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  • October 7, 2019

    Robert Lewandowski is still the best

    By Mike Goodman
  • Everybody knows that Robert Lewandowski is good. This season, though, he’s been way better than good.

    Let’s start with the most basic number of all. He’s scoring, including penalties, 1.57 goals per 90 minutes. He’s the only player (with over 300 minutes played) in the Bundesliga averaging more than a goal per 90. Filter out penalties and he’s averaging “only” 1.27 goals per 90. That, at least brings him to almost within a third of a goal of his closest competitor, Paco Alcácer at 0.97. Nobody else in the league cracks the 0.,80 barrier. How exactly is he doing this?

    The answer is that he’s doing the two things that every great scorer dreams of doing. He’s taking lots of shots and he’s taking only great shots. Do that and things look really really easy. Lewandowski is taking the most shots in the league, 4.58 per 90, and among forwards is averaging the third highest shot quality at 0.18 expected goals per shot. It’s just exceptionally rare to be both a high quality and high quantity shooter. There only 15 players in the Bundesliga averaging over three shots per 90 minutes. And, of those players, only two are near Lewandowski. Alassane Pléa and Timo Werner are both also averaging 0.18 xG per shot, but they have only 3.21 and 3.35 shots per 90 respectively. Those are both really good totals, and in an alternate universe where Lewandowski didn’t exist we’d be talking about their numbers as being uniquely able to capitalize on both of a striker’s necessary skills. It just happens to be that Lewandowski is superhuman outdoes them both in each category.

    The reason that this shot profile is so rare is that most high volume shooters buttress their great shots with a raft of more speculative efforts. Lewandowski doesn’t.

    Put it all together and Lewandowski’s shot chart is simply a thing of beauty. It’s certainly true that his hot start to the season has him overperforming his xG but that xG is itself just absolutely mammoth.

    It’s likely that he won’t keep up this absurd level of goal scoring. Nobody runs this hot forever. But, the underlying numbers, while fantastic, aren’t particularly beyond what we’ve come to expect from the Polish striker. Last season his xG per shot was virtually identical to the numbers he’s putting up now. The main difference is that he’s averaging half a shot more per match. That might seem small, but do the math. Over the course of a season that works out to 17 more shots. If his xG per shot remains constant at 0.18 then that means that the increase in shots should lead to roughly three more goals. Such margins are the kinds of things titles are won and lost on.

    Robert Lewandowski is fantastic. He gets all the shots, and they’re all great. Bayern have gone a long way to revamping their attack this season. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are gone with Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman stepping into their huge shoes. Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perišić arrived to help shoulder the load. But, at the end of the day, it remains Lewandowski sitting atop it all, unparalleled, and hammering in all the goals.

    Article by Mike Goodman