Arjen Robben's expected injury absence of 'several weeks' could cause all sorts of problems for Bayern Munich, says DW's Alex Chaffer. Last year's champions have some crucial games ahead.
Bayern Munich's dominance has shone once again this season with one man standing out predominantly for the German champions as they attempt to claim a second treble in three years. Arjen Robben is playmaker, goal-scorer and motivator, all in one package.
After the 31-year-old left the pitch with a torn abdominal muscle in the 2-0 home defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Sunday, club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said "Arjen Robben's injury is just as bad as the loss." He might just be right, too.
Without Robben for their win against Werder Bremen two weeks ago, Bayern cruised. But, generally, in the Dutchman's absence, Bayern's performances have dipped this season. You just need to look at the numbers.
Better with, than without
Seven times this season Robben has been absent from the Bayern squad in domestic fixtures. In those games, just 10 goals were scored at a rate of 1.41 per game, with three draws and a loss coming from the matches.
But, when Robben is involved it's a different story. Bayern has scored 63 goals in 21 games at a rate of three goals per game, when Robben has taken the pitch. Many of these goals have come from the man himself: he's managed 17 goals already this season, his personal Bundesliga record.
Despite their strong campaign, Bayern have struggled against the Bundesliga's biggest teams this season, with an uncharacteristically low nine points coming from their five outings with teams in the top five this season. Robben missed two of these big games earlier in the season, with Schalke and Mönchengladbach unlucky to take just a single point in his absence.
Now, it's likely that he'll be unfit for big games with Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen at the beginning of April too, not to mention the Champions League game against Porto.
This time last season was when Bayern's small blip came. Three games without a win, including losses to Borussia Dortmund and Augsburg came at the end of March and start of April in 2014. Robben was absent in the loss to Augsburg and played just 14 and 69 minutes in the other two winless encounters.
In 2012/13, it was games with the bigger teams that brought the champions unstuck too. Draws with Dortmund (twice) and Gladbach in which Robben's absence was telling, were stumbling blocks during the campaign.
Bayern now have a 10 point lead over Dieter Hecking's Wolfsburg, who themselves have very winnable games against Stuttgart and Hamburg to come.
On Sunday, after Bayern dominated early against Mönchengladbach, Robben's withdrawal sparked life into the away side. They took the game to Bayern and won. With Robben now missing, the likes of Dortmund and Leverkusen will be keen to catch out Bayern while they're not at full strength.