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The Big 5 After 5: Bundesliga

By Nick Dorrington | October 29, 2020 | Bundesliga

We are five matchdays into the new Bundesliga season, so let’s have a look at a couple of interesting things from the early action.

Predictable Leaders

The Bundesliga has taken a lot less time to shake out than many of the other major European leagues, with the top three spots in the table currently filled by the top three teams from last season: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig. Not only that, but the three of them also have the best underlying numbers in the division.

Aside from a surprise 4-1 defeat away to Hoffenheim, champions Bayern are humming along just fine, scoring four or more goals in each of their four victories. Dortmund also have a loss on the board, but have won all of their remaining matches to nil. RB Leipzig lead the way early on with four wins and a draw from a kinder opening schedule.

Even at this extremely early stage of the campaign, it would take a brave person to back another team to finish in the top three, and perhaps an even braver one to back anyone but Bayern for the title.

Hans Flick’s side finished 13 points clear of second last season after winning nine on the bounce following the return to play to May, and then successfully made their way through the final four rounds of the Champions League to become champions of Europe. Aside from that Hoffenheim anomaly (4-1 on the scoreboard; 3.98-1.64 by expected goals), they’ve been dominant so far, outshooting their remaining opponents 79-33, and accumulating 13.44 xG while conceding just 3.48.

We are only five matches in and the usual caveats about small sample sizes obviously still apply, but it is difficult to see Bayern relinquishing their mightily firm grip on the Bundesliga title.

Robert Lewandowski has also made a great start in his attempt to finish the season as the league’s top scorer for a fourth consecutive campaign.

How bad are Schalke?

Schalke are second from bottom after picking up just a single point from their opening five fixtures. More globally, they are now winless in their last 21 Bundesliga matches -- the joint second worst run in the history of the league. Their one and only league win this calendar year came way back on 17th January in a 2-0 triumph at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Are they really that bad?

In a certain sense, the answer is yes. With penalties included, they’ve given up an average of over two goals per match to their opponents during this run. Extrapolated to a full campaign that would have resulted in comfortably the worst goal difference in the Bundesliga last season. With penalties removed, the average drops to 1.86, which is some way ahead of their average xG deficit of 0.98 per match, but that latter figure would still again have comfortably been the worst in the league last season.

So we can pretty confidently state that as currently constituted, Schalke are a bad team. Even so, the likelihood of them putting together a run of 21 matches without victory is still very low.

The race charts in StatsBomb IQ display the probability of a match ending in a home win, an away win or a draw based on the balance of chances. We can use these probabilities from each of the 21 matches in their winless streak to establish the cumulative probability of them failing to secure a single victory in that time.

It’s worth noting that they are some dreadful performances in here, including four matches in which Schalke’s opponents had a 90% or better chance of winning given the balance of chances. Only once did Schalke’s win probability stand at over 50%. There was an 80% or better chance of them failing to win in 14 of the 21 matches.

But if you stack them all, even a team playing as badly as they have done during this run would usually have sneaked a victory or two along the way. The probability of them failing to win all 21 of the matches stands at just under 1.5%.

So while performances this calendar year and since the start of this season certainly have Schalke pegged as likely relegation candidates, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they were to bring their winless run to an end before they reach the Bundesliga record of 31 matches without victory, set by Tasmania Berlin way back in the mid-sixties.

Article by Nick Dorrington