Harry Kane is facing the very real prospect of a trophyless first season in Germany – can Bayern Munich salvage anything from it?

To the logical minds among us, what is happening at Bayern Munich doesn’t make any sense.

A title-winning side – albeit one that stumbled their way to last season’s Bundesliga – added one of the modern game’s great goalscorers in the summer and yet are now staring at the very real possibility of a first trophyless season since 2011-12. In each of the last 11 campaigns, Bayern have won the Bundesliga as a minimum, and often another cup, too.

When Harry Kane went to Bayern, he was understandably taking up the chance to compete for the biggest prizes in football. In reality, the Bundesliga won’t have been the trophy he had his eye on – winning that would have been the mere minimum Bayern continued to win with him leading the line. It is the Champions League that he wants to get his hands on, and guaranteeing himself game time in that competition was the reason he had to move to Bayern and simply couldn’t stay at Tottenham.

But after three defeats in a week – in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg against Lazio, against title rivals Bayer Leverkusen and this weekend against mid-table Bochum in the Bundesliga – there is a genuine chance he won’t win anything in this first season in Germany.

According to the Opta supercomputer, Bayern now have an 11.2% of overhauling their eight-point deficit to Leverkusen at the top of the Bundesliga, while their Champions League chances are down at 4.8% after losing to Lazio.

If these were two completely independent events, the mathematical probability of at least one of them occurring would be 15% – the sum of the two percentages – but in fact they are intrinsically linked. Confidence in manager Thomas Tuchel must now be at an all-time low among fans, players and club executives alike, and the likely failure in one competition will surely increase the chances of failure in the other.

So, how have Bayern fallen to what is a relatively bleak stage in their history?

It’s hard to imagine that Kane might actually have made the team weaker. That’s certainly not what Tuchel thinks, anyway. He suggested – although somewhat cryptically – after Sunday’s defeat to Bochum that Kane could be feeling let down by his teammates or Tuchel’s tactics.

“He knows what he’s doing, and he’s not satisfied with the way he’s been implemented in games,” Tuchel said. “We’re not satisfied with the way things have been going.”

He went on to insist Kane is driving up standards at the club with his attitude and application.

“It’s unbelievable how well he can score in training and how he pushes the team on, which is absolutely world class, and how little we have found him in games. I have rarely experienced such a difference in what a player has been able to bring on the pitch in training and on the pitch in actual games.”

harry kane goals 2023-24

Kane’s numbers have, after all, been exceptional since moving to Bayern. By scoring his 25th goal of the season on the weekend in his 22nd game, Kane broke Erling Haaland’s record for the fewest Bundesliga games needed to reach that landmark.

His next target will be Uwe Seeler’s record for the fewest games needed in Germany’s top flight to reach 30 goals. Seeler managed that feat in 30 games in 1963-64, meaning Kane has seven games to score five more goals. That Seeler season also represents the most prolific debut campaign in the Bundesliga, which will be another record Kane has his eyes on.

There is also the outside chance that Kane could threaten Robert Lewandowski’s all-time record for goals scored by a player in a Bundesliga season, when he scored 41 times for Bayern in 2020-21. To beat that, though, Kane would need to up his current rate of 1.15 goals per 90 and play every minute of Bayern’s remaining 12 games. It isn’t exactly likely, but the fact there is still a chance he could break that record shows just how well he has been doing.

most goals in a single bundesliga season

And yet, Bayern are genuinely struggling. A sticky patch for Kane has coincided with Bayern’s most disjointed performances of the season. They created more than enough chances against Bochum – something Tuchel was at pains to point out afterward – but they were still way off the levels they had reached earlier in the season. They generated 3.35 expected goals, but in the key moments they – and notably Kane – were found wanting, Kane blazing one of the best chances of the game wildly over the bar when clean through on goal.

When your team is set up almost entirely to get your main goalscorer into threatening positions, it can mean that if he is off colour or not getting into those positions, the team can quickly appear out of sorts. Manchester City suffered something similar on Saturday when they drew 1-1 with Chelsea and talisman Haaland failed to score despite having nine shots.

Bayern have failed in key moments or key games too often this season, and Opta’s expected points model tells an interesting story. The model uses expected goals numbers to simulate the number of goals each team will score in each match, and then uses the simulated number of goals to determine the match outcome (win/draw/loss). Each match is simulated 10,000 times and the expected points for each team in each match can then be calculated based on the proportion of simulations they win/draw/lose.

The model says that Bayern have created sufficiently good chances relative to their opponents to collect enough points to top the Bundesliga. The reality is they are way behind Leverkusen.

bundesliga expected points table

The Bochum game was nothing new. Yes, there have been plenty of convincing wins – a 4-0 victory at Borussia Dortmund in November; a 3-0 win over Stuttgart in December; the 3-1 win against Borussia Mönchengladbach earlier this month all spring to mind.

But they have also on too many occasions failed to convert dominance in chances and expected goals into actual results. In the 1-0 defeat to Werder Bremen last month, Bayern generated 1.92 xG to Bremen’s 0.43; they were thrashed by Eintracht Frankfurt in December, losing 5-1 despite winning in terms of xG (2.08 to 1.32). Then there was the humiliating DFB-Pokal defeat to third-tier Saarbrücken when their xG numbers again suggested they should have won. They are giving up far too many sloppy and avoidable goals while failing to take their chances consistently enough.

frankfurt 5-1 bayern munich stats

But expected goals only, of course, tell a part of the story. A happy, cohesive, world-class unit – the kind that Bayern aspire to be and usually are – will exceed their expected points numbers across a season. Their defence wouldn’t make silly mistakes (Dayot Upemecano has been sent off in both of Bayern’s last two games) and an attack containing Kane would outperform their xG. There should be no excuses for Bayern’s likely failure to win the Bundesliga this season.

Leverkusen are a more consistent unit and are fully deserving of their spot at the top of the table, and it’s difficult to see them dropping enough points for Bayern to reel them in. That’s before we even start to consider whether Bayern will win every remaining game – something they’re likely to have to do if they are to have any chance of catching Xabi Alonso’s side. Kane may be well ruing his luck that he has come up against a Leverkusen side that have the third-best ever Bundesliga record after 22 games (58 points).

Bayern now face a testing few weeks, with fifth-placed Leipzig and eighth-placed Freiburg up next in the Bundesliga before the return leg against Lazio. Anything other than three wins – including one by two or more goals against the Italians – will surely render their season completely over.

It’s a shocking situation in which the German giants find themselves, and one that very few will have predicted. Now begins the desperate scramble to rescue something from Kane’s debut season at Bayern.

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