“I think we have to give value to the La Liga title. The eighth league title in eleven years. We’ve done something very important, and maybe we don’t give it the value it deserves. But in a few years, we will realise how difficult it was.”
It has been three seasons since Lionel Messi said this in the first-team presentation speech of the 2019/20 season. Barcelona is still trying to win a trophy to assert their position in Spain and Europe. Even the trophy that they used to win with relative ease has eluded their grasp. They lost their talisman due to an economic position they drove themselves into. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong in Barcelona.
But after being dragged through the mud for so long, hope has finally started to shimmer again at Camp Nou. Their prodigal son has returned, this time in a different role. He has assembled a group of young boys brimming with energy and enthusiasm and an experienced campaigner to lead from the front.
Robert Lewandowski’s move to the Catalan capital has rekindled a lost hope in the Blaugranas supporters. The same player who has hurt them in other colours in the past has now worn their famous red and blue. The former Bayern Munich player has repaid the faith the fans put in him with 13 goals in 14 matches. We take a look at his stats to understand why Robert Lewandowski is the man to lead Barcelona back to a much-awaited La Liga trophy.
Robert Lewandowski came into the Barcelona side and straightaway became a starter. He has played every match this season and scored 13 goals for his new side. The above visual shows the percentile rank of Robert Lewandowski in La Liga this season. As the pizza charts suggest, Robert Lewandowski is one of the best centre-forwards in the world. Even at 34, the Polish International is ranked in the top 96.2 percentile for shots and the top 94.3 percentile for goal contributions per 90 minutes. Lewandowski is still one of the best forwards in world football and has scored 18 goals for Barcelona in all competitions.
Fox in the box
The first thing anyone associates with Robert Lewandowski is goals. The striker is a goal machine and is showing no signs of stopping even at 34. He has scored 13 goals this season from 45 attempts. With an average of 3.59 shots per game, Lewandowski poses threats one after another for goalkeepers. Playing as the lone striker, Lewandowski usually takes the shot from the vicinity of the post and therefore has an average xG rate of 0.9 per 90 minutes. He has rightly earned the nickname “fox in the box” with his killer instinct in front of the goal and has scored all goals except one from inside the penalty box.
The only sign Robert Lewandowski has shown of slowing down is that he has slowed down. The Polish striker is 34 years old and does not have the same speed or dribbling skills that he once had. The 34-year-old has made an average of 2.73 dribbles per game and less than one progressive run per game. But he makes up for it with his ability to hold up the ball and wait for support to arrive.
Not known for his dribbling skills, Lewandowski prefers to be the receiver of the pass rather than the provider. The second viz shows the touch map of Robert Lewandowski. As the crowded red dots inside the penalty box suggest, that is where Lewandowski is most happy spending time. With a never-ending hunger to score goals, Lewandowski enjoys an average of 4.92 touches in the penalty box.
Having played for Bayern Munich, one would assume Lewandowski needs no special training in pressing and recovering the ball in a dangerous position. However, Lewandowski has recovered possession in the attacking half significantly less than he did last season with Bayern. Last season, he made more than 100 high regains, including more than ten inside the opponent’s penalty area. But this year, the figure has come down significantly to 24 after the first half of the season. Even his recoveries per game have taken a hit as the figure has slipped from 2.48 recoveries to 1.8 recoveries per game. Whether this is the lack of pressure from other Barca players or age slowly catching up to Lewandowski, Xavi would like an increase in that number.
Last year, these two icons of the game battled it out in different leagues and finished as the top two contenders for the Ballon d’Or award. This season, the spice has increased with Lewandowski joining Benzema’s arch-rivals Barcelona. The former is currently leading the race with 13 goals, while Benzema is trailing by eight goals. The two make an even competition with slightly separate skill sets. Benzema has a slight edge in almost all areas, while Lewandowski has better stats in aerial duels and dribbles.
Robert Lewandowski’s addition to Barcelona’s lineup has made a huge difference. The veteran provides a focal point for Barcelona’s passing game. His sheer dominance in the box and the ability to score all kinds of goals have given Barcelona an edge that they didn’t have last season.
Visuals via TFA data viz engine