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Is 2019/20 Thomas Müller Bayern Munich’s Best Thomas Müller Yet?

 

How Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick brought Thomas Müller back on track in the Bundesliga and turned the former Germany World Cup hero into the best xA performer in Europe.

By: Gast Faber

Thomas Müller is certainly one of the most popular German players this century and a living legend with 521 competitive games (only six players have more) and 195 goals for Bayern Munich – a total only surpassed by Gerd Müller, Robert Lewandowski and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

In more than 11 years, Müller has been directly involved in 341 goals in all competitions for Bayern (195 goals, 146 assists), averaging a goal involvement every 112 minutes. Nevertheless, the fan favourite has been criticised in the last few years after he seemed to have lost his goal threat and was axed from the German national team at the age of 29.

Then an old companion came along and helped bring back the golden touch of the World Cup winner of 2014, while even finding new qualities.

Rise Under Flick

The start of the 2019/20 campaign turned out to be a tough one for Müller, who only found his way into the starting 11 in three of the first eight Bundesliga matches under manager Niko Kovac and was never allowed to play the full 90 minutes.

After Hansi Flick, who was an important part of the coaching staff in the 2014 World Cup as the assistant of Joachim Löw, took over from Kovac, Müller got a new chance and started 13 of the 15 Bundesliga games under the new coach.

Since Flick has taken over, Müller seems to be a transformed player and collected more goal involvements in the Bundesliga than any other Bayern player (18 – six goals, 12 assists).

Furthermore, the offensive allrounder has been involved in by far the most open-play sequences under Flick that ended with a shot (107, at least 15 more than any other player) and had a hand in 24 of 44 open-play Bundesliga goals of Bayern Munich after the managerial change.

Bundesliga Involvement Under Hansi Flick

PlayerGamesGoalsAssistsG+ASeq. end shotSeq. end goalSeq. xG
Thomas Müller15612181072421.6
Serge Gnabry149615831515.9
Robert Lewandowski1311314922120.1
Philippe Coutinho13639781012.8
Leon Goretzka1234756910.4

New Qualities

Müller has provided a total of 16 assists in the Bundesliga this season, a new personal record and only the second time since the start of detailed data collection that a player has assisted 16 goals after 25 matchdays (Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne, now at Manchester City, also managed to do so in 2014/15). Müller could well go on to snatch the season record from the Belgian’s hands on the remaining nine matchdays:

Most Assists in a Bundesliga Season

(Dating to 2004/2005)
PlayerClubSeasonAssists
Kevin De BruyneVfL Wolfsburg2014/1520
Emil ForsbergRB Leipzig2016/1719
Zvjezdan MisimovicVfL Wolfsburg2008/0918
Christian Tiffert1. FC Kaiserslautern2010/1117
Thomas MüllerBayern Munich2019/2016

Some people may attribute this improvement in form to the so-called ‘new manager effect,’ the temporary boost in form often seen under a new manager when a neglected player has a point to prove. However, given that Flick has worked with Müller before, he knows exactly how to treat him and has handed him a key position for Bayern Munich.

  • He averages more touches (74 on average per 90 minutes) than he did under any of his previous Bayern managers, showing he is taking responsibility.
  • Müller has scored or assisted a Bundesliga goal every 62 minutes on average under Flick – a personal best in his Bundesliga career.
  • Furthermore, his passing quality has increased significantly, completing 80% under Flick, creating almost four chances per 90 minutes and even 1.5 big chances.
  •  In addition to his good passing, he has a strong conversion rate of big chances (63%).

These qualities are impossible to deny, especially when we have a look at Europe’s big-five leagues where Müller records the highest xA value of all players since the calendar flipped to 2020 and overshadows players like Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Ángel Di María:

Expected Assists in Big-5 European Leagues During 2020 Calendar Year

PlayerClubxA
Thomas MüllerBayern Munich5.3
Kylian MbappéParis Saint-Germain4.9
Lionel MessiBarcelona3.8
Ángel Di MaríaParis Saint-Germain3.7
Moussa DiabyBayer Leverkusen3.3

Even More to Come

As a reward for Müller’s strong performances in the last months, the club decided to extend his contract until 2023, which could allow him to surpass Oliver Kahn (632) as the player with most competitive matches for Bayern Munich. Müller stands at 521. Furthermore, he could equal the record of Mehmet Scholl, who appeared in 15 seasons for the club in professional football.

Müller has won eight Bundesliga titles, the same number as current team-mate David Alaba – his former team-mate Franck Ribery (9) is the only player to win the Bundesliga more often. Everything points to Müller breaking more and more club records, enhancing his role as a Bavarian legend.