Even goalscorers that can win games by themselves need assistance from time to time, and Bayern Munich sharpshooter Robert Lewandowski is no different.
The Polish goal machine recently wrote his name into the record books by becoming the all-time leading foreign goalscorer in the Bundesliga’s history, replacing Claudio Pizarro, and is now just two shy of a double century of strikes.
He has also returned to the top of this season’s scoring charts, and while that is in large part down to his own finishing prowess, what should not be underestimated is the help he receives from his teammates.
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Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and James Rodriguez have all been making plenty of chances for Lewandowski this term, but it is Thomas Müller that the man himself sees as his most important partner in crime when it comes to scoring goals.
"It’s better if I can play alongside someone in attack," said Lewandowski in December. "With Thomas next to me it’s easier. He helps me a lot. We complement each other very well."
Müller has long been a player that defies convention, both in terms of his style and his positional flexibility, but one thing you can guarantee with him is that he will be in the box when his team attacks. He has a knack of scoring important goals at key times, but just as significantly, his presence gives defenders an extra problem to contend with.
Defenders’ attention is drawn to him and that often helps Lewandowski, leaving him one-against-one with a defender in the box. Against a goalscorer of his pedigree, there is usually only one outcome for the stricken opponent.
"We've had internal discussions about the issue of getting players into the box," Lewandowski told Germany's SportBild newspaper this season. "We're implementing that much better now, which is also thanks to Thomas. We're now creating more chances than we did."
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Their healthy rapport is certainly borne out by the statistics. Lewandowski has scored five goals when Müller has not been on the pitch this season, coming in 11 club appearances in all competitions. Compare that to the Pole’s haul of 25 goals in 25 games when Müller has been at his side.
Furthermore, Lewandowski has struck 15 times in the 19 games in which the two have both been starters at a rate of 0.8 goals per game, compared to three goals in six matches where Germany’s 2014 FIFA World Cup winner was benched.
Against Hertha Berlin and Borussia Mönchengladbach earlier in the season, Müller began on the bench, and Bayern lost both games without scoring. More recently against the Berliners and Augsburg, Müller was again left out of the starting line-up and while both matches were won, Lewandowski again drew a blank in both.
The two have now been teammates and regulars for Bayern for almost five seasons and evidently know each other’s game inside out. Lewandowski is on course for a fourth Torjägerkanone and, now aged 30, has arguably not even reached his peak, with plenty of time to add to those 198 Bundesliga goals.
Meanwhile, it could easily be argued that Müller’s greatest attribute – his game intelligence and knack of being in the right place at the right time – will remain unaffected by his advancing years, and that is if you can call 29 "advancing". He may longer be under consideration for selection for Germany, but the national team’s loss will surely be Bayern’s gain.