The Menacing Raumdeuter: A Continental gift to the Island Country
Has anyone wondered how Dele Alli ends up in the right place at the right time or how Jesse Lingard bangs in screamers out of nowhere or finding Bernardo Silva out of his beloved right flank? How do they do it? Is it some kind of tactic or simple use of time and space?
The 'Raumdeuter' in spoken English would translate to 'Space-Finder' or a player who drifts from his original position to find pockets of open space in the opponents half. So who used this presence of mind in the first place?
It was none other than the German ace and WC 2014 Winner Thomas Muller. When Pep Guardiola took over Bayern Munich in 2013, Muller was in the form of his life. With the UCL already in the bag, the Bavarians revamped their squad signing Robert Lewandowski, Javi Martinez, Thiago Alcantara, Xabi Alonso and, many others over the next two years. Muller was the lynchpin in this setup sitting behind the formidable front trio of Ribery, Robben and, Lewandowski.
As Bayern Munich was getting used to Guardiola's Rondo game in the practice sessions and the possession-based setup, Muller did something special which caught the Catalan's eye. Firstly, he banged in a hattrick against Portugal. After the famous headbutt incident, Germany sat on a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Toni Kroos dunked an airball towards Sami Khedira who was the CM. Khedira sold a dummy to Pepe and his understudy running in between the two defenders into an offside position. Muller quickly got into the open space and scored emphatically of his left foot. They never saw him coming. The same happened in the USA tie. In a game which was dominated by Tim Howard's brilliant saves, Muller came up with the goods yet again. Ozil's corner went to the edge of the box after Howard managed to save a barrage of German fire. And there he was!. 'The Raumdeuter' with acres of space to exploit. His curling volley bulged the net and ended USA's aspirations to qualify for the last sixteen. Muller opened the scorings vs Brazil in that 7-1 thumping at Belo Horizonte. Kroos delivered a peach of a ball into the box. The Brazilians were busy marking the taller lads. By the time David Luiz realized that Muller was left alone, it was too late as he scored of his right foot into Julio Caesar's net. Marcelo and David Luiz were visibly frustrated when that goal went in. But what the world marvelled at was the clever presence of mind from Muller who sold a dummy to the Brazilians.
Pep saw great potential as the triumpant Germans returned for Bundesliga action. There was such a player in the Premier League before it was Muller for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. He was none other than Liverpool midfielder Dirk Kuyt. Kuyt was known for his ability for influencing the game when it mattered the most. A dummy-runner, he would get behind the defenders with pace. His task was to draw the opponents towards him and leave space for Gerrard to create attacks with Torres. At Barcelona, Pep had David Villa for sometime who would drop back to allow Messi and Iniesta to create for the Blaugrana. This worked perfectly for them leaving spaces in the final third of the opponent's half.
Guardiola had everything ready in Munich apart from a holding midfielder. And who better than Xabi Alonso could it have been for that Bayern side. Thiago created with Robben and Ribery rushing down the wings. And Muller, like an assassin waited for the right moment to hit on the deck hard. In the three seasons he played under Guardiola, Thomas Muller scored almost 80 goals in all competitions. A little too many for a player who played out of his natural forward position. A feat that hasn't been achieved by many of the game's greatest of players.
In 2016, things changed in the Blue half of Manchester. After Pellegrini stepped down as the manager of Man City, Pep was the man at the helm at the Etihad. City fans were licking their lips seeing the Catalan take the hot seat. The first season did not go quite well for the Blues. But in the summer of 2017, Man City bought a young Portuguese prospect from Ligue 1 side AS Monaco. It was Benfica academy graduate Bernardo Silva. Over the two seasons that he has played for the English club, Bernardo Silva has established himself as one of the deadliest attackers in the PL. Initially, Pep used him in a 4-3-3 setup playing David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne close to the opposition box. Fernandinho, the marshaling CM patrolled the halfway line. But soon, problems began to arise as there was too much pressing without an end product. Aguero was left alone in the 10-yard box. Guardiola then turned to his Bayern days for inspiration. Instead of playing two CAM's, he chose to play one with another attacker mostly Raheem Sterling. Bernardo Silva dropped into a much deeper role or frankly, as a 'Raumdeuter'. As agile as he is, Bernardo Silva and Kevin de Bruyne is one deadly combination. They play two touch football with Silva drifting into spaces and allowing de Bruyne to join Aguero, Sane and Sterling. Ilkay Gundogan adds to the stability allowing Silva to roam freely. The Portuguese playmaker has created as well as scored vital goals for the blues and has 22 in a 100 appearances for Man City.
Moving to the south, 'The Lily Whites' are the top dogs in London at the moment. Here again, we have a special player in Dele Alli. He plays behind Son Hueng Min, Harry Kane and Eriksen, but his ability to run off the shoulder of the defender is vital. Moura has more of a Brazilian flair but what Dele Alli brings to the squad is stability and the first defensive cover before the opponents find a way through Sissoko, Alderweireld and Vertonghen.
'The Raumdeuter' saga started of with a German attacker influenced by a Spanish mind. It then found it's way into Britain through a Portuguese midfielder and pierced itself into an Englishman's game and thereby the rest of the league.
And it was quite rightly said by Earl Munroe-
'Just be patient. Let the game come to you. Don't rush, be quick, but don't hurry'
I think this goes well with 'The Menacing Raumdeuter'.
Published 14 Jul 2019, 01:29 IST