Lars Stindl – the Bundesliga’s underrated Raumdeuter?

Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Lars Stindl is one of the Bundesliga’s most effective attacking players, but will his exploits earn him a call up to Joachim Löw’s Germany squad?

If there is a go-to player in the Bundesliga for when the chips are down, then it’s Lars Stindl. On Sunday, the midfielder single-handedly clawed Borussia Mönchengladbach back into the game – with Bayer Leverkusen leading 2-0 at half-time. He inspired an impressive fightback, scoring two of the three second half goals to power the Foals to a 3-2 away win.

This is what we have come to expect from Stindl. At three million euros, he represents one of the transfer bargains of the last couple of years in the Bundesliga following his move from Hannover to Gladbach in 2015. He has remained statistically one of the most consistent attackers in Germany’s top division, but rarely receives the attention of many of his German cohorts.

Perhaps Stindl is unfashionable by simply his age – he is 28 and continues to improve as years go by and his football brain develops. His style of play isn’t as aesthetically-pleasing as Schalke’s Max Meyer or Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt, but indubitably more effective. However, former U21 international Stindl hasn’t been able to convince Germany head coach Joachim Löw with his consistent output.

In what is defined as a ‘target player’ or ‘pass receiver’ by German-based statistics company Impect, founded by former Leverkusen midfielder Stefan Reinartz and Bristol City’s Jens Hegeler, the Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder ranks exceptionally high in ‘Packing’ – even among the best players on the planet.

Stindl’s spatial awareness in tight, congested central positions is seriously impressive. He is perhaps a more rounded version of the ‘Raumdeuter’ – a term first popularised by Thomas Müller who described his rather peculiar ability of conquering space. As a pass receiver, Stindl outplays 70 opponents per match – only Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery (78) and the original “Raumdeuter” Müller (74) have better values in this area.

But crucially, once he receives the ball, normally under serious pressure, he has the awareness to understand his next move.

His touch is pure, which protects the flow in deeper, attacking situations. Stindl outplays six defenders (= last 6 opponents incl. GK) on average per match; one more than the positional-average for an attacking-midfielder. So the concept addresses, the more defenders taken out of the game, the higher likelihood of a goal.

Stindl’s core qualities were evident in the 3-2 win over Leverkusen, where he was man of the match with two goals. He outplayed 73 opponents as a pass-receiver, which was the highest value on the pitch, and he took four defenders out of the game with his passing and dribbling. The second goal, in particular, was a great example of his ability to conquer space inside the most important zone of the pitch.

Does Stindl deserve a place in Löw’s plans?

There has been little fluctuation in the construction of the German national team squad in recent years. Löw has a collection of outstanding players, while he has stayed loyal to a number of long-serving players despite their clear decline. It has meant, that even though the squad has remained the same, the focus on the likes of Müller and Mesut Özil as real creative hubs in the team has intensified.

As analysed in German sports magazine Sport Bild, Müller has played 455 competitive games for Bayern and the national team since his breakthrough in 2009. He is averaging more than 60 games per season. With Müller struggling to find rhythm for more than 12 months for club and country, the need to find an alternative was clear at the European Championship in France.

Given the importance of this conduit between defensive and attacking transitions, Stindl can probably feel aggrieved to have been left out – like both Gonzalo Castro and Marcel Schmelzer at Borussia Dortmund. Löw is happy to include players based on recent form and in the last 12 months, he has called up Kevin Volland, Serge Gnabry and Andre Schürrle to bolster attacking options.

But none of them have been able to add the key ingredient in the last-third. If Stindl can continue his upward trajectory, the call from Löw cannot be too far away.

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