The loss of Kingsley Coman, Corentin Tolisso, and Rafinha to injury already has caused an uproar from Bayern Munich’s coaching staff and front office, who have suggested that the referees need to do a better job of protecting the players. Niko Kovac, Hasan Salihamidzic, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and Uli Hoeness have all called for stricter repercussions for opposition players that commit needlessly hard challenges.
Per a report by kicker, though, statistics show that Bayern are actually fouled significantly less often than several other Bundesliga clubs. Newly promoted sides Fortuna Düsseldorf and FC Nürnberg are the two clubs that have been fouled the most so far this season (42 and 41 times respectively); then comes VfL Wolfsburg (37). Bayern has been fouled a total of 36 times in their opening three league matches, tied in fourth place alongside RB Leipzig. Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach are right behind them, having been fouled a total of 35 times.
Additionally, the average number of fouls Bayern suffers per match (12) is slightly lower than what it was last season (12.1), though last year’s figure comes from the whole season rather than just the opening three matches.
Ironically enough, too, Kovac’s Eintracht Frankfurt side from 2016-2018 were the most persistent offenders, committing an average of 15.4 fouls per match in the Bundesliga and also piling up the most yellow cards. Because of this, Frankfurt finished dead last in the “fair play” category in each of the three seasons when Kovac was manager.
The severity of the fouls is the grey area
Unfortunately, the statistics only show the frequency of fouls committed on each respective team in the league. They give no metrics for the severity of each foul committed. It only takes one rash challenge to seriously injure a player and put them on the sidelines for a considerable stretch, but with arbitrary interpretations of what constitutes a “dirty foul,” it’s a difficult thing to keep track of.
Kovac and Bayern’s front office are well within their right to express concern over the nature of the fouls committed on their players, but the statistics clearly show that other teams have it worse. Hopefully, moving forward, officiating crews can work to find some sort of middle ground where they can prevent opposing teams from going into matches against Bayern with a game plan to disrupt Bayern’s game by virtue of persistent and/or hard fouling. For Bayern’s sake, hopefully they can avoid having any more serious injuries; otherwise they could find themselves in an even worse injury crisis.