Round-Up: Expected Crisis?

The Bavarians are staggering through the autumn. Weak performances and changing results have characterized the first few months of Niko Kavač’s tenure in charge. Do the reasons behind this crisis lie in the statistics? We try to find an answer with the help of data from Michael Karbach. Author: Maurice • Translator: Marc

The 1:1 draw on the tenth matchday against Freiburg has been identified in many media circles as a low point for Bayern. One week before their huge match in Dortmund, the gap to the arch-rivals increased to four points. A defeat at the Signal-Iduna-Park on Saturday would almost certainly determine the fight for the autumn championship.

So how bad are things really for the Munich team and what can we interpret from the statistics? On Twitter Michael Karbach (@BStat) publishes updated overviews after every matchday. After ten match days, the data set is large enough to start deriving initial trends from.

Offensive Shortcomings

First of all we want to take a look at the attack. After ten match days, FC Bayern have scored just 18 goals. The last time a Bayern side had scored fewer goals was in the 2010/11 season when they were in seventh place in the table with only four wins. For perspective, in the 2015/16 season, they had already scored 33 goals through the same number of games.

In Michael Karbach’s graph, the goals scored per game are plotted against the expected goals per game. Expected goals is a statistical value where the probability of scoring a goal is determined for each shot based on the position of the goal and the number of opponent players in front of the goal.

The graph shows that FC Bayern is virtually on par with Dortmund in terms of expected goals as they are tied for third place in the league. Only Hoffenheim and Leipzig are ahead of the record champions. Despite that, the Munich team is scoring 1.2 goals per game less than the Westphalians.

The blue line indicates the expected value with which goals and expected goals should correlate. The fact that the reds are so clearly below the line indicates a very weak exploitation of chances.

A similar picture can be seen when looking at the shots on goal. With 18 shots on goal per match, the Munich team is clearly in first place in the league. For comparison: BVB comes in at 13.5 shots on goal per game. Again, this clearly shows that the record champion’s shots are not being taken from dangerous positions as the expected goals per shot is lower.

Only 34.4% of Bayern’s shots actually score goals. Dortmund on the other hand comes in much higher at 40%. Munich also leads the league with 6.6 shots from outside the penalty area. These shots, however, have a significantly lower probability of leading to a goal. Yet another reason why on average 4.8 Munich shots are blocked per game, which is by far the highest value in the league.

Defensive Holes

Although strengthening the defense was seen as one of Kovač’s key tasks before the season, this Munich side are currently as weak as they were in 2008/09 when they had already allowed 16 goals through the same number of games. Individual mistakes, large gaps in the midfield and a lack of structure in their work against the ball are the main features of the current weak phase.

The Expected Goals should also be considered here for evaluation. FC Bayern is by far the leader in terms of expected goals. No other team lets their opponent so rarely get into dangerous situations in front of goal. This is surely a direct result of the still high 63.5% share of ball possession.

However, if the opponent manages to get into a dangerous position once, it usually results in a goal. FC Bayern currently concedes 1.51 goals per expected goal. Not even relegation candidates Nuremberg and Stuttgart have such weak results. In contrast, their rivals from the Ruhrpott have a score of 0.82 goals per expected goal.

It is not for nothing that the last eight shots on the goal of Manuel Neuer have all resulted in goals. A frightening statistic. In only two games thus far has Neuer not had to pick up the ball from behind him.

Missing Intensity

Another point Kovač pointed out before the season, in the club’s own magazine even, was speed and intensity. The Croation is literally quoted as saying the “The fast eat the slow.” After ten match days he has been proven to be absolutely correct.

While the low mileage of the Munich team, with an average of five kilometres less per game than Hoffenheim, is not surprising, the focus has to be on sprints and intensive runs.

With 243 sprints per game, Dortmund clearly leads the league. A sprint is defined as a run in which the player runs at least 2 seconds at 4 m/s and reaches at least 6.3 m/s during that time (source: Opta). With 216 sprints per game, the Munich team is currently in eighth place and separated by 27 sprints from the Westphalians.

If you look at the intensive runs, the trend is even worse. An intensive run is defined similarly to a sprint, except that the minimum speed to be reached is only 5.8 m/s. Here Frankfurt clearly leads the list with 723 runs per game. The Bavarians are in twelfth with 662 runs. That is 61 intensive runs or in other words ten per cent less than the leaders.

Close games are no longer a Bayern specialty

For years, the team from the Isar has dominated the Bundesliga. One big reason why was due to their unrivaled ability to win in tight games. This season however, the picture has threatened to change.

If you look at every game in which the difference between the two teams expected goals was smaller than one goal, FC Bayern has only scored three or 25% of the possible points in those four games. In the previous season, they scored 75% of the available points in the 15 matches that met the criteria.

Looking at Borussia Dortmund, the situation seems to have reversed exactly. The black & yellow team had scored only 35% of the points in 16 such games last season and are currently at 73% in five games this year.

Finally there is the not to be neglected mental component, which is at least in part behind the whole current Bayern crisis. Too often the Bayern players seem to relax after scoring a goal. Renato Sanches, who slowly walked alone along the sidelines with his hands covering his face after Freiburg’s late 1-1 equaliser, is a symbol of this.

FC Bayern, who have been champions for the last six years and reached the Champions League semi-finals five times, no long look like that team. The statistics also show that Kovač is facing a mountain of tasks: To make the attack more efficient, to stabilize the defense, to increase the intensity and to mentally adjust the team to where they need to be. It’s an almost impossibly mammoth task.

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