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BFW Film Room: How Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller dismantled Borussia Dortmund

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Thomas Lewandowski...no, Robert Müller...no, Müllendowski?

STUTTGART, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 01: Thomas Mueller of Bayern Munich celebrates with teammate Robert Lewandowski after scoring his team's third goal during the Bundesliga match between VfB Stuttgart and FC Bayern Muenchen at Mercedes-Benz Arena on September 1, 2018 in Stuttgart, Germany.
STUTTGART, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 01: Thomas Mueller of Bayern Munich celebrates with teammate Robert Lewandowski after scoring his team’s third goal during the Bundesliga match between VfB Stuttgart and FC Bayern Muenchen at Mercedes-Benz Arena on September 1, 2018 in Stuttgart, Germany.
(Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller are a match made in heaven. Look no further than their swashbuckling performance against Borussia Dortmund for a perfect example of the dynamic duo’s attacking prowess.

It is no secret that we here at BFW have a deep-rooted admiration for Thomas Müller. Bayern Munich scores more as a whole and Lewy scores more individually when the Raumdeuter is on the pitch. The two move in unison, both creating space for one another and finding it themselves. Their intelligent movement, hold-up play, eye for a pass and clinical finishing, in addition to their relentlessness, combine to form a deadly pairing. Despite the fact that each is pushing the wrong side of 30, they should still remain an integral part of the team.

Counter-attacking and off-ball movement stood out in particular against a disheveled Dortmund back-line.

Let’s take a look at their surgical performance against the Black and Yellows.

Counter-Attacking

First, Müller and Lewandowski’s persistence and quick thinking on the counter are assets in a Niko Kovac system that is more willing to concede possession. It is also beneficial when counter-pressing high up the pitch, as Bayern did against BVB.

Below, in just the second minute of the game, the Polish striker pressures Thomas Delaney, forcing an errant pass that Thiago Alcantara gathers with ease. The Spaniard plays a quick pass to Müller, who finds Lewy with his second touch. It probably should have been a goal, but Lewy’s movement and Müller’s quick pass created a strong early chance that helped set the tone of the match.


Lewandowski, who is not known for his passing, sparked a counter midway through the second half before darting up field to move into a scoring position. As Lewandowski comes onto the ball, Müller breaks wide and into space up field. He receives the pass in stride and finds David Alaba breaking down the left. A poor final ball from the Austrian left-back is all that prevented a goal.


In the 39th minute, Muller put his quick thinking and deft passing on display again, which is a greatly underappreciated facet of his game. The German international wins the ball with relatively basic pressing and immediately turns up field. Lewandowski continued his solid off-ball performance, breaking up field and drawing a yellow card on what surely would have been a high-quality goal-scoring opportunity. The way Lewandowski splits the defenders with a run across the face of Dan Axel-Zagadou is simple, but extremely effective.


Lewy seemed to actively look for such quick attacking opportunities. Although it did not exactly come off a counter-attack, shortly after his first goal the Polish striker helped to force BVB to play the ball out of bounds. As Dortmund hesitated in their transition to defense, Bayern’s number 9 broke towards the goal, received the ball, and rifled a shot at the bottom left corner. A strong save from Roman Bürki was all that kept Lewandowski’s effort out.


Lewandowski was especially effective with his hold-up play and crafty dribbling to fashion chances for his teammates on the break as can be seen in the next two clips. Attacking central defender Mats Hummels was almost the beneficiary of one of these breaks!


Perhaps the best press and counter of them all came with Lewy’s goal in the 17th minute. Zagadou’s absolute howler of a pass resulted in an easy interception, followed by world-class skill and finishing.


Off-Ball Movement

Both Müller and Lewandowski are absolutely brilliant without the ball in and out of the box. They play off of each other masterfully, which allows each to find more space without a concentration of defenders around them.

In the first clip below, Lewandowski finds himself in a one-on-one against a defender, which you can count on him winning 9 times out of 10. The Polish hitman drifts to the back post as Coman plays the ball in. He sticks to the back of Abdou Diallo before separating at the last second to create an inch of space before putting a dangerous header on frame.


Not to be out done, the Raumdeuter capitalized on a mental lapse from BVB, creating a chance off of a set piece. Thiago and Müller found themselves on the same wavelength: the German made a break down the right as Dortmund’s defense focused on the bulk of the runners to the left. A first shot by Muller was saved by Bürki, before it was deflected out to Javi Martinez who slots the ball home.


Lewandowski continued to wreak havoc even after Müller was subbed out, eventually capitalizing on an opportunity to score his second goal. In each of the following clips, Lewy identifies a late run towards the back post into acres of space. In the first, the ball is only just out of reach, but the Pole leaves no doubt on the second to put the dagger into his former side.

Can Müllendowski continue to serve as the foundation of the Bavarian attack for years to come?