Fifteen matches into the 2020/21 season, Bayern Munich lead Bundesliga, two points above RB Leipzig. This should be celebrated, but beneath the surface lurks a growing problem. Simply put, Die Roten cannot keep the goals out.
Bayern Munich Lead Bundesliga in Spite of a Poor Defence
An Unfavourable Comparison- Not a Problem Last Season
In the 2019/20 season, the Bayern Munich team could only be described as a well-oiled machine. They were both generous in their output of goals, and stingy when it came to allowing them. Over a 34 game season, Bayern Munich only let in 32 goals, fewer than one a game.
Fast forward to the 2020/21 season. Less than halfway into the season, Bayern Munich have already conceded 24 goals. To equal last season, they have the mammoth task of only letting in eight goals over 19 games, quite unlikely.
What makes this such an odd situation, is that Bayern’s top-end have had no such ill-fortune. Finishing the 2019/20 season with 100 goals scored, Bayern have netted 46 in just under half a season.
Perhaps then, it would be best to look at what has contributed towards this slump.
Too Many Mistakes- Bayern Munich Making Simple Errors
Bayern Munich have made too many defensive errors. A perfect example came in their clash on January 8th, 2021 against Borussia Monchengladbach.
To briefly summarise, Bayern Munich were quite confidently leading the match 2-0. What followed was a catalogue of errors.
For Monchengladbach’s first two goals, Bayern made two similar mistakes. The defensive line was not properly level, and twice Monchengladbach slipped a player through to score. A poorly executed offside trap can be forgiven once, but to happen twice looks awfully sloppy.
The third and final goal came as Niklas Sule gave the ball away in Bayern’s half, inviting a Monchengladbach attack out of very little danger.
One simple answer may simply relate to the old adage that ‘when it rains it pours’. Bayern enjoyed a lengthy period of defensive stability, and right now are drowning in goals.
A Player on the Way Out
It is something of an open secret that this is looking like David Alaba‘s final season in a Bayern Munich shirt. Amid rumours linking him here, there, and everywhere (Real Madrid, Liverpool, Barcelona), the eyes of fans always look for signs of disruption.
In fairness, it would be harsh to pin what looks like a greater problem on Alaba’s shoulders. Alaba himself has addressed and dismissed this, but that is unlikely to make the questions of application go away any time soon.
Anything said on this topic would be pure conjecture and wholly unfair on the player, it is simply important to acknowledge that this is certainly one explanation that slightly more cynical fans may look to for Bayern’s dip in defensive quality.
A Wider Issue for Bayern Munich
Earlier in the article, it was mentioned that Bayern’s attack have had no such dip in form, perhaps making the defence look worse by virtue of comparison. However, there lies a strong possibility that the defence are simply ahead of the curve in their regression.
This may be bold to say, but there exist strong indications that Bayern have simply enjoyed both ends of the luck spectrum. Bayern’s attack could win the lottery without buying a ticket, and Bayern’s defence would get rained on in the Sahara.
Looking at xG (expected goals) trends for Bayern Munich so far in the 2020/21 season, they are benefitting from a simply outrageous overperformance in front of goal. Bayern’s open play xG sits at 23.63, in reality, they have scored 37 goals from open play.
The explanation comes in a few factors. As with all spells of clinical finishing, there is an element of luck. Bayern’s frontline are on a roll, and sometimes you cannot account for confidence and its magical effect. Another element is having one of the best strikers in world football. Robert Lewandowski is overperforming his individual xG by 6.84 goals which is not a difference to sniff at.
Whilst quality will help you overperform, this differential is highly unlikely to keep up. Bayern Munich will probably notice the goals start to slow down at some point.
In contrast, Bayern’s defence are having a rotten time. With an open play xG conceded of 15.2, the reality is slightly harsher with a total of 18 open play goals conceded. This is far more probable than the difference of 13.37 that the forwards are enjoying.
It is likely that the gap between goals scored and conceded will narrow some time soon. Bayern have had a lower xG than their opponent in five games this season, in reality they have only lost two matches.
Whilst the defence is attracting attention, there may be further problems brewing for Bayern Munich.