Robert Lewandowski: Bayern’s world-class striker under the tactical microscope


Robert Lewandowski has scored 33 Bundesliga goals for Bayern Munich this season, in just 30 games! What is it that makes the Polish striker so deadly? Join bundesliga.com for a closer look…

Lewandowski has been scoring for fun throughout the campaign, becoming the first man since Cologne legend Dieter Müller - all the way back in 1976/77 - to hit as many goals in a single campaign. With one game of 2019/20 remaining, he looks all but certain to scoop the fifth top scorer's cannon of his career.

After bagging a beautiful brace in the season-opening 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin, Lewandowski backed up his promising start to the season in style, netting an outstanding hat-trick on Matchday 2.

Putting Schalke to the sword in Bayern Munich's 3-0 triumph, the Polish star moved onto five goals in just two games, although it turned out that he was only just getting started. His scintillating form continued into the autumn with a scoring run of 11 straight games - an all-time Bundesliga record - while he has gone on to find the back of the net once every 81 minutes throughout the campaign.

A truly masterful finisher, his expertise in this area saw him score all three goals against Schalke in clinical fashion from an Expected Goals (xG) reading of just 1.32. Very impressive indeed, but not unsurprising, for Lewandowski has long been brilliant at maximising the opportunities presented to him.

Ultra-fit and competitive, he has led the line with aplomb for the newly crowned champions on his way to yet again proving why he's one of the best centre-forwards in world football - if not the best.

From his customary striking role, Lewandowski's positional sense, ability to read the play and movement provide the perfect foundation for him to wreak havoc. Always working intelligently across the attacking half and surveying his surroundings, he tailors his movement depending on what is going on around him.

Watch: Highlights of Bayern's 3-0 win over Schalke!

The Matchday 2 win over Schalke serves as a perfect example of Lewandowski's capacities. Picking his moments when to drop deep, surge in behind, support wide attacks or interchange with a teammate, he constantly altered defenders' reference points. This made him extremely difficult to keep tabs on, for the Royal Blue backline couldn't settle into a rhythm and come to grips with who should be marking him.

Dropping deep effectively to link midfield and attack, he'd regularly find space between the lines to receive the ball, with Schalke midfielders and central defenders uncertain whether it was their job to track him. He didn't need a second invitation to take advantage of the freedom either, turning quickly or receiving in ideal forward-facing postures so he could continue upfield. If a tracker was following when he checked towards the ball carrier, his composure, brilliant first touch and ball control ensured he remained composed to execute his actions cleanly.

Smart positioning between the lines

- 2019 DFL

It's important to note how effectively Lewandowski protected the ball and didn't remain stationary while waiting for an option. By receiving in strong body shapes and using his first touch to gain separation when holding up the ball, he made sure he either won fouls or bought himself vital time and space to make coherent decisions.

When it came to embarking on runs into the box and in behind defenders, he was equally impressive. Quick to spot when a teammate was in position to find him, he timed his runs sharply. Keen to gain the upper hand by exploiting the blindside of his man, the gaps between the centre-backs or the full-back and centre-back, this allowed him to bomb ahead unimpeded.

Brilliant run between defenders

- 2019 DFL

Nice diagonal run into the box

- 2019 DFL

Well-timed run into the box

- 2019 DFL

Intelligent run and reading of the play

- 2019 DFL

Angling his runs smartly so he remained onside and got goalside of his man, plus knowing when to hold back his runs as the defence retreated to cover the six-yard box, Lewandowski proved a tough man to contain. Indeed, his third goal served as a glowing reference to his value here, where he held his run to receive Kingsley Coman's cutback near the edge of the box before breezing by his marker with a sublime first touch. To round out the passage, he then calmly slotted home with a searing finish.

Holding his run prior to scoring a third goal

- 2019 DFL

Excellent first touch and finish

- 2019 DFL

Further upside could be gained from how he rotated smoothly with his fellow attackers to pop up across the frontline, with this enhancing what an elusive proposition he was for Schalke.

Doing a top job of pinning and drawing opponents away from areas so his teammates could exploit them also deserves mention. He did this by attracting one or more markers with his crafty positioning, so pockets of space opened up between defenders or during counter-attacks for teammates.

Expertly pinning two defenders to create space

- 2019 DFL

Great interchange with Gnabry and drawing out opponent

- 2019 DFL

Neat and tidy with the ball at his feet, Lewandowski's crisp touch and control ensured he maintained possession adeptly while evading pressure. Demonstrating his tidy array of manoeuvres to weave out of trouble, the way he used feints, shimmies, shoulder drops and slick changes of pace and direction was key.

Meanwhile, in terms of his passing, he partook in some lovely combination play in close quarters and connected passages with clarity. Distributing accurately and weighting his passing nicely, he also hit some successful through balls and switches of play.

Dropping deep and lovely switch of play

- 2019 DFL

Deadly inside the box, his imperious finishing was on full show. His first exhibited his unwavering confidence and conviction, as he stroked home his penalty after sending Alexander Nübel the wrong way with a hesitation step.

Masterful penalty

- 2019 DFL

Then, for his second, the dead-ball whizz struck a scintillating free-kick from 25 yards. Parlaying power, placement and getting just the right amount of curl, he gave Nübel no chance by ripping his shot into the top corner.

Lewandowski's superb free-kick

- 2019 DFL

To round out his hat-trick, he blasted home the wonderful finish that was touched on earlier.

To shine the spotlight on his heading ability, his value here notably extended to set pieces and when Bayern couldn't break the press and were forced to go long. In such cases, Lewandowski acted as an ideal target man for corners and as Bayern looked to bypass Schalke's harrying to win second balls higher up. One particularly eye-catching example of his aerial prowess came in the first half, where he rapidly picked up the ball's trajectory and used his enviable leap to power a header on goal against multiple defenders.

Quality leap and run at corner

- 2019 DFL

Scoring in his ninth consecutive match against Schalke, Lewandowski once again proved an unstoppable force, in a match where he ran riot. Such a difference maker and able to hurt his adversaries in so many ways, he underlined how his impact goes far beyond just his goals.

By the numbers, his five shots on target, six touches inside the box, three dribbles, two aerial duels won, one key pass and one progressive run, in combination with him completing all three of his attempted long balls and 19 of 25 overall passes, illustrated his output aptly.

Having already propelled Bayern to another Bundesliga title and on the cusp of winning his fifth Torjägerkanone crown at the age of 31, there's certainly no sign that the multifaceted marksman will be slowing down anytime soon.

Edward Stratmann