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Bundesliga

Mario Götze and Thomas Müller among those with a point to prove in 2017-18

Whether it's injuries, loss of form or adapting to new clubs, there are plenty of players with something to prove in the coming season. Mario Götze and Thomas Müller are among those who need a big 2017-18.

Mario Götze

For a player whose early career was marked by accelerated development, Mario Götze has stalled badly in recent years. By the age of 23, the gifted attacking midfielder had already won almost everything and, of course, scored the winner in the World Cup final.

In some ways, that goal has become an millstone around his neck. Throughout much of his time at Bayern Munich, the player who burst on to the scene with rapid feet, an eye for the outrageous and impulsive creativity has looked sluggish and burdened by expectation. The move back to Dortmund last summer was supposed to rejuvenate a player who should still have his best years ahead of him.

So far it hasn't worked out that way. Götze made just 11 Bundesliga appearances last term, registering a single goal and assist. In this case, the numbers don't tell the whole story. The muscular disorder which Götze revelead he suffered from last year is, Dortmund and Götze will hope, not a condition that will continue to effect his singular talent.

With Ousmane Dembele halfway out of the door, Marco Reus likely to miss the first half of the season and Christian Pulisic still just 18, new Dortmund coach Peter Bosz may well come to rely on Götze to supply the bullets for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. For Götze, regular football may be top of the agenda but there's a certain international tournament looming at the season's end and he'll be hoping history will repeat itself.

Thomas Müller

Audi Cup - FC Bayern München - FC Liverpool (picture alliance/dpa/S.Hoppe)

Thomas Müller struggled in front of goal last season

On to the curious case of Thomas Müller. Bayern's class clown has an increasingly important symbolic role at the club, with Philipp Lahm's retirement leaving him and David Alaba as the only homegrown players in the first team picture. Unfortunately for the 27-year-old, there were times last year when his off-pitch role carried more weight than his playing contributions.

Previously prolific wherever he lined up on the pitch, Müller took until matchday 14 to open his Bundesliga account last term, finishing with just five league strikes despite remaining a regular starter. He's also Bayern's default Robert Lewandoswki backup, making his contributions in front of goal particularly critical. The absence of a clinical finisher cost the Bavarians dear in the first leg of the Champions League quaterfinal against Real Madrid, when Lewandowski was absent.

There's little doubting Müller's pedigree and his selfless movement means he has something to offer even when the goals dry up. But his ungainly style does highlight some flaws in his all-round play that amplify when his finishing is wayward. A fast start, and confidence boost, could prove critical for Bayern's talisman. 

Breel Embolo

Schalke's continued woes are so familiar they barely qualify as news. But when Markus Weinzierl was dismissed after a season at the helm, he surely rued the loss of the club's record signing just seven games in to the season.

After a tough start in which the Royal Blues faced four of the eventual top six, Embolo scored a brace in a 4-1 win over Gladbach and the explosive Swiss forward looked like a man who could at least paper over some of the club's longstanding cracks. Then came the challenge with Augsburg defender Konstantinos Stafylidis that broke his ankle and ended his campaign.

But with a full preseason under his belt, Schalke's new boss Domenico Tedesco can look forward to working with a serious young talent - the 20-year-old was sought by many of Europe's top clubs before opting to join his current employers. Schalke have a tough opener, they host RB Leipzig, but with games against newly promoted Stuttgart and Hannover to follow, Embolo will be confident of a strong start. Should he start to fulfil his potential, Schalke may be faced with the familiar problem of trying to cling on to a promising youngster rather than the other familiar problem of how to deal with a crisis. An improvement of sorts.

Serge Gnabry

Fussball WM Qualifikation: San Marino - Deutschland Serge Gnabry (picture alliance/GES/M. I. Güngör)

Serge Gnabry scored a hattrick on his Germany debut

Unlike the previous three players, the former Arsenal winger enjoyed an exceptional campaign last time out. In a Werder Bremen team that struggled badly at times, Gnabry excelled, racking up 11 goals in 27 appearances and demonstrating a consistency unusual in a young player in his position. 

His form was good enough to earn him a move to Bayern Munich in a cut price deal many thought would happen a year ago, but he was immediately loaned out to Hoffenheim. From the outside, it's a transfer that's tricky to fathom but with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery both approaching 35, another impressive season should see Gnabry challenging for a first team slot with the Bavarians next term.

Of the sides he could've moved to, Julian Nagelsmann's Hoffenheim seems the best fit. The 30-year-old coach has a keen tactical mind and has improved countless players in his short stint at the club. It may not be exactly what Gnabry would've dreamed of in negotiations but with Nagelsmann's guidance and a debut hat-trick at international level against San Marino last year, he could stand an outside chance of being a part of Germany's title defense in Russia.

   

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