Taktical analysis: Harry Kane and Leroy Sané have forged such a fine understanding that no other attacking duo in the Bundesliga comes even close to the Bayern Munich pair.
Bayern Munich strengthened in the summer with an absolute star striker, but Harry Kane has not hoarded all of the headlines for himself. The Englishman has forged a particularly profitable understanding with Leroy Sané from day one in Munich, and the two forwards really are complementing each other outstandingly well.
Together, Kane (21 goals, 5 assists) and Sané (8 goals, 8 assists) have accounted for an amazing collective 42 goal contributions – miles ahead of any other strike duo in the Bundesliga, such as Victor Boniface and Florian Wirtz at Bayer Leverkusen or Serhou Guirassy and Deniz Undav at VfB Stuttgart, who each contributed 29 goals to their teams' tallies. Of Bayern's 49 goals so far this season, at least one of this super strike duo has been directly involved in 34 goals, which works out at an amazing 69 per cent of all Bayern goals coming from the Kane-Sané allegiance.
Yet they are not only performing so well as individuals - they are combining well together, helping to get each other into good shooting positions. Eight of Bayern's goals this season have resulted from a combination of the two, with Sané supplying five for Kane, who has teed up his teammate on three occasions. No other duo in the Bundesliga can hold a candle to the boys from Munich, but why exactly are they combining so well?
Watch: analysing Harry Kane & Leroy Sané's partnership
One thing that strikers love more than anything else is to have an open goal to aim at, or just one defender to dribble past on the edge of the area. However, superstars like Kane often find themselves double marked, which is why they need their teammates to help them out in creating space for shots, and there is nobody in the Bundesliga better at this than Sané
The winger has attempted more dribbles than any other player this season (72), winning the most by far (47), and he has done that in one fewer game than the rest of the league too, with Bayern's fixture against Union Berlin postponed. Behind him, Victor Boniface (53 dribbles, 34 successful) or Florian Wirtz (42/27) have therefore had one extra game to boost their own statistics. Sané's dribbling success rate of 65.3 per cent is not the highest in the league – that honour belongs to Brajan Gruda, with 71.1 per cent – but it is particularly impressive in view of the high number of dribbles attempted.
Sané constantly creates space for his strike partner, like in the game against Heidenheim when he duped one opponent with a dummy, skipped past another and held off a third as he bore down on three defenders, all of whom had their hands full marking another Bayern forward. Sané ultimately picked out the one free forward, who in this case was Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, and the rest is history.
Sané is not just a master of creating numerical parity or superiority. He also has a knack of running at Kane's markers to lure them in and create space for Kane to be sent deep. His opponents inevitably need to react to the approaching Sané and leave his worse-placed teammates to defend against Kane.
An excellent example of this could also be found in the Heidenheim game. In the 58th minute, there is a counterattack situation with Kane and Sané bearing down on two defenders. Heidenheim's left central defender Benedikt Gimber should be looking after Kane, while the right central defender Patrick Mainka is left with Sané to deal with. Yet the winger makes a beeline for Gimber, forcing him to react and leaving Kane free in the box to his right. Mainka, who is running on Sané's other side, has no chance.
This positional awareness also works when Sané does not have the ball. He will position himself in Kane's shadow, taking advantage of the focus Kane's marker is placing on the English striker to find a gap behind him, and exploit it to get into a shooting position or play a killer pass into the box. Like in the game against Cologne, when Kingsley Coman got into a crossing position on the left in the 77th minute. Kane was between the central defender Jeff Chabot and the left full-back Rasmus Carstensen Carstensen, which meant that Sané was free to shoot from the right-hand corner of the six-yard box.
The pair's link-up play can also carve defences apart, such as one combination which led to a good goalscoring opportunity for Sané in Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund. Jamal Musiala dribbled down the left and, in the middle, Kane cut diagonally between the central defenders Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck, who were both focused on defending against the Englishman. On the edge of the area, Sané finds himself in space and he is picked out by Musiala for a free shot from about 13 yards out, which Gregor Kobel saved. Although Musiala had plenty of time to dribble, the covering left full-back Julian Ryerson was also focusing on Kane.
