The departure of Sandro Wagner has left Robert Lewandowski as the only recognised striker in the Bayern Munich squad, but there’s no cause for alarm at the Allianz Arena.
bundesliga.com explains why those in red are safe in the knowledge that the goals will continue to flow in Munich.
First and foremost, there’s Lewandowski. The Poland captain’s goalscoring numbers are simply staggering. In 221 matches for Bayern, he’s found the back of the net 175 times – a goal every 104 minutes he’s been on the pitch. Just to put that into perspective, the Bundesliga and Bayern’s all-time top scorer Gerd Müller averaged a goal every 100 minutes of action.
Watch: What makes Lewy so special?
It isn’t just the frequency of those Lewandowski strikes that makes him such an asset, it’s also the way he scores them. Almost two goals in five are put away with his right foot, over 15 per cent have been with his left, and penalties and headers have accounted for 14 per cent each. The Pole isn’t simply a striker, he’s several strikers rolled into one.
It goes a long way to explaining why Wagner struggled for game time. Despite being brought in to provide competition and cover for Lewandowski, as well as his claim that he was “the best German striker”, he never found a way past one of the world’s finest. Wagner made 30 appearances for Bayern during his 12 months back at his hometown club but has featured for just 264 minutes in 2018/19 under Niko Kovac with only two starts against Augsburg and fourth-tier Rödinghausen in the DFB Cup.
The reality of the striker situation at Bayern though is that they almost exclusively play with one striker. The result of the club’s 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formations has meant Lewandowski and Wagner have only ever spent 146 minutes on the pitch together, and never longer than 22 minutes.
With Lewandowski netting 42 goals in 46 matches for the club in 2018, there was no doubting he was the man in possession. But such a workload must take its toll on a professional footballer, right? Well, not to a physical specimen like Lewandowski.
In five seasons with Bayern, the Poland international has missed just 15 matches. One was through suspension, eight saw him rested and only six were because of injury. It’s a truly remarkable level of fitness and ability to shake off knocks like few other strikers in world football. And when you’ve got a player capable of playing in almost every game, there may well be no need for a back-up.
Of course, it would take its toll if an outfielder were to play every minute of every game in a season, even for Lewandowski. In 2017/18 there were 10 players who didn’t miss a single minute of Bundesliga action, six of them were goalkeepers and the remaining four were all defenders.
Bayern, though, can find goals hidden in every nook and cranny of the Allianz Arena. Lewandowski may be the primary source of goals – 24 in 26 competitive appearances in 2018/19, second only to Lionel Messi in Europe’s top five leagues – but any number of players could find the back of the net for the record champions.
Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry have both played as centre-forwards in the past, and while the former may not be the most prolific finisher, Müller’s innate ability to put the ball in the back of the net any way possible is beyond all doubt. His 214 goals for club and country, as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot, are more than enough to silence anyone questioning the one-club man’s goalscoring credentials. Gnabry is still to prove himself as a scorer at the age of 23, but four goals in his last seven league appearances is no mean feat for a winger.
Bayern have also previously lined up without a recognised striker, and there are plenty of goals elsewhere in the team. James Rodriguez succeeded Müller as the winner of the Golden Boot at the World Cup in 2014, and veteran wide men Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have proven in over a decade at the record champions that they can chip in with goals too.
The flying Dutchman has averaged over a goal every other game in his 198 Bundesliga appearances, while the Frenchman has 84 of his own. And it isn’t just the golden oldies who’ve been setting the example in front of goal.
Summer signing Leon Goretzka has shown himself to be a natural at putting the ball away with five to his name since arriving in Munich. It’s already one more than he managed in the whole of last season at Schalke, and his tally of three since the winter break is a league best as he’s played in a more advanced position.
It’s little surprise that there’s goals to be had in this Bayern side when you take Joshua Kimmich into consideration. The champions’ right-back has provided a shared Bundesliga-high nine assists this campaign. With a defender laying the ball on a plate time after time, you almost wouldn’t put it beyond marauding goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to find the back of the net if goals were in short supply.
While squad depth is crucial to any team, especially one like Bayern who so often compete for silverware on three fronts late into the season, the Munich club know they are more than equipped up top. There may just be one striker, but it’s no problem.