11Hacks Data Analysis: Lewandowski is still great, but he will need help against Argentina

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11Hacks Data Analysis: Lewandowski is still great, but he will need help against Argentina
11Hacks Data Analysis: Lewandowski is still great, but he will need help against Argentina
11Hacks Data Analysis: Lewandowski is still great, but he will need help against Argentina
Profimedia
Data analysts from the Czech company 11Hacks are close to the Polish national team. They know the current coach Czeslaw Michniewicz well from their time working together with Legia Warsaw, where he served as head coach between September 2020 and October 2011 after leaving the Polish U21 national team.

"Michniewicz's approach to difficult matches has always been the same - focus on defending, not scoring if possible and eliminating the opponent's strengths. But he didn't have a plan for how to work on offense, where he relied mainly on individuality," says Jakub Dobiáš.

The data shows that the same applies to Poland's game. The team built around Robert Lewandowski (34) may thrive offensively against mediocre teams, but they create very few chances against the elite ones. 

Poland's midfield lacks the quality to control the pace of the game. In the two games played, they kept the ball only 37.87% of the time. Only Ghana, Costa Rica and Iran are worse off. Spain dominates the standings with 70.85%, Argentina are at 67.53% and Portugal at 65.55%. They also have the second lowest average number of passes per ball possession behind Iran.

World Cup possession stats
11Hacks

That's why Poland are trying to control their pressing. But there's a problem here too - none of their forwards have the momentum to press repeatedly during the game. In Qatar, although Michniewicz tries to press every ninth pass of the opponent, which is an above-average number among the participants of the World Cup, the efficiency is very poor. If they lose the ball in the opponent's half, they manage to win it back within 10 seconds only 16.53% of the time. This is the seventh worst performance.

Their offensive plan is mainly based on crossing, from which they scored the most goals (11) of all the advancing European sides in qualifying for the World Cup. But speaking of that, we also need to look at their ability to get second balls. And in this respect, the Poles are one of the worst teams in the tournament. They have A) the worst success rate in the defensive third, B) the fourth worst in the midfield, and C) the second worst in the attacking third.

So again we come to the question of individual quality, but that lies mostly on the shoulders of Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski, with perhaps Arkadiusz Milik as a substitute. But this is not enough in a strong competition for such a disorganised team.

It cannot be said that Lewandowski is not doing his best for Poland's progress. Against Saudi Arabia, he assisted one goal, scored another himself, sending one of his five shots into the net. The Saudis put in a good display, but thanks to Lewandowski's performance, the xG of the match stopped at 2.69:1.25 (+0.76 penalty) in the 2-0 win.

The Barcelona striker, even at 34 years old, is without a doubt one of the best nines in the world. No other player, including Karim Benzema, creates better quality shooting opportunities in LaLiga or has a higher average xG per shot, and only Borja Iglesias of Real Betis converts a higher percentage of his attempts so far. Even so, there are limits to how far a team can go in a tournament if they rely to such an extent on the individual performances of a single player.

Both teams have a lot to play for. But it is unlikely that Argentina will concede a second surprise in the tournament today.