Douglas Costa joined Bayern Munich in the summer as one of their two major signings, along with Arturo Vidal, and the Brazilian attacker has made a huge impact on the team with his fast-paced offensive displays and incredible production rate in the final third.
Under Pep Guardiola, Bayern's attack has been varied both in its approach and its layout. Whether the boss opts to go with a standard front three supported by three midfielders or bring a far more eclectic mix of positional rotation into the game, domination of possession and breaking down teams by moving the ball quickly and looking to make use of movement off the ball has always been key.
To that mix, Costa has been able to add dynamism, outstanding penetration down the channels and a consistently impressive end product, which has already seen him clock up six assists in league play alone. Bayern's perfect start, 10 wins from 10, has been achieved by both railroading teams into submission and by having to bide their time to snatch the points late on, with Costa's endurance and impact playing a significant part in both.
Wide threats making the difference in Bayern's attack is nothing new, of course.
The great "Robbery" pairing-Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery-were a key component of the 2012-13 treble-winning team, while Thomas Muller has long been exceptional whether playing from the channels or through the centre of the attack. Others such as Xherdan Shaqiri and, so far it must be said, Mario Gotze have not been able to match the same levels of quality and output on a consistent basis.
Now Costa is adding to that, in perhaps the most explosive way since Robben at his peak.
Quite aside from his pace, Costa's close control and power in driving forward allows him to beat defenders with ease at times, creating danger with his movement in possession almost as easily as Muller does without the ball. Costa has taken Bayern on several occasions from a defensive block to a counter-attack, by himself almost, in the space of a few seconds. On other occasions a tough-to-break-down defensive block in the opposition's half of the pitch can be scythed through with an incisive pass from midfield setting Costa away behind the full-backs.
Guardiola's approach demands game intelligence in how to use the ball, but passing, control, and 90-minute-long dominance still require verticality and penetration to actually break down opponents and the former Shaktar Donetsk winger is providing exactly that for Bayern; he is the line breaker, the difference maker and the highlights reel all rolled into one.
How long he can keep up this sort of performance for will not only be interesting viewing for outsiders-many of whom perhaps didn't expect Costa to have this sort of impact-but may also dictate just how seriously Bayern can be taken as Champions League contenders this season.
At times over the past few seasons they have had all the possession but few of the chances, all of the territory but none of the impact inside the penalty box. It's unrealistic to expect one man alone to change everything, of course, but one player can certainly affect the balance, both of his own team and the opposition.
With a focus on stopping Costa's pace and runs to the byline, Muller or Robert Lewandowski may be fatally ignored. In the opposite direction, where Bayern were slaughtered by the counter-attacking threat of Real Madrid previously, perhaps Costa's pace and work rate negate the fear of facing a side who relies on pace to break out of position quickly.
In Bundesliga play alone, Costa's impact is easy to see-he records in the top six of the league for shots on goal and chances created per game. It's a spectacular approach, eminently watchableÂ…but, more importantly, it's also working. Delivering an end product is the absolute requirement for a forward in the Bayern system and having directly contributed to 15 goals in 15 games so far, he's certainly done that.
With the likes of Lewandowski and Muller in elite scoring form, the planet's best goalkeeper at the other end and plenty of natural leaders and technical talent in between, Bayern might have found their tipping point in Costa to finally push Pep on toward an elusive European success at the helm of the Bavarians.