Bayern Munich are Germany’s most successful club. Their five European crowns sit snugly alongside 23 domestic titles; they have won the Bundesliga for the last two seasons; and their revenue increased 20% year-on-year last season to £360 million.
With the top flight kicking off again this weekend we ask if any of Bayern’s rivals are capable of breaking the shackles and causing a power shift in German club football? Let’s look at the data…
In their last successful league campaign, Bayern played with an element of the tiki-taka style that their manager Pep Guardiola’s brought with him from his former club Barcelona, squeezing the life out of opponents with a slick pass-and-move style game.
It would be surprising if any team can control the game as well as Bayern this season – last term they averaged over 70 per cent ball possession in any match scenario (leading, drawing or trailing). None of their nearest rivals approached this level of dominance. In fact 2nd place Borussia Dortmund (49%), 3rd place Schalke (47%) and 4th place Bayer Leverkusen (44%), all surrendered the majority of possession to their opponents once they had the lead, while Bayern simply tightened their stranglehold on the game (70%).
The engine room for Bayern centered around Tony Kroos and Bastien Schweinsteiger, who both delivered an average of 84 passes per game. The nearest midfield player to this remarkable rate from Bayern’s fellow title contenders is Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin, who weighs in with an average of 52 passes. With minimal movement so far in the transfer window involving playmaking midfielders in the Kroos or Schweinsteiger mould, Dortmund, Schalke and Leverkusen could be missing a key ingredient of causing a Bundesliga upset.
The tireless work of flying wingers Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben should also not be underestimated. The pair created the highest number of chances per game of any player in the top four – Ribery 3.3 and Robben 2.9.
Dortmund are the only team that come close to Bayern in the goalscoring department. Netting 14 shy of Bayern’s 94 last season, they have lost the formidable frontman Robert Lewandowski to their rivals, but replaced him with last season’s top scorer in Serie A – Ciro Immobile, formerly of Torino.
But while Dortmund appear to come closest to competing with Bayern’s attacking prowess, it is Schalke, 7-time German champions, who could be one of the hardest teams to beat. Every defender in their squad with over 10 appearances to their name last season registered over 25 per cent ‘good actions’ when dealing with high pressure situations – the only top four team to achieve this feat.
Schalke’s problems could lie in their lack of service to striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar – the 2.9 chances per game they created for him on average last season was the lowest for any top scorer in the top four – Mandzukic (3.4), Lewandowski (5.2), Kielsing (3.7). The solution could come in the form of winger Jefferson Farfan, who delivered a top four-high average of crosses per game last season – 3.6.
Bayern’s rivals have their plus points. But as the champions welcome back a troop of World Cup winners from Brazil and settle in the coveted Lewandowski, their superiority in every department does not look like fading.