The Polish striker’s worrying start to the season has led to the Spanish champions looking pretty toothless in attack in the early weeks of the seasonRobert Lewandowski’s stat line in Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Cadiz on Sunday wasn’t horrific. Although he failed to score, the striker shot five times, put one on target and missed one ‘big chance.’ He also grabbed himself an assist. Worryingly, though, when Barca needed a goal to salvage what seemed to be heading towards their second 0-0 draw in two games to start the season, Lewandowski went quiet. He was rarely in the box, and what few half-chances he had, he squandered.The burden, instead, fell on Pedri and Ferran Torres to grab the goals, the star striker mostly a spectator as the Blaugrana squeaked out a win. It’s the continuation of a worrying trend for Lewandowski. He turned 35 on Monday, and has shown signs that he might be slowing down with age. He has only scored 10 league goals this calendar year, and is unlikely to match the 34 he managed in 2022. The eye test is equally unkind, with Lewandowski looking a languid presence on the ball and off it. Suddenly, one of the game’s greats looks old.This is all a problem for a Barca side that will sink without production from its star man. The Blaugrana don’t have a reliable goalscorer outside of Lewandowski. The departure of Ousmane Dembele — and his 12 goal contributions last year — has only increased the pressure. And although help is on the way from exciting but inexperienced Brazilian teenager Vitor Roque in January, Lewandowski needs to rediscover his best form or Barca may well fall out of title contention early.
What’s going wrong?
This is hardly a new issue for Lewandowski. He failed to score in his last two games of the 2022-23 La Liga campaign and saw his form fall off a cliff after the Qatar World Cup.
Before the tournament, Lewandowski was arguably the best player in La Liga. He scored 12 goals in his first 10 games for Barca, and by the break had 18 in 19 in the league. A dive into the minutia was even more impressive. The striker was averaging over a goal per 90 minutes, out-performing his xG and creating a high volume of chances. His €50 million (£42m/$51m) price tag, despite his age, seemed like a bargain.
The World Cup, though, seemed to impact some of the best players in Europe — especially strikers. And Lewandowski was one of them. After Poland’s last-16 exit, his numbers plummeted. He scored 15 times in all competitions between January and June, took fewer shots on goal, and saw his xG take a hit, too. A strong week to sew up the title — four goals in three fixtures — saved face, but Lewandowski was clearly struggling.
This season, albeit through only two games, the issues are much the same. Lewandowski is yet to find the net, has only put two shots on target, and is averaging less than 0.5 expected goals per game. The forward is also dropping far deeper than in season’s past, failing to get into the key positions that make him such a deadly No.9. It’s something his manager has noticed.“He has two or three clear opportunities. He has to have more patience and to not get out of position to where it doesn’t get to him,” Xavi pointed out after Lewandowski’s goalless return at the weekend.