Round-Up: Player of the Month – August
After he almost single-handed delivered Bayern their 2018/19 DFB Cup crown and won the miasanrot player of the season 2018/19 award, Lewandowski did not rest on his laurels but has continued to do this season what he did right till the end of last: score goals.
He has already scored so liberally that the “Kicker” has awarded him six scorer points for his five goals. This rather unintuitive outcome is due to their strange way of reckoning that gives a player two scorer points when they score from a penalty that they themselves won previously. This happened in the match against Hertha where he was thrown to the ground by Grujić and got a penalty that he duly converted. Thus in a way, the Kicker’s arithmetic underscores the importance of him even more strongly. He also scored from the spot in the match against Schalke with cool aplomb. Whenever he puts down the ball for a penalty at the moment, Bayern fans can sit back and relax in the certain knowledge that a goal is imminent.
But it was his third set piece goal that was most reminiscent of Mehmet Scholl. After Lewandowski scored two free kick goals in quick succession in a cold December week in 2016, his free kick scoring vein seemed to dry up. He has not been a prolific goal scorer from free kicks ever since – until now. Maybe it is the signing of Philippe Coutinho that has made him afraid of losing first claim at free kicks at Bayern and spurred him to rekindle his dormant skill by taking extra practice sessions.
Be that as it may, he caressed the ball over Schalke’s wall from 25 meters out with so much care and passion that it found the net without Alexander Nübel getting so much as a whiff of the ball. Mehmet Scholl will have been proud of his latter-day successor.
Whether it was Luca Toni, Ivica Olić, Mario Gómez or Mario Mandžukić: Bayern only favoured these players for a little while. They came and went. But they have already extended Lewandowski’s contract for the second time this August.
His first goal against Hertha in the season opener serves best to reveal his unique playing skills: deep in his own half he receives the ball from a throw-in, maintains it against a challenge from Niklas Stark, passes it on to one of his teammates, rushes down the pitch with huge strides and sneaks in behind the last defensive line past two unaware defenders. He thus duly arrives in the penalty area just in time to put the ball into the net from a sliding tackle. A textbook example of the catalogue of actions of a false nine.
Whereas in his early years at Bayern his movements as a centre-forward had equalled those of Mario Gomez or Luca Toni, two out-and-out target men, under Niko Kovač’s tutelage he has turned into a forward quite actively involved in his team’s offensive play. Oddly, his style thus harks back to the active playing times of his current boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and the godfather of centre-forwards at Bayern, Gerd Müller, rather than the much more recent crop of modern Bayern forwards.
Gerd Müller is wrongly remembered as a rather clumsily looking conversion player, who always happened to be in the right place at the right time and somehow managed to scrape the ball across the goal line. This impression is one-dimensional, to say the least. Instead of lurking in the penalty area waiting for his chance, he frequently fell back into midfield, played passing combinations with the technically more skilful players around him and used his agility to sneak in between the defenders… which is precisely what Lewandowski is doing now, decades later!
But Lewandowski also excels at the classical art of “bombing” for which Gerd Müller is known so well. Against Cottbus, his first goal results from him patiently waiting for his chance to score from a simple tap-in. And his second goal is the most faithful of reincarnations of the most classical of Müller goals – Gerd as well as Thomas – as he scores off a slight deflection from a shot by Goretzka.
Gerd Müller was also known to be able to get past his markers with his first touch. Lewandowski is very capable of this too. Salif Sané fell victim to his nimble touch before he scored the third goal against Schalke and his touch setting him up for Bayern’s fifth goal against Mainz was no less graceful.
Given his extraordinary start, some have already started speculating if the time has finally come for Gerd Müller’s decades old record of 40 league goals fall. If he wants to achieve this, Robert Lewandowski still has 34 goals to go, but he is off to a fast start.
Being actively involved in a game and not just waiting for the ball in or around the penalty area is nothing new for Lewandowski. He did this last season too, only with less success at scoring. Over the entire season, he managed to remain below his xG value of 33.14 goals by a whopping 11 goals, scoring just 22 times. This season, he has scored six times already, 55% more than his xG of just 3.84.
Even If these numbers are certain to level off slightly over the course of the season: a little bit of dreaming is allowed.
“At Bayern, I learned to never give up” – Sanches | Bundesliga.de
How Will Philippe Coutinho Fit In At Bayern Munich? | Abel Meszaros | StatsBomb
Philippe Coutinho: Breaking Down Bayern Munich’s Key Summer Transfer Signing | Manuel Veth | Forbes
Michaël Cuisance: Can he be a modern number 6 for Bayern? | Manuel Veth | Futbolgrad
Ivan Perišić: Bayern’s Cross to Bear | David Rudin | StatsBomb