hansi Flick found far more success when he starting playing him a lot more than the Croatian did.
The 4-2-3-1 system that Tuchel shows a preference to has a tendency to take Müller out of the equation with the other attacking players that are at his disposal (Musiala, Gnabry, Sane, Coman, Choupo-Moting, Mane). Musiala’s versatility also doesn’t help Müller’s case, as we’ve seen with Tuchel, Julian Nagelsmann, Flick, and even Joachim Low that the youngster can play wide, centrally, or even as a more retreated midfielder. It’s not to say that Muller can’t, but he’s arguably best when he can operate in the spaces in between the striker’s line and midfield lines.
“He needs a coach who uses a system that Müller fits into, as was the case with Flick. Both Niko Kovac and Pep Guardiola were coaches who didn’t see it that way,” Matthäus noted. “Playing in a 4-2-3-1, with a clear #6, a #8 and a #10, you can conclude that Müller is not a player who can be clearly attributed to one of these positions. He’s a 9.5, ideally roaming around a target man like Robert Lewandowski,” he continued.
It is clear that with Tuchel’s systems, Musiala fits more profiles than Müller does and that Matthäus’ assertations are well justified.