Miasanrot Awards: Player of the season 2019/20
In the vote for the player of the season among our editorial team, Robert Lewandowski reigned supreme with ten votes, leaving all other candidates way behind. The vote took place before the Champions League final tournament.
When it comes to Robert Lewandowski’s current season, it is hard to look past his bare numbers. 34 Bundesliga goals are not only the Pole’s personal best, but also the best haul in the Bundesliga since Dieter Müller in 1976/77. Since only the great Gerd Müller is ahead of them, Lewandowski can proudly claim that he is the most successful goal scorer in a Bundesliga season not named Müller. He replaced his successor as center-forward at Dortmund, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as the best foreign goal scorer (31, 2016/17). In the league, Lewandowski, who missed three games with injury, scored an average of a goal every 81 minutes or 1.1 times per game. On both scores he is only surpassed by the “Bomber”.
Moreover, it is only due to an obvious flaw in the calculation that Lewandowski did not win the title of Europe’s best scorer. The Golden Shoe went to Ciro Immobile, who scored 36 goals for Lazio – although in Italy, due to the 20-team league, he had 38 games to do this, including 14 penalty goals.
But that was not all: In the DFB-Pokal, Lewandowski scored six goals in five games, and twice in the final. He remained scoreless only in the second round against Bochum, and against Schalke in the quarter-finals he was injured.
Lewandowski took the top spot in the Champions League, too. On Bayern’s way to the title, which due to the coronavirus was curtailed to only 10 games, he scored fifteen (!) times. This is the best goal scoring record in the history of the competition of a player not named Cristiano Ronaldo. He narrowly missed the Portuguese’s all-time record of 17 goals. He scored in every game except the final. A scoring streak of nine consecutive matches is also second only to CR7, who had a run of 10. In addition, he equaled Jürgen Klinsmann’s European Cup scoring record for a Bundesliga player. The Swabian also scored 15 goals for Bayern in the 1996 UEFA Cup. Finally, Lewandowski and Gnabry also equaled the record of Bale and Ronaldo as the most successful duo with 23 goals.
In total, the Pole thus scored 55 goals, breaking his personal record of 43 goals from the 2016/17 season. And believe it or not: Gerd Müller also scored 55 goals in his most successful season 1972/73. Having said that: The “Bomber” scored 12 more goals in other competitions this year, which is why his record of 67 competitive goals in a season lasted until Lionel Messi beat it in 2012. For Lewandowski it was the fifth season in a row with more than 40 competitive goals, something that only Messi and Ronaldo managed to do in the 21st century, and for the Bavarians so far only Gerd Müller (1969-1974).
After Roy Makaay with 34 goals in 2004/05, he is also the first Bayern player in Europe to score the most goals in all competitions in a single season. He is also the first player to score goals in the domestic league, the domestic cup and the Champions League who at the same time has won each of these competitions.
Since 1990, only six players have managed to score more than 50 goals in a single season. The two extraterrestrials CR7 and Messi have each done it several times, beating Lewandowski’s 55 goals three times each. Apart from the Pole, the others are: Suárez (58 goals in 52 games; 15/16), Ibrahimović (50 goals in 51 games; 15/16), and Eto’o (50 goals in 74 games; 10/11). And then: Lewandowski (55 goals in 47 games; 2019/20). No Ronaldo Fenomeno, no Ràul, no van Nistelrooy could equal or better this.
The numbers may be overwhelming, but they are essential to express the exceptional nature of what we as fans have experienced in the past season. But what they cannot describe is the player Lewandowski. Much has already been written about the Pole, who arrived at what was supposedly only going to be to a temporary home FC Bayern as a supposed one-man-show, and now, six years later, he is still there and has achieved all the things that he thought he might only achieve at his next big club since his move to the Isar in 2014: The Henkelpott, the treble, and perhaps even the Ballon d’Or?
Over the years we have been able to witness a unique development that is unparalleled at this level. Lewandowski came as a target man who first had to find his place in the FC Bayern passing machine under Guardiola. Again and again, the Pole got the order to move out of the center to clear zone 14, which collided with his instincts, which made him want to lurk in the center and capitalize on crosses from his teammates.
In the second season he learned from Guardiola and the Catalan from him. Lewandowski was now better integrated. Against Wolfsburg he scored five goals in nine minutes. But his improvement did not yet prove enough to convince everyone. For years, he had a reputation for not turning up in big games. The memories of his four goal haul against Real in 2012 had faded and were replaced by his unfortunate performances in the 2015 semi-final against Barcelona. What is all too often forgotten: The Pole went into the game injured and played despite a fractured upper jaw.
But despite his better integration, many Bayern fans still did not quite warm to striker. His perceived lack of commitment to the club made the relationship difficult. His often reproachful gestures towards his teammates during games added to this view.
