Bayern locked down in Berlin
The hosts from Köpenick had to replace Robert Andrich and Max Kruse, their arguably best player who had been involved in a goal every 66 minutes so far this season.
Flicks chose a first-team starting line-up with his 2020 regular back four Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, and Davies. Goretzka and Musiala played double pivot against the ball while Musiala regularly shifted next to Müller to form a 4-1-4-1 when in possession. Coman on the left, Gnabry on the right wing and Lewandowski completed the line-up.
Union Berlin commenced fearlessly. Neuer saved against Taiwo Awoniyi prevented a goal in the very first minute but it only took two more until Union converted their second corner kick to the lead. Prömel’s header was too well placed for Neuer. Union continued to be more dangerous and Awoniyi had the chance to increase the lead in the 22nd minute.
FC Bayern did not perform well in any phase of the first half. Lewandowski stumbled short of what could have been the chance for an equaliser and Union’s goalie Luthe did not have to make a save until the 42nd minute.
Bayern wanted but couldn’t improve much in the second half. In the 63rd minute Flick went full force when Sané replaced Musiala. Gnabry switched to Musiala’s position.
Only four minutes later Coman won a dribble and passed back to Lewandowski who netted in from around the penalty spot.
Union had two more chances to regain the lead and Leroy Sané almost converted a 89th minute header for a notorious last-minute victory of the Bavarians, but overall the tie was a fair result.
Union’s press was relatively deep, very often they allowed the Bavarians to approach the midline before initiating their press in a rather conventional 4-5-1 pattern. Yet it was sufficient to kill Bayern’s build-up, since Union played very focused and Bayern had no ideas or means to break through. Musiala, though overall very engaged, could not fill in the role of Bayern’s primary build-up player, and Goretzka was unable to comply, either.
Bayern tried a few things. For instance, Gnabry sneaked to the striker’s room and Lewy dropped behind him and Müller moved to the right wing; Goretzka alternated back and forth, but the latter made the holes in the centre midfield even bigger.
According to Sky, Bayern’s xG in the first half were 0.2, a figure that matches the eye test.
The key reason for the harmless FC Bayern – aside from Union’s well executed press – was an entirely effectless centre midfield. Bayern could not create any dangerous situation or put pressure on Union from a well orchestrated build-up play, despite Union giving enough space in Bayern’s first third.
Goretzka is no deep lying playmaker and probably will never be. In spite of the progress he has made in 2020, he still is neither a strategist nor is he a pressing resistant ball passing machine like Thiago or Kimmich. In all fairness, that should not be required from Goretzka, he has other strengths. Many strengths. Musiala tried to support him, but his best moments came higher on the pitch. He had a few wrong positions when playing deep, as for example an unprompted bad pass forced Serge Gnabry to commit the yellow-worthy foul.
Flick or the squad’s temporary solution? Everyone tried to build-up part time: Lewandwoski even had to foul as the single center midfielder in front of the back four in the 57th minute. Sané, Müller, Gnabry also had short term stances in the center midfield, yet none of the excursion brought structure to the system. FC Bayern was never in control of the center midfield. Neither with or against the ball.