On Wednesday, Bayern Munich hosted Bundesliga strugglers Union Berlin. This game was originally scheduled for gameweek 13 but it was postponed due to heavy snow in Munich during December.
In a game that saw Bayern dominate from start to finish, there was a feeling of accomplishment and disappointment at the final whistle. Die Roten had 72% possession and managed ten shots on target compared to only one from the opposition. In some ways, this game reflected Bayern’s season to date- a lot of good, some bad, and a bit of ugly- that ultimately left fans wondering if the Bavarian side is good enough to win silverware this season. Let us look at some key tactical events and takeaways from the crucial 1-0 victory (Stats courtesy: Sofascore).
Alphonso Davies apparently in Tuchel’s dog-house
As expected, Bayern lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Somewhat surprisingly, coach Thomas Tuchel made one change to the starting XI that featured against Werder Bremen on Sunday.
Alphonso Davies, who had been culpable for the lone goal in the loss to Bremen, was relegated to the bench. Leon Goretzka came in to partner Joshua Kimmich at the base of midfield. Raphael Guerreiro kept his place in the starting XI by taking over from Davies at left-back.
Both Guerreiro and Goretzka justified the coach’s decision with their performances. The Portuguese left-back was particularly impressive in scoring the game’s only goal on a night when the attack once again lacked precision in the final third. With Real Madrid lurking, it’s left to be seen how the situation with Davies unfolds moving forward.
Sane and Coman switched to inverted wingers without major improvement
To serve as a catalyst for an improved showing in attack, Thomas Tuchel deployed Coman and Sane as inverted wingers instead of the orthodox approach that was used against Bremen a few days prior.
Unfortunately, the results of that change were not much better. The duo each tallied nine crosses but neither managed to pick out a teammate in the box. Sane was particularly disappointing. Having been involved throughout the game, the German forward didn’t register a single shot on target. On numerous occasions, the German winger was poor with his passing in terms of both accuracy and timing. Meanwhile, Coman managed only one shot on target.
Midfield and Defense up to the task, yet Bayern were in Dier need
With the front four struggling to make a breakthrough, it was comforting to see Kimmich and Goretzka boss the midfield. The back four also played well and managed to snuff out all but just one of the occasional attacks from Union Berlin.
Unfortunately for Bayern, Dayot Upamecano suffered a hamstring injury late in the first half and had to be replaced for the second half. The French international defender is expected to be out of action for several weeks. Rekordmeister’s latest signing- Eric Dier made his debut as he replaced Upamecano. There was one scare for Dier and his new teammates midway through the second half, but Manuel Neuer pulled off an impressive save from close range to preserve Bayern’s lead.
To make matters worse both Laimer and Kimmich suffered injuries in the second half. The Austrian midfielder is expected to be out for six weeks. Fans will hope Kimmich returns sooner rather than later.
Union Berlin Head Coach- The Ugly
It’s not often that a coach gets sent off for hitting one of the opposing team’s players. However, Union Berlin’s coach Nenad Bjelica was rightfully shown the red card after pushing his right hand into Leroy Sane’s face as the latter tried to retrieve the ball from him near the dugout to take a throw-in.
Sane did well to control himself but was shown a yellow card for retaliating with a shove in the chest of the Croatian. Ironically one can’t help but wonder if that incident saved Sane from being substituted, since he wasn’t having one of his better games.