A turning point was certainly the extension of his contract until 2021 in the winter of 2016, when Lewandowski, who in terms of his professionalism and commitment to his sport had been a model of ambition from day one, became even more focused and obsessive. Instead of dismissing the efforts of his teammates, he could now be seen encouraging and applauding his teammates more and more often. In addition, he now also more often looked for better positioned teammates instead of forcing the issue and trying to seek a finish himself. In the 2018/19 season, he set up ten goals for other players. This season, he even left a penalty kick to Coutinho, although he was chasing a record himself at the time.
What makes Robert Lewandowski so outstanding is that he is probably one of the most complete strikers in history as regards the qualities of a traditional number nine. Because in the categories that are important for a front row striker, there is simply no area in his game that drops off noticeably.
First of all, there is his finish, which is dangerous from all angles. If the Pole gets on the ball in the penalty area, the opposing defense has (and is) usually lost. This season, he scored nine goals with the first touch, seven more with the second. He has an outstanding sense of space, knows where to be, has a brilliant first touch, and has an intuitive sense of where the goal is. Since he has become an occasional free-kick specialist, his finish from outside the penalty area is also a weapon. Although he prefers to hit the ball with his right foot, his left foot is also dangerous.
His aerial game has been on a special level since last season at the latest. It is almost absurd from which positions Lewandowski is still able to get pressure behind the ball. He benefits immensely from his impressive physique, which allows him to stand in the air for minutes.
Ever since he became Bayern’s first choice penalty taker, every Bayern fan can sleep more peacefully. He has converted 35 of his 38 penalty kicks for the record champions. His very own style, a jump-start coupled with a slight delay, leaves most goalkeepers no chance. In fact, Manuel Neuer is the only Bundesliga keeper who has ever been able to save a penalty from Lewandowski.
Another underestimated strength of Bayern’s number nine is his excellent hold-up play. His skills in this area are priceless, especially since Hansi Flick’s introduction of a sometimes very direct approach that frequently operates with long balls. Faced with his Lewandowski’s ability to use his strong body very effectively, many defenders are at a loss. Due to his strong first touch, he rarely loses a ball.
His physique and his tremendous first touch also help his finishing from inside the penalty area. He has an almost unique ability to process almost every ball played to him – even from the most unfavorable angles – in fractions of a second with a single continuous, fluid movement and to release it on goal. His lithe agility makes this complex sequence of movements from receiving the ball, to turning and shifting it to his strong foot, to releasing it again look so simple and easy, while for us – and for many a defender – this would amount to an exercise in tying up our feet.
Lewandowski’s link-up play with Thomas Müller works particularly well, as Müller’s runs repeatedly open up space for his fellow striker. But Lewandowski can also play the fast one-two in tight areas.
This season, another tool in Lewandowski’s box has been his shifting out to the wing, which he already used to do did under Guardiola. But in contrast to then, he seems less reluctant to do so today. By leaving the penalty area, he stretches the opposition’s defense, which,as a result, opens up spaces for him to exploit afterwards. Once again he benefits from his and his team’s excellent positional play that allows him to frequently sneak in behind the opposition’s back line. He often seems to know where a ball will go before it has even been played.
And yet, watching him play in front of the TV, there is still that little bit more that it seems Lewandowski could do. He sometimes seems to have a knack for missing the simplest of sitters. A look at his expected goals (xG) stats illustrates this. He managed to beat his 31.2 xG in the Bundesliga by more than two goals. However, he has managed roughly the same in his other seasons with Bayern. In the 2018/19 season, when he scored “only” 22 goals in the league, his xG stood at 33.1. All in all, he was able to beat his xG three times in six years for Bayern, while also falling short of expectations three times. So all in all, the impression in front of the TV seems to be deceptive – or Lewandowski simply loves to score goals from difficult positions.
An ice-cold clinicalness in front of goal like Roy Makaay, an agility like Giovanne Elber, a physique like Mario Mandžukić and a poacher like Luca Toni – Robert Lewandowski has it all. After this season at the latest, he definitely belongs on the Mount Rushmore of the greatest FC Bayern strikers.
The Pole’s extraordinary season has already received much praise elsewhere. Football historian Lukas Tank, for example, named him his player of the season – as the first non-Barça player. But others joined in as well. Here is a collection of eulogies about Lewandowski in German and English.
Team of the Season 2019/20 | Football Arguments | Lukas Tank
Robert Lewandowski hätte den Ballon d’Or verdient | Web.de | Steffen Meyer
Bundesliga: Torschützenkönig Robert Lewandowski: Der Perfektionist | DER SPIEGEL | Tobias Escher
Robert Lewandowski 2019/20 – scout report | Total Football Analysis
Robert Lewandowski is still the best | Statsbomb