I subscribe to the seemingly unpopular school of thought that soccer is a rather uncomplicated game. Eleven men against eleven men, a plot of grass, a ball, two goals, and a referee to make sure nobody has too much fun out there. Simple. Tactically it’s not a mystery either. Of course there are nuances: wrong footed wingers, overlapping wing backs, the three man midfield, but it all boils down to the same thing. Soccer is about managing mistakes.
A defensive player needs to minimize mistakes. An attacking player needs to create them. Defense is about structure and attacking is about destruction. Barcelona creates mistakes. They move about with their slow build up, flawlessly taking the defense apart brick by brick until there is a fissure large enough for them to put a boot through. Then the whole building comes tumbling down. Messi makes a goofy smile and David Villa half celebrates and half jealously broods that he wasn’t the one that brought the structure down. Then fifty thousand pundits across the globe cry out and scream about how beautiful it is, and my God isn’t it lovely, and mother you need to come watch the replay and see how beautiful it is.
But whatever happened to pace? It’s all dandy if you’re skilled enough to take a building apart brick by brick without ever having to worry about dropping a brick on your toe. But what if you weren’t that skilled? Basically, what if you were any team in the goddamn world besides Barcelona? Well, then you’d just whack the building with the biggest damn stick you could find as hard as you could until it fell over, wouldn’t you? Smack the damn thing with a wrecking ball and then laugh when you get dust in your hair.
Nobody does that more compellingly than Thomas Müller. Both the German side and Bayern Munich epitomize this attack. They overwhelm their opponents with run after run, Müller being the most creatively destructive. He writhes through defenses with overlapping squiggles like a water slide.
And with pace. Oh god with pace. Whatever happened to pace? If offense is about creating mistakes, then pace has to be the most efficient way to make that happen. If a player is running full bore at a defense, as Müller is wont to do, either the defender or the attacking player is bound to make a mistake. Over the course of ninety minutes the defender is going to make enough mistakes to ruin his day.
I assume you’ve grown tired of the building analogy, and to be honest so have I, so I’ll switch it up. Bayern Munich play like the X-Men in this Japanese intro to the old cartoon. It overwhelms the senses. What are those even, dinosaurs? Why are X-Men fighting dinosaurs? But you don’t even have a chance to answer because Bayern has already created three goal scoring opportunities while you formulated the question.
Ribery is Cyclops here. Hard working, loyal, puts his head to the grind. Visible member of the squad. Robben is Wolverine for reasons I frankly don’t even feel like I need to explain. And Müller is Gambit. The cool one.
This is the lone goal from Bayern Munich’s Champion’s League win over FC Zurich from Monday. The compiler of this highlight didn’t include Müller’s brilliance until the replay. Watch his pace. Watch where he comes from. Watch the perfectly weighted ball he drops into Gomez’s lap. Now imagine you were that defender.