No one seems to be talking about Thomas Muller’s abysmal goalscoring drought for Bayern Munich this season. Despite failing to find the back of the net thus far in the Bundesliga, the 27-year-old isn’t getting as much criticism as you would expect from the media and fans alike.
Maybe because Muller is that one footballer everyone truly loves. His work ethic, teamwork, and passion make him a delight to behold while his versatility, positioning, stamina and eye for goal gives him an edge over his peers. No wonder his name was made into a verb ‘Es muellert wieder’ which direct translation means ‘it’s mullering again!’.
For many years, Muller’s love of scoring, his ability to change a game with a poacher’s goal or an innovative assist, has been relentless. With 155 goals in 370 appearances for Bayern, it never stopped mullering. Last season alone the 27-year-old grabbed 20 goals – the third most in the league behind Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. In fact, the German striker has only failed to hit double figures once since he turned pro in 2009.
However, this season, Muller’s effectiveness appears to have deserted him. After a barren streak at EURO 2016, the forward has continued to struggle in front of goal. Muller has now gone around 1000 minutes in the league and eight consecutive games in all competitions without finding the net. His only successes have been in the Champions League, scoring two goals in heavy wins over Rostov and PSV Eindhoven, in addition to his strike in the German Supercup.
The striker is now being ridiculed in training by his teammates with skipper, Philipp Lahm, even acknowledging his superior goal scoring return to that of his compatriot.
“We do laugh about it,” Lahm told Sky Sports a few weeks ago. ‘It’s quite funny that, after ten games, I have scored more goals than Thomas has. We do keep reminding him of that.”
Yet for Muller, the joke is getting less and less funny. His usual, easy-going attitude gave way to open frustration after he failed to score again in Bayern’s draw with Hoffenheim two weeks ago.
“I have sh*t on my boots at the moment,” he moaned. “It’s not that I’m tormenting myself about it, but I’m really not in a very good mood at the moment.”
But it’s not solely about the goals – Muller’s overall contribution to his team’s attack has drastically declined this term. He is no longer making those energetic runs which in turn creates spaces for his teammates to operate. No wonder he’s only been involved in four goals across all competitions and has failed to notch up an assist in the league since the first day of the season.
However, Muller has faced big disappointments such as this before, and never have they affected his form so dramatically. The malaise is far more complex than a long term knock in confidence. His relationship with new coach Carlo Ancelotti, for example, is now increasingly a point of discussion. After Muller enjoyed much of his last season under Pep Guardiola in a more central role, Ancelotti has pushed him out to the right-wing for much of the current term. While Muller has often played on the right, he has rarely looked as isolated as he does in Ancelotti’s 4-3-3.
More frustrating for Muller is the fact that his lack of form and confidence is gradually threatening his spot in Ancelotti’s team. The 2014 World Cup winner has only completed two out of Bayern’s last six games in the league – starting just two of them. His barren streak is also having a toll on the club’s quest to successfully retain their league title. The Bavarians are playing catch-up to surprise package, RB Leipzig, who currently lead the log with 30 points – three more than Bayern.
All eyes will once again be on Muller this weekend when Bayern visit Mainz 05 in the league. We hope the striker can hit the ground running at the Opel Arena and overcome his biggest challenge yet.