With every passing Bundesliga matchday, there’s mounting evidence that this will be Jamal Musiala’s season.
Bayern Munich’s 2-0 home win over Wolfsburg was routine and a game in which Joshua Kimmich, Benjamin Pavard, Thomas Müller and Marcel Sabitzer, increasingly comfortable in red, all excelled. But the one player who stood out again was Musiala.
“We are very flexible and rotate quite a bit,” he said of Bayern’s attack after the win, in which he and Müller scored before the break. “We have a lot of control up front, have a lot of ball contact and runs deep. It’s fun to be up front.
“Things are going very, very well for us. We’re playing good soccer, like we practice all the time in training. We’re trying to bring the same energy and style of play to the pitch here.”
Bayern and Germany’s gain
This wasn’t a vintage game or performance by Bayern but it was another indicator of Musiala’s precocious talent, which has been clear for a couple of seasons now. Even at 17, he was a Hansi Flick favorite, with the now Germany coach selecting him regularly in the Bundesliga and Champions League. That bodes well for Musiala, now 19, three months ahead of a World Cup, with his chances of being Flick’s trequartista in Qatar growing more likely by the day.
Musiala, who is developing an intuitive understanding with Alphonso Davies, is hitting form at just the right time. Against Wolfsburg, he was the channel through which everything seemed to go. Müller operates closer to the penalty box following Robert Lewandowski’s departure, which gives Musiala the space to do what he’s best at: drive at defenders, create chances for others, and score. Before the Pole’s departure, Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann found it difficult to accommodate all three forwards – but given Sadio Mane’s different skillset, there’s now space for both Musiala and his idol, Müller.
When Bayern made the breakthough against a Wolfsburg team who defended pretty stubbornly but ultimately had no answer to Bayern’s multitude of attacking options, it was Musiala who pierced through. He showed strength in bouncing off Wolfsburg’s French defender Maxence Lacroix and tenacity by staying on his feet as Patrick Wimmer came steaming in. In doing so, he crafted the space outside the box to let fly with an arrowed shot into the bottom corner. Musiala is a natural finisher, but he has a physical strength that most teenagers don’t possess.
When Nagelsmann switched things up at halftime, it was Gnabry whom he replaced with Leroy Sane – not Musiala. The man from Fulda who spent his formative years in South London has become a permanent fixture again at Bayern, bulking up too to become as physically imposing as he is fleet-footed.
‘There must be more to come’
It’s not as if Bayern don’t know that they have a potentially world class talent on their hands. Here’s what Oliver Kahn, Bayern’s CEO, had to say after the game: “I just met Jamal in the dressing room and said that there must be more to come. No, he’s had a great start to the season. What he plays is already outstanding at the moment, extraordinary.”
With Lewandowksi gone and Müller pushed up higher – as he plays for Germany – Musiala can enjoy himself in attacking midfield. Of course, Mane and Serge Gnabry need to be accommodated in the system too which means that Musiala tends to drift out to the left while Gnabry operates on the right. Musiala’s gain has come at a time when Leon Goretzka remains out with a knee injury – but after two wins from two and standout performances by Musiala in Frankfurt and again here against Wolfsburg, Goretzka might find it hard to displace the youngster.
It’s still early days with stiffer challengers in wait, but Musiala remains the bright light of Bayern’s post-Lewandowski era, and just might be Germany’s secret weapon in Qatar. Although to those familiar with the Bundesliga, the secret is already out.