Bayern Waltz to Victory Against Union

Marc Separator March 20, 2022

Friday also saw Bayern draw Villarreal in the Champions League Quarterfinal draw. All in all it was an oddly stressful and busy week given that there was not a midweek game to contend with. Saturday of course saw Union Berlin travel down to the Allianz to take on the Reds.

Bayern vs Union

Julian Nagelsmann was forced to make several changes due to the injuries/covid absences. Manuel Neuer started in goal with Josip Stanišić, Tanguy Nianzou, Dayot Upamecano and Lucas Hernández in defense. Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala started in midfield with Leroy Sané, Thomas Müller and Kingsley Coman in front of them and behind Lewandowski at striker.

The match would start off with both sides struggling to gain a real foothold. Union probably had the first real chance of the match but for the first 15 minutes, neither team looked particularly dangerous. Then in the 16th minute, Coman dribbling outside the box on the left cut in towards the right and blasted a shot past the keeper 1-0.

Just nine minutes later, Bayern would win a corner and Kimmich swung in a great ball to a wide open Nianzou who smashed a header past the keeper once again 2-0. Union had to be kicking themselves at this point. To be clear, Bayern had scored two goals in which the keeper had gotten a hand to and had missed at least two decent chances on the other end to put themselves on the board.

Then just before the half, Lewandowski made his way into the box and was taken down by the goal keeper who arrived too late. Penalty to Bayern. Lewandowski of course stepped up to take it and put it away for his 30th goal of the season and to make it 3-0 at the half.

Any hope that Union might have harbored coming out of the break was quickly dashed. In the 47th minute, Müller played a great ball into Musiala on the edge of the six yard box. The young midfielder calmly looked up and played a fantastic ball to an oncoming Lewandowski for an easy tap in 4-0.

This goal essentially killed the game. Both teams had the occasional opportunity in the following 42 minutes but neither really pushed in any serious way to add to the scoreline and the match ended 4-0. This win also marked a new record for Manuel Neuer who overtook Oliver Kahn with his 311th win as the winningest player in Bundesliga history.

Three Things We Noticed

Fortune Favors the Bayern

After such a challenging week, perhaps the football gods decided that Bayern needed a little bit of luck to balance things out. Or perhaps it was just that luck occasionally finds you no matter what. Either way, Bayern definitely had fortune on their side today.

The first goal by Coman was well struck and hit beautifully towards goal. However, given just how much hand Andreas Luthe was able to get to the ball, it would not be unreasonable to expect him to save that shot.

The same can almost be said for the second as he was again able to get a hand to Nianzou’s header to the low near corner. However, the real issue was just how open the defender was. No one seemed to pick him up as he maneuvered into the box.

The penalty as well had a little bit of luck in it. It was for sure a penalty, however I do question whether Lewandowski would have actually been able to do anything even if the keeper had not impeded him. Maybe he could, but for me at least it wasn’t obvious.

All of this is not to say Bayern didn’t deserve to win or that they had no hand in the outcome. They absolutely did. They played well enough to win. They were the better team. But it does serve as a stark contrast to recent months when it seemed like very little luck followed them.

Obviously that is not something you can rely on but it’s also something that probably was overdue. People, especially athletes, can create their own luck to some degree. Today they absolutely did that. They forced the Union players to make plays or put them in uncomfortable positions and they benefitted from that.

Finding Balance

The return to a back four I think seemed like a relatively welcome sight for most Bayern supporters. Honestly, it looked as though the players kind of felt the same way.

While it was far from a perfect performance, the team looked more comfortable today than they have under the three man backline. That is hardly unexpected but given how rarely we’ve seen a back four in 2022, it’s still notable.

While there were still several careless mistakes, overall the stability and fluidity of the lineup seemed much better than under the back three so far.

I have made a lot of excuses for why Nagelsmann has had little in the way of options regarding the setup, however perhaps a back four, even a “weakened” one, is a better option at this time. Stanišić played a solid overall match. Perhaps some combination of he, Richards and Sarr should get more of a runout until Davies, Pavard and Süle are able to return.

Creating More Legacy

Today was also a day for new records and milestones. As mentioned above, Neuer passed Kahn on the all time Bundesliga wins list with his 311th win. That is a huge number and will continue to grow for quite some time presumably.

Additionally, Lewandowski’s 30th goal of the season, which is already a remarkable achievement given that it is only the 27th match day, saw him tie Gerd Müller’s record for number of seasons in which the player had scored 30 goals or more at five.

While neither of these things are necessarily all that important on the day, the amount to which these players set/break records gives everyone something to cheer for and support. While there is no question that both Neuer and Lewandowski are firmly in place as club legends, given that they both transferred from other Bundesliga sides and not necessarily in the most agreeable fashion, it’s hardly surprising that it has taken time for the supporters to really accept them as their own.

So every time that they achieve yet another remarkable milestone or record, it feels a little better to celebrate those victories just a little more. We all should take time to remember just how good we have it right now being able to watch players of this caliber that will be remembered within the club forever in real time.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Great match, classic Bayern, but why am I sad…

    My comments on JN may seem harsh, but I do think he is a great hire and good coach, the question is whether he’s the best coach for us. I feel this game vindicated some of my beliefs, though I fear this is relief and joy will be brief.
    To clarify I’ve been critical of the formation and the rotation over the last several months (mainly stating JN’s preferred formation was significantly less effective than our standard 4231 and he needed to incorporate our bench) and from what I saw against Union, I feel that assessment was correct. Shockingly, our well regarded French and Croatian defenders are in fact, good at soccer (sarcasm); and using a formation that is a bit more defensive and adds more space up front, helps the flow of our game in both halves. That said, I have very little confidence that this is a harbinger of future matches. Coaches are often rigid and I expect to see a back three (my issues with the formation are more than it being a back three, but use “back three” to keep it simple) and the same old names on the lineup sheet week in and week out, while someone complains that “we lack depth” on the bench.
    So despite all the positives, it’s a bit bittersweet for this cynic, I hope I am wrong.

  2. I can understand where you’re coming from. I agree that the back three so far has not been great in practice. I do however tend to find validity in the lack of depth arguments, especially at the fullback position. Remember that Stanišić was also absent for a significant length of time and that Sarr was also missing. With Davies out, that left basically only Pavard, Hernández and Richards available to play those positions and Hernández has had his fair share of injury issues as well.

    The right back position especially has to be addressed in the summer. The depth there is ridiculously thin, especially given that Sarr is not rated highly at all. It’s hard to say what JN will do while Süle and Davies remain out. Assuming Pavard is back for the next match, a back three doesn’t seem unlikely, however given Upa’s current form, it’s not impossible he continues with a back four. Once Davies returns however, I would be shocked if he didn’t return to the back four. Personally, as I think I’ve shared multiple times, I’m not a huge fan of the back four with Pavard and Hernández as the full backs. Neither provide the offensive support or pace that that position requires in Bayern’s setup. So while I’m not a huge fan of the back three with Coman and Gnabry playing as quasi-wingbacks, I find it an ever so slight improvement on a back four comprised of all centerbacks.

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