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Has Robert Lewandowski changed at Bayern Munich?

Robert Lewandowski has evolved at Bayern Munich and it may be down to Pep Guardiola's strategic use of the Polish striker

Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Two season ago, Robert Lewandowski notched 34 goals and paired them with 7 assists en route with Borussia Dortmund. Last season, the Polish striker netted 26 goals and 8 assists. Halfway through this season, and now with Bayern Munich, Robert Lewandowski has a relatively paltry 9 goals and 5 assists across all competitions.

For a player known to a be one the of Bundesliga's most technical strikers combining an eye for goal with a fantastic tactical brain and a poacher's instincts, the fall off in "production" as measured by those stats most often associated with striker productivity, is noticeable but not egregious. By what about the underlying statistics? Has Robert Lewandowski changed under Pep Guardiola's tutelage?

Offensive Statistics

Touches/90 Passing % Back Zone Pass% Forward Zone Pass% Shots/90 Chances Created/90
2012/2013 41.79 72.23% 0.89 0.67 3.59 1.28
2013/2014 49.06 72.25% 0.92 0.67 3.68 2.19
2014/2015 41.16 73.79% 0.98 0.68 3.89 1.41

Looking down the line of offensive statistics, Robert Lewandowski is virtually unchanged. His passing accuracy has certainly taken a step forward, his touches, shots and chances created per 90 aren't out of line with what he's posted previously in his career.

Defensive Statistics

Tackles/90 Interceptions/90 Duel % Aerial Duel % Recoveries/90
2012/2013 0.38 0.32 40.34% 45.42% 3.18
2013/2014 0.57 0.22 41.18% 36.45% 3.13
2014/2015 0.18 0.18 39.58% 45.54% 1.76

On the defensive side of the ball, the same trend occurs -- not much has changed for Robert Lewandowski. While his tackles per 90 and recoveries per 90 are down compared to his Dortmund years, that's more likely due to the change from the transition based attack of Dortmund to the possession-based system of Bayern Munich. In that kind of transition, you would expect these specific skills to be used less frequently.

So what could account for the change in production level from Robert Lewandowski this season? Nothing in his statistics point to a change in ability on either side of the ball. Instead, the answer may lie in his usage by Pep Guardiola.

Heat Maps

To the right is Lewandowski's heat map from Dortmund 4-0 thrashing of Hertha BSC on Matchday 34 last season. IN that match Robert Lewandowski netted a brace and was on fire for Dortmund. As displayed by the heat map, Lewandowski spent much of that game drifting either right and working at the top of the box where you'd expect the a striker to be. However more importantly than that, Lewandowski's tendency to drift right underlines his interplay with Marco Reus whose tendency is to drift to the left side of attack forming a dangerous partnership while targeting the Hertha goal.

Fast forward to late November and Bayern Munich's 4-0 win over Hoffenhim where Lewandowski netted a goal and an assist. Again the same pattern persists of pulling off to the side when farther from goal, only mirrored across the field. With Arjen Robben diving inside from the right or Thomas Müller pushing up from deeper, Lewandowski shifts left during build-up play. However, what is not seen is that same predilection of Lewandowski's to be at the top of the box. In fact that central zone at the top of the box is almost bereft of movement from Lewandowski.

With a propensity to drift wide and away from the zones a striker most often scores from you'd expect a commensurate decrease in output even if the underlying statistics are the same. Digging deeper and the same pattern shows up in his heat maps from Bayern Munich's 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund.

However, that's not to say this is not the only way Lewandowski has been used to effectiveness by Pep Guardiola. Bayern Munich's 4-0 win over FC Ausgburg is an example of more centralized role for the Polish striker, but this is yet another example of a tactical trick in Pep Guardiola's seemingly ever-expanding toolbox. While Lewandowski's "classical" personal stats don't belie his effectiveness, his more detailed statistics and heat maps show a player who has evolved at Bayern Munich and perhaps he may be a more complete player than he was at Borussia Dortmund.

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