Is the contest for top goal-scorer in the Bundesliga about to become as boring as the title race? Should the league impose a rule that cuts Robert Lewandowski’s goal count in half . . . just to give others a chance? Will Bayern Munich’s goal getter start getting sloppy now that no one is pushing him?
While Lewandowski was denied the Torjägerkanone by just one goal last season—and subsequently complained that his team hadn’t helped him enough to get it—this year the whole Bundesliga seem determined to hand Lewandowski the award.
The (lack of) competition
Lewandowski's closest pursuer from last season, Anthony Modeste (FC Köln), was sold to China in the summer. Aubameyang’s departure from Dortmund makes Lewy the only one of the top three goal scorers from last season left in the league.
In fact, only one other player in the Bundesliga finished within 10 goals of the top spot last year: RB Leipzig's Timo Werner. This season Werner already trails Lewandowski by 8 goals and is tied in third place. In second place, we find Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg) with 11 goals, yet technically still behind the departed Aubameyang (13). This means that even if we were to cut Lewy’s goal tally in half, he would still only be two goals behind Finnbogason.
The main problem that sets other Bundesliga strikers apart from Lewandowski is consistency, or the lack thereof. Finnbogason is the prime example, as his stats are completely misleading: his 11 Bundesliga goals were scored in bunches in around 33% of the games he played.
Uth, Volland and Werner meanwhile have each scored in around 50% of the matches they have played, but Lewandowski is simply at another level, scoring in 75% of his games.
I have taken Petersen out of the equation because he started 2017 as a substitute and could not fully show what he can do. In the last ten games, however, he was promoted to a starting role, and has captained Freiburg in their last 6 games. In that time, he has scored 9 goals, two more than Lewandowski.
Petersen therefore has the strongest trajectory. The lingering question that remains is consistency. Can he keep it up? As unlikely as it seems, for now Petersen—the ex-Bayern player—may be Lewandowski's biggest threat.
So what does the future look like? If Borussia Dortmund manage to permanently sign Batshuayi—and are not priced out of signing him over the summer—that would be a good start.
Across all games—as a backup at Chelsea and in his first game with Dortmund—he has shown that he can be a real weapon, scoring every 89 minutes. This compares quite favourably to Lewy's own goal-scoring rate of one every 99 minutes (across all competitions).
The difference of course is that Batshuayi scored many of his goals against weaker teams, when Alvaro Morata was being rested, or as a sub against tired opponents. (Of course, one could argue that many of Lewandowski's goals have also come against weak sides.) But Batshuayi has also shown what he can do in his Bundesliga start—with minimal team training, too.
Bayern fans should hope that Batshuayi manages to become a serious contender as a top scorer and therefore a rival for Lewandowski. Lewy is a through-and-through competitor; working hard to achieve his personal goals drives him to top performances, something he recognised with his tweet following the announcement of Aubameyang’s departure:
Good luck @Aubameyang7 It was a pleasure to compete with you. Only a healthy fight is pushing us forward.— Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) January 31, 2018
The rest of the season
For now, however, it is back down to Bayern to make it interesting for the league. If, for example, they decide to rest Lewy in the Bundesliga to focus on the Champions League and the Pokal, then other goal-scorers might be able to catch up.
But unless they all get more consistent, even that won’t make much difference. But Bayern fans need not worry: Lewy is unlikely to let his performances slip much without competition. He is simply too much of a pro.
So what should we expect for the rest of this season? Well let’s just say that in all likelihood what is true of the Bundesliga as a whole also applies to the race for the Torjägerkanone: a lonely leader at the top, and everyone else struggling behind.
All stats from transfermarkt.co.uk.