Football is a game of numbers. Goals and points are the only numbers that matter, but surrounding those stats is a bevy of useful information. Passing percentages, possession numbers and shots are all important stats that give a full picture of what happens on a football pitch. This column is here to make sense of some numbers that don’t show up on the league table.
We will look at all kinds of numbers, from basic pass accuracy to more advanced metrics like expected goals and expected assists. Hopefully, this will provide some insight as to why Bayern are playing as well or as poorly during a given stretch of time.
Bayern scoring more than they should
Bayern has been incredibly successful in the Rückrunde. This weekend’s draw with Berlin was the first time the club has dropped points since 2017. The reds have been punching above their weight, in a manner of speaking.
Since the start of the second half, the club’s expected goals total has been 13.93 in the Bundesliga. In those seven games, they have found the back of the net 18 times. That is a goal difference of 4.07. This means Bayern has been very successful at scoring on low probability chances, which is good.
However, it also shows Bayern having difficulty generating clear-cut chances. Instead, the team is usually relying on world class players like Robert Lewandowski to do the heavy lifting. Not that anything is necessarily wrong with that, but if Lewandowski has an off night Bayern usually struggle to score. Saturday’s draw with Berlin is a very good example of this.
All of this is relative, of course. Bayern is still the best club in the Bundesliga at generating quality attacks. RB Leipzig’s expected goal totals since the start of the Ruckrunde is 10.77. Bayern may be scoring more than they should be, but their numbers are still best in the league.
The big prize this season is the Champions League and looking at some of the competition’s other favorites show Bayern right around the same goal pace. Manchester City in their last seven games have an expected goals total of 14.37. In Spain, Barcelona’s number is at 13.15.
Those numbers seem about average for league leaders across Europe, so Bayern should not be worried about falling too far behind. However, Real Madrid is the big outlier, in their last seven games they have scored a whopping 27 goals at an expected rate of 18.66. If Bayern is scoring at an above average rate, Madrid is clearly living a charmed life after their rough first half.
Bayern has, for many years, been one of Europe’s best passing clubs. Throughout this entire campaign, the team has completed 87.4% of all passes. Bayern is one of only five Bundesliga teams with a pass accuracy over 80%. Die Roten is the only side in the league that sits over 85%.
Since the start of the second half, their percentage has dropped slightly, down to 85.4%, which is in no way cause for concern. That dip is an insignificant amount. In their last two league matches, Bayern has completed 91% and 88% of their passes. What is most impressive is how their passing accuracy and ability to keep possession has dwarfed the competition in completed passes. Against Wolfsburg and Berlin, Bayern completed 1033 more passes than those two clubs combined.
What is contributing to these solid numbers are a group of defenders that collectively make up one of the world’s best passing back lines. Everyone knows how good Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels are, but Niklas Süle and Joshua Kimmich both have completion percentages over 90%. Süle has a remarkable pass accuracy of 93.3%.
That impressive number is slightly inflated by his short passes, he does not attempt as many long passes as Boateng and Hummels do, but the point here is he’s not giving the ball away. That is extremely important if Bayern wants to keep possession and build play from the back.
Kimmich is the real star here, however. He completes 90% of his passes and he excels at long balls. The young right-back has completed 114 of 137 long passes this season. At 83%, only Corentin Tolisso and James Rodríguez have a higher success rate. Those two have played far fewer long passes than Kimmich.
One last note about Hummels: the German is the only Bayern player to have completed over 1000 short passes in the league so far.
Last season was a mess for Thomas Müller, and this year didn’t start out too well either. Since Carlo Ancelotti was fired, the German international has had a strong rebound season. That said, he can still be hit or miss. In his last three Bundesliga matches, Müller has scored once and played three key passes, none leading to goals. His passing has been something of a question mark, never reaching 80% passing success in the last few weeks.
In the Champions League win against Besiktas, he scored twice, played a key pass that generated an assist and completed over 80% of his passes. Müller is having a nice bounce-back season, but he still has some work to do before fully returning to his old self. A little consistency would be nice.
With Kingsley Coman set to miss significant time with an ankle injury, Bayern will need Franck Ribéry. The problem is, he might not be up for the challenge. Ribéry seems to be unable to beat opponents on the dribble like he once could, and there are numbers to show that.
Ribéry has only managed to complete 34% of his dribbles this year. Comparatively, Coman has a much higher success rate of 58%. The older Frenchman does not generate shots like he used to either. In all competitions this year, Ribéry has generated 0.7 shot per 90 minutes, while his injured compatriot has a much better rate of 1.4 shot per 90.
- No Bayern player has been shown a red card this year. Across the top teams in Europe, only Barcelona and Arsenal have a similar disciplinary record.
- Arturo Vidal has been a tackling machine, averaging 3.2 tackles per 90 minutes. He also averages 2.2 fouls per 90 minutes. This makes the previous stat that no Bayern player has been sent off all the more impressive.
- Arjen Robben averages 2.5 shots per game, but that is the lowest he has ever generated in a Bayern shirt. However, it is still the second highest total on the team behind Lewandowski’s 4.3 shots per game.