Weak Bayern Or Strong Opponent?

 

Whenever Bayern fail to win the Bundesliga title, the big question is: why? Many are quick to point out the club’s inactivity on the transfer market, that Rummenigge, Hoeneß and now Nerlinger only react due to a certain degree of self-complacency that kicks in when titles are won. There’s no denying that as this (over a year old) chart proves:

The few people who already read my blog 13 months ago (you didn’t miss much if that’s not the case) might still remember this. Fortunately, my Excel skills have slightly improved. As you can see, the top three shopping sprees all took place after an unsuccessful season.

  • €52m twice, after 08/09 (Wolfsburg) and 06/07 (Stuttgart)
  • €25m after 03/04 (Bremen)

This year’s transfer market activity, as we all know following a titleless campaign, ranks among these with €39m.

But, as some might ask themselves, if Bayern spent so much money before this season, why are they not comfortably winning the league? Isn’t this also what these stats say? Indeed it is, and indeed they’re not (although the possibility is of course still there). A simple solution would be to say that this year’s signings suck but when you consider that 80% of the money was spent for Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng, two players who I’d call anything but horrible, that doesn’t make much sense. So the simple yet important main question is: are Bayern just not good enough or is the opponent that strong? If you hate stats and numbers yet somehow survived the first part, please stop reading, it’ll only get worse.

For the upcoming charts and stats, I used the data of every season since the 3-point rule was introduced (1995/96 being the first campaign using said system). Please keep in mind that all these numbers are not the point totals, they’re the results after 28 matches to be able to compare them with this season right now. First, the number of points of Bayern (red) and the first- or second-placed (green) team after 28 weeks and, as black dotted line, the average (I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong word, statistics lovers will correct me) to determine the quality of the top teams.

Take a second to understand this mess. If you can’t, don’t worry, tidier, simpler versions are coming up. A few things to notice: this season is pretty much the title race of the highest quality since the new system was introduced, the averages of 2003/04 and 2005/06 are higher but the race was already decided with Bremen and Bayern respectively dominating the Bundesliga. One more thing that becomes obvious quickly is that 2000/01, the year of Bayern’s last Champions League success, was an almost ridiculous Bundesliga season based on the title contenders’ points. Well-balanced league or weak top teams (in Bayern’s case probably more not focused since I refuse to call the CL winner weak).

Let’s look at more isolated cases. Here are only Bayern’s numbers.

Green squares symbolize years when other clubs won the title, red symbolize Bayern successes (the blue one this season, obviously) while the dotted lines provide you with the averages (in this case I’m pretty sure it is the correct term) of a title(less) season. As you can see, the average Bayern side that wins the league has collected 59,6 points after 28 weeks (Bayern teams that don’t win average 53,9 points).

This season? 60 points. Bayern are exactly on course to play a league-winning season. Not only that, it’s the fourth-best campaign with only the 2005/06 (66), 1998/99 (65) and 2002/03 (63) versions being better after 28 weeks. So the first question can already be answered: No, Bayern are not extraordinarily weak. Quite the contrary, it’s a really good Bundesliga season, especially when you consider that they’ve also made it to the Champions League semifinal (05/06: round of 16, 02/03: group stage) so exhaustion and not complete focus on league are factors (as they were in 98/99 when Bayern made it to the CL final).

Let’s jump over to the second part of the question. I understand that some of you won’t like the result but life is not all guns and roses. The opponents’ numbers:

The colors mean the same (red = Bayern won title, green = opponent won title). One thing you notice is that the scattering isn’t as noticeable, the first- or second-placed team ends up with something between 56-59 points after 28 weeks most of the time. If that’s the case, the chance for Bayern to win is pretty much 50/50, if it’s less than 56 it’s kind of a guaranteed league title for FCB, if it’s more than 59 it usually leads to the trophy for the club (only exception: Bayer Leverkusen in 1999/00, 60 points after 28 matches weren’t enough to stop Bayern).

You might’ve noticed it already: this doesn’t look too great. Dortmund’s current performance (63) is the third-best since 1995, only the same team last season (65) and the incredibly dominant Werder Bremen of 2003/04 (66) were even better. BVB are three points ahead of the average (59,7). So yes, it is safe to say that Dortmund are playing a great season and, since it’s the second year in a row, are a great team.

No matter who wins this title race, what’s certain is that we’re witnessing an anomaly. Either this is Bayern’s best season (once again, after 28 weeks, don’t forget) that doesn’t lead to a title or the best season of another team that doesn’t lead to a title for them. It might not be the most exciting fight for the trophy in Bundesliga history but it’s certainly one of a very high quality.

In the end, only one question matters: who wins the league? Let’s look at Bayern’s chances with six matches to go.

What the hell is this, you might definitely ask. It’s the point difference after 28 weeks between Bayern and the first- or, if Bayern lead the league, second-placed team. What can be noticed? Whenever Bayern enter the last six matches with an advantage, they win the title. Not the case, unfortunately. The only time when Bayern and the first opponent were tied was in the first season of the 3-point system, Borussia Dortmund won the league. A deficit could be turned around twice, in 1999/00 (Leverkusen 2 points ahead, Bayern won) and in 2009/10 (Schalke 2 points ahead, Bayern won). One thing that might give you hope: in the latter case, Bayern managed to do that because the big match for the title was played in week 29, FCB won the match and the title. The same chance exists this year.

The negative thing: 2 points have been the maximum so far, three points or more were impossible to make up for. Right now, there’s a 3-point difference between Bayern and Dortmund (the only time that was the case was in 2009 when Wolfsburg won the Bundesliga, the big clash took place in week 26).

To sum up: Bayern are not weak at all, it’s a pretty good season based on the own performances. The problem for the record champion is that another club is playing a great season as well, Dortmund are a contender well above average. The stats are 2-1 in favor of BVB, confirming the already well-documented situation that the current titleholders are also favorites this year. What can be said without any doubt whatsoever: Whoever wins this season’s Bundesliga trophy is a deserved champion. Both Dortmund and Bayern play a very remarkable season that’s usually enough for a comfortable title win.

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One Response to Weak Bayern Or Strong Opponent?

  1. ahhh too many numbers! i thought i left this shit behind in high school!!!

    i kid. great post. it would be interesting to look at correlations between league difficulties and champions league success – does a tough year in the league keep us on our toes or tire us out too much?

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