Observations from Bayern Munich’s 2-0 away victory against Union Berlin

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich celebrates with David Alaba and Alphonso Davies after he scores his team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Chelsea FC and FC Bayern Muenchen at Stamford Bridge on February 25, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
It wasn’t the best of displays, but Bayern Munich leaves East Berlin with three points.

A defensively impressive Union

It is interesting to speculate what will be the consequences of playing the remainder of the season with Geisterspiele and the possibility of five subs. I believe that it will benefit the best teams: the “12th man” phenomenon will be removed, and the better the bench, the better the substitutions will be. On paper, Bayern is three or four times better than Union Berlin. If the season went on as normal, playing half of their games in the Bundesliga in front of a passionate crowd at Köpenick benefits an Union side that needs every motivation possible. Taking the fans and their passion out of the equation, I believe Union would suffer.

The first 38 minutes proved me wrong, though. Union showed why they have been above the relegation battle this whole season. They defend as a team excellently and, even without an energetic Köpenick behind their back, they limited Bayern to only a couple of chances. Their excellent defensive set-up, the main reason they got promoted, was on full display until veteran Neven Subotic lost his head for just one second when he kicked Leon Goretzka in the penalty area.

Union was able to continuously disrupt Bayern’s attacking flow. Understandably, Union was never able to adopt an attacking style, but their defense allowed them to be chasing points throughout the game. Union played aggressively and showed no special respect for der Rekordmeister, an approach that worked in their favor.

An offensively dull Bayern

Bayern, in contrast, looked static and lacked offensive creativity. Leon Goretzka, acting as the attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation, failed to perform as an attacking outlet to create many Bayern chances. Thiago and Joshua Kimmich had a tough game against the relentless and aggressive Union midfielders Grischa Prömel and Robert Andrich. While Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, and Robert Lewandowski had impressive moments, overall the Bayern attack looked dull.

Mission accomplished

To be fair to the Bayern players, this game was always going to be analyzed with the knowledge that these players have not had many weeks of team training. At the end of the day, Bayern got the three points and they got it relatively effortlessly. Defensively, Bayern looked great. The usual backline of the 2019/20 season played well and limited Union to few real chances. Both fullbacks, Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies were excellent. Pavard, in my opinion, was the best player on the field.

Although not very entertaining for the viewer, today’s victory can be seen as a routine Bayern display in which they had to overcome a tough defense to get the needed three points. Although the offense lacked that the final push, given the extreme circumstances, that can be excused and shouldn’t be overanalyzed. Also, despite scoring two set-piece goals, Bayern got the job done and remains the leader of the Bundesliga by four points.

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