Created on 2019-01-20 at 11:30 AM
Niko Kovac had a trick up his sleeve for the first competitive match after the winter break. It wasn't Thomas Müller, James Rodriguez or Thiago who started in the central attacking midfield position in the 4-2-3-1 formation, but Leon Goretzka. "He did everything right," said Kovac after his team's 3-1 victory over Hoffenheim, in which Goretzka played a big part with two goals.
"Sometimes as a coach you don't make such bad decisions," said Kovac with a nod to his decision to employ Goretzka as a 'number 10'. "Against Hoffenheim we wanted someone who could bring both defensive and attacking qualities to the game. The fact he was rewarded with two goals makes it even nicer," added the Bayern boss.
"The first goal was a bit lucky but the second was quite good," described the 23-year-old after his first Bundesliga brace in his 131st appearance. Goretzka put the Reds in front in the 34th minute with his third goal of the season, before making it 2-0 shortly before half-time. The midfielder fired off a total of six shots on goal, more than anyone else on the pitch.
6, 8 or 10
"He had a good game. He's adaptable, flexible with an eye for goal," praised captain Manuel Neuer, who said his teammate was "ice-cool" in front of goal. The statistics underline how important Goretzka is to Bayern - it was the third time this season that the Germany international has scored the opening goal of the game. As well as that, all four of his goals have come away from home.
Even more important, though, is the former Bochum and Schalke man's versatility. Whether he plays as a holding midfielder in front of the defence, a link between defence and attack or in a number 10 role like he did on Friday, Goretzka can occupy - and impress in - multiple positions across the midfield. "In the first half of the season, I had more defensive duties and played further back. Today I played in the number 10 role. It's a position I enjoy and where the coach knows I can play."
However, Goretzka prefers playing as a 'number 8', which his energy on the ball is perhaps more suited. That's not to say he has anything against his new role compared to the more defensive variation: "I obviously enjoy scoring goals. I don't have any problem with plugging that hole for 90 minutes over the coming weeks." His personal target for the second half of the season is to become "a bit more of a goal threat". Hoffenheim was certainly a good start.