To see all of these components combine, Sané and Kane delivered a masterclass to make it 2-0 for Bayern in the 25th minute of their game with Freiburg. First of all, Sané dribbles his way from wide left into the middle, shaking off Merlin Röhl and drawing in Lucas Höler and Ritsu Dōan. That ensured that all of Bayern's attacking players on the left were all being marked by just one man each (Davies-Sildillia, Kane-Lienhart, Müller-Gulde).
Sané then decided to dribble straight towards Kane's marker Philipp Lienhart, forcing Freiburg's central defender to push out and allowing him to deliver a perfect pass behind the Freiburg defence to the completely unmarked Kane, while he continued his own run past Lienhart towards the penalty area.
Goalkeeper Noah Atubolu's attention instinctively turned towards the unmarked Kane, as did that of Manuel Gulde, and Sané exploited this to make a diagonal run behind Gulde's back towards the far post, where he was free to tuck Kane's square ball into the open goal. Building numerical superiority, playing Kane through and detaching himself from the focus on Kane – Sané performed all of the components of this combination perfectly.
But it is not only Sané benefitting from playing on a team with Kane. The Three Lions' captain is also dropping deep to do the dirty work, especially against sides who press high, detaching himself from the defensive line to pick up possession – even when under a great deal of pressure – and then send his teammates into attacking positions.
Like in the 28th minute against Cologne, when a clearance from the right of the Bayern penalty area found Kane, who held off and beat his marker in a one-v-one and send Coman down the right. In the end it was Sané who benefitted as he continued his own sprint down the left into the centre, and was sent into one-v-one with goalkeeper Marvin Schwäbe by Coman, although he did not prevail on this occasion.
But once again, the extra attention to Kane so often creates room which was not there before. A perfect example of this comes from the duel with Stuttgart. As VfB attacked in the 29th minute down the left and lost the ball on the edge of the Bayern area, they wanted to counter press immediately, but Kane dropped deep and, with him, drew in two opponents in Stuttgart's No6 Atakan Karazor and central defender Dan-Axel Zagadou. Musiala sent Sané in deep behind Kane's back and the winger burst clear two against one with Thomas Müller up against Stuttgart defender Waldemar Anton, and Sané got a shot in.
Bayern play such a varied game under Thomas Tuchel that, even while certain players stick largely to their starting position for much of a game, they are all expected to show flexibility – something that the versatile Kane relishes. In his Tottenham Hotspur days, and with the England national team, Kane has been renowned for dropping off and letting his teammates step into the attacking breach.
At Spurs, it was above all the former Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg start Heung-min Son who would sprint into the attack, while at Bayern, that man is Sané. Der Klassiker was a fine example of how often the pair would exchange roles, with their rotation a key part of Tuchel's successful plan.
A trend is slowly becoming identifiable at Bayern, whereby Kane drops into the No10 position or onto the wing and allows a teammate to move into the void. A good example is the big chance Sané had in the seventh minute against Cologne, when Kane pulled out onto the left wing and, with him, drew practically the full attention of the Cologne rearguard, opening a channel for the lightning-fast Sané to sprint into. Kane's cross picked Sané out perfectly behind the Cologne defence, though the German failed to beat Schwäbe.
And there is still a margin for improvement. Sané continues to get into excellent shooting positions, but his conversion rate can let him down. With a shot efficiency of -0.1 (eight goals out of an xG of 8.1), Sané may only be marginally underperforming, but when you compare that with King Kane's clinical edge (shooting efficiency of +6.1), you can see where improvements can still be made.
Yet Kane and Sané are still by far and away the Bundesliga's most dangerous attacking partnership, and one of the best forward duos in the world.
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