MSR player of the month of March: Robert Lewandowski

Georg Separator April 2, 2021

Once again in top form, Lewandowski defends his title as player of the month. To understand Lewandowski as a player, we recommend reading Louisa’s tribute to his selection as player of the month of February. 

Lewandowski’s march in figures

Lewandowski was in the starting eleven in all four of FC Bayern’s games in March and played a key role in the four victories that put the team in an excellent position heading into the final two months of the season. 

Source: Lewandowski (Imago/Photographer: Peter Schatz) Gerd Müller: (Imago)

Eight goals in four games, including hat-tricks against Dortmund and Stuttgart, speak for themselves. On average, in March Lewandowski scored once every 39 minutes.

A Kicker grade average of 1.75 and a Whoscored rating of 9.2 (world class) testify to his extraordinary performance. 

The race for the record enters the home straight 

Now with a total of 35 goals in the Bundesliga, Lewandowski remains on course to equal or break Gerd Müller’s record of 40 goals from the 1971/72 season. 

“The race to the 40-goal sound barrier”: Robert Lewandowski scored his first 35 goals this season faster than Gerd Müller. The bottom of the picture shows the goals per matchday.

His injury break could throw a spanner in the works, however. Lewandowski returned from the March international break with a sprained ligament and will probably be out for four weeks. Lewandowski may then only have three games left to score five or more goals. In his current form and based on his scoring rate, that sounds ambitious, but not impossible.

The race for the Bundesliga championship, which is still tight as of today, and Flick’s offensive style of play could help him score the goals he needs.

Robert Lewandowski vs. expected goals (xG)

Lewandowski is currently scoring at will. For his most recent three goals against VfB Stuttgart, he only needed four shots which Statsbomb rated at a cumulative 1.2 xG, even missing probably the statistically biggest chance in the second half. So a statistically average striker would have scored only one, maybe two goals in this game. 

The Polish striker has been on an incredible run since the start of the 2020/21 season, scoring 35 Bundesliga goals from just 24 xG. Outscoring his xG by eleven goals, ie. what he would have been expected to score based on the quality of his chances, is an impressive positive deviation from the statistical mean.

Purple patch or skill? 

A comparison with other Bundesliga players helps to classify Lewandowski’s extraordinary numbers. Behind Lewandowski in the “overperformance” ranking come Sasa Kalajdzic with 5.7, Thomas Müller with 4.5 and Erling Haaland with 4.4 goals scored more than their respective xG values would have predicted (source for all xG data: Statsbomb via fbref.com).

Bringing up the rear in the “goals vs. xG” ranking is Dortmund’s Marco Reus, who thus heads the group of the unlucky strikers. He has scored only three times from 6.4 xG and thus falls 3.4 goals short of his expected goal rate. 

There has so far not emerged a consensus in the analytics community as to whether world-class strikers score so often because they are better at converting their chances, or because they get into promising finishing situations more often (a spark of selfishness in front of goal should also help). The discussion about this will surely continue for a while yet.

As impressive as Robert Lewandowski has been at beating his xG value this season, in the long run the laws of regression seem to apply to him as well. In the three seasons from 2017 to 2020, he scored 85 times in the Bundesliga, while the Statsbomb xG model rated his chances at 85.8 xG over the same period: a strikingly close match. 

In the long term, therefore, Bayern fans should not rely on Lewandowski converting his chances significantly better than average. But as long as the offensive-minded Hansi Flick remains FC Bayern’s head coach, the Pole should get enough chances to score numerous more goals, even if he should not be able to outscore his xG levels any more.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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