Football Features

Boost to Lewandowski’s Ballon d’Or bid? Stats you might have missed this weekend

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:46, 12 September 2021

Domestic club football is back on the menu following a week-long international break.

Every major competition was open for business across this weekend and with so many things happening it’s only natural to miss an important or memorable event.

But don’t fret because Squawka is here with nine things you might have missed across the weekend.

1. An unwanted piece of history

The signing of Marcel Sabitzer was Bayern Munich’s second most notable acquisition this summer behind his former RB Leipzig teammate Dayot Upamecano, both of whom reunited with Julian Nagelsmann who guided Die Roten Bullen to second place last season, equalling their best ever Bundesliga finish. It should not go unnoticed that Germany’s undisputed champions nabbed Leipzig’s manager, best defender and influential midfielder in one transfer window. Nagelsmann’s successor Jesse Marsch — who did a standup job at Red Bull Salzburg before this promotion — faces an unenviable task following in those footsteps and this past weekend saw the Bundesliga’s top two from last term lock horns in the East German city.

Bayern were relentless on matchday four, running out 1-4 winners, subsequently leaving their hosts with more questions than answers. Heading into the upcoming round of fixtures Leipzig find themselves seventh from bottom on three points. A poor start but an historic one. It’s the young club’s worst opening performance in Germany’s top division. Before this season Leipzig’s weakest record after four games was five points accumulated under Ralph Hasenhüttl in 2018/19 – they would finish that campaign in third and with a new manager (Ralf Rangnick) at the helm.

2. King Kylian

Every summer there’s a transfer saga that captures the imagination. In a window that saw both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo move all eyes were instead on Real Madrid and their pursuit of Kylian Mbappé – a galáctico-in-waiting. Mbappé’s résumé and credentials are well-documented. The 22-year-old forward has long been touted as football’s face in a post-Messi and Ronaldo era which explains why Los Blancos are determined to snap him up. It also helps that he’s reportedly keen on a switch. His signature isn’t cheap and despite recruiting Messi the powers that be in Spain’s capital were rebuffed meaning they’ll likely have to wait until next summer when he becomes a free agent.

Remaining at Paris Saint-Germain was music to Mauricio Pochettino’s ears but a certain section of the club’s fanbase were not enthralled with Mbappé’s seemingly courtship. However, as the past has shown, performing often wins back support. To his credit the Parisian hasn’t allowed these off-field distractions to affect his game. Across his opening five league appearances this season he’s bagged four goals and created two more. In the wider picture Mbappé has been involved in at least one goal in each of his last 10 Ligue 1 outings (11 goals and three assists), which equals his best such performance in France’s top-flight, previously registered between February and November 2020.

3. Artist at work

What a summer it was for Italian football. Going somewhat under the radar heading into Euro 2020 their national team ended a 53-year wait to be crowned European champions. What made this success even more satisfying was the plethora of new faces making an impact on the international stage. No one exemplified this new-look Italian side than regal midfielder Nicolò Barella who earlier this year was paid the ultimate compliment by legendary Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi when he described Inter Milan’s ‘number 23’ as “the prototype of a modern footballer”.

The native of Cagliari shone as the heartbeat of Italy’s midfield and is now doing the same at club level. Having played a pivotal role in ending the Nerazzurri’s decade-long wait for Serie A glory, the 24-year-old has picked up where he left off, by grabbing an assist in each of his first three league appearances this season Barella becomes the first Inter player to achieve this feat since the 2004/05 season. Last term he finished the campaign having created seven goals. At the rate he’s going expect that number to be surpassed well before the winter break.

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4. Hitting the ground running

Sometimes it just doesn’t click. There are numerous examples of players who are nuclear hot that are subsequently cooled down after making a high-profile transfer. Sébastien Haller could do no wrong at Eintracht Frankfurt but the same couldn’t be said at West Ham where his struggles in front of goal became a major talking point. The relationship between player and club was severed earlier this year when Haller returned to Eredivisie action by joining Dutch football’s most illustrious outfit. The 27-year-old had previously worked under Ajax boss Erik ten Hag at FC Utrecht and months later this union remains as strong.

Haller’s first goal wearing a Godenzonen jersey came in his second appearance on the road at Twente and since then he’d bag 10 goals across 17 matches. Those efforts comfortably placed him top 20 for the season despite playing less than half the amount of games. Now starting with a clean slate Haller is on a ‘golden shoe’ chasing mission. After the opening four Eredivisie rounds he’s bagged four goals which places him number 1 on the current standings and 15 strikes for Ajax in 23 games only teammate Dusan Tadic (22) and predecessor Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (16) have managed to produce that number in the least amount of appearances since 2000.

5. Relentless Robert

Let’s go back to RB Leipzig-Bayern for a second. Breaking the deadlock from 12 yards Robert Lewandowski – who else? The 33-year-old Polish centre-forward is world football’s undisputed ‘number nine’. Last season Lewandowski set a new Bundesliga record for most goals in a single campaign when he bagged 41 goals across 29 appearances breaking Gerd Müller’s seemingly unassailable 49-year old record.

By netting over the weekend Lewandowski’s moved onto six for this season and by doing so he’s now registered in 17 successive competitive games for Bayern (scoring 27 goals) which sets a new record in German professional football. The previous best was held by Müller who scored in 16 consecutive matches between 1969 and 1970. With another incredible feat under his belt Lewandowski’s hopes of being named this year’s Ballon d’Or recipient enhances.

Ballon d’Or 2021 winner (via Sky Bet)

  • Lionel Messi: 2/5
  • Jorginho: 6/1
  • Robert Lewandowski: 7/1
  • Kevin De Bruyne: 12/1
  • N’Golo Kanté: 12/1
  • Cristiano Ronaldo: 16/1
  • Harry Kane: 16/1
  • Kylian Mbappé: 33/1
  • Neymar: 33/1

6. Still winless

What a couple of months it has been for Juventus; firstly a third managerial change since 2019, then losing Cristiano Ronaldo — last season’s top scorer — and now and now they’re in the midst of a crisis. Andrea Pirlo wasn’t able to cut the mustard, under him Juve ended fourth, subsequently breaking their championship-winning streak. A ten-peat never came to fruition and those in power turned back to Massimiliano Allegri who claimed five of those previous nine consecutive scudettos. However, this return to power hasn’t gone smoothly, and there’s now murmurings of discontent at Italy’s most successful club.

Juventus — who have been placed in a Champions League group with Malmö, Chelsea and Zenit — began their domestic campaign at Udinese only for them to snatch a point from the jaws of victory. What soon followed were back-to-back losses against Empoli and rivals Napoli meaning after their opening three games the Old Lady are winless. This is only the second time across their last 52 campaigns they’ve managed to be pointless heading into matchday four. The previous season was 2015/16 when Juve ended with 91 points (nine more than runner-up Napoli).

7. Impenetrable

The legendary American college football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant famously said that “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” It’s early days in Ligue 1 and very few are looking past Paris Saint-Germain for this season’s championship but former four-time Ligue 1 winners Nice are setting themselves up to keep Pochettino’s men honest. Christophe Galtier’s men after this weekend are five points behind PSG with a game in hand. An opening round goalless draw against Reims was soon followed by three consecutive victories including emphatic back-to-back 4-0 wins over Lille and Bordeaux.

Kasper Dolberg and Amine Gouiri both lead the way on three strikes, but going back to Bryant’s words a special mention for Dante and company at the back. Nice’s rearguard has been nothing short of impressive, more so when you consider heading into these latest round of fixtures they boasted the lowest average possession (33.2%) and lowest passing accuracy (70.6%) in Ligue 1 this season. By not conceding they are the only team across Europe’s big five leagues who are spotless. Next up is a lunchtime date with Monaco on September 19.

8. Triple up

After sharing the Spanish championship for six consecutive seasons Atlético Madrid broke the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly last term when Diego Simeone’s men won Los Rojiblancos their eleventh La Liga championship. Some observers are backing a successful title defence on the count that both Real and Barça remain vulnerable. If this does come to pass then it will only be the second time in club history Atléti have won back-to-back league crowns.

So far they’ve started well, after the opening four rounds Simeone’s team have accumulated 10 points from a possible 12, and last time out against Espanyol they left it very late to pick up all the spoils. Thomas Lemar scored a 99th minute winner. Yannick Carrasco’s equaliser, which came 20 minutes earlier, was one for the history books. Atlético have now registered 300 goals past a single La Liga opponent.

9. Red-hot Rossoneri

For much of last season it felt AC Milan were about to end their championship drought. After years of chopping and changing Stefano Pioli looked to be the manager they’ve long waited for but it was never meant to be. City rivals Inter pipped them for the Scudetto, their winning margin was eye-watering 12 points, but a new season presents a new opportunity for Italy’s most decorated club at the European level.

Milan, who have been recruiting smartly these last few years, opened their campaign with a narrow 0-1 win on the road against Sampdoria but they would soon turn on the style against Cagliari at home by running out 4-1 winners. Last time out the Milanese outfit registered a 2-0 success over Lazio meaning for the second consecutive season they’ve begun with three successive league victories. Never before in back-to-back have Milan achieved this.