Team check | Union Berlin
Thu 30.12.21 | 3:38 pm | from
1. FC Union starts the second half of the season with 27 points. The Champions League places are only one point away. The verbal reluctance in Köpenick is still great – and yet it is clear: the club is a candidate for Europe. By Johannes Mohren
So went the first half of the season
Oliver Ruhnert joined a group of media representatives from vacation this week. The sun was shining, palm trees were blowing in the light wind and the manager of 1. FC Union shone in front of this dream backdrop, which could also have been used as photo wallpaper. From his point of view, the first half of the season went “top, top, top”, he said – and: “As long as I’m responsible, I’ll be sitting here laughing when I get such a score.”
Such a number of points, that means 27 points after 17 games. In their third year in the first division, the Köpenickers are again in the thick of the battle for European places. In seventh place, they are only one point behind a Champions League place. And that despite the fact that the team had to complete most of all Bundesliga teams with 27 competitive games. The triple burden of the Conference League was completely new for Union – and yet the club mastered it as routinely as one or the other team with European experience cannot.
The end in the group stage of the competition was probably the only real downer of the past six months. Too many avoidable mistakes happened in the European games – exactly what Union in the league (almost) completely avoids. The Köpenickers are the personified stability. This is also reflected in the system: In all 17 first round games, coach Urs Fischer built on his well-coordinated five-man chain and the Berliners conceded the fewest in the league with 21 goals conceded to Bayern and Freiburg.
Who is coming, who is going?
The first new addition is already fixed: Dominique Heintz comes from Freiburg. An opportunity was taken, “which we probably only got now in winter,” said Ruhnert. In six months the 28-year-old, who is currently only a substitute in Breisgau, “probably couldn’t have gotten more because other clubs were already trying to get him”. So it is an obligation that is also an anticipation. To the summer in which the need in defense could become great: Timo Baumgartl’s loan from Eindhoven ends, Robin Knoche and above all Marvin Friedrich have long since played on the notes of other clubs.
Otherwise it should be a quiet transfer winter. “I don’t think there will be much on the access side,” said Ruhnert. It is more likely that Union will give up one or the other supplementary player. More than thirty players are currently in the squad – without the European appearances, it could now be slimmed down. Rick van Drongelen, who came to Köpenick from Hamburg only six months ago, is a candidate for farewell. One wants to see where he “can generate match practice for the second half of the season”, so Ruhnert.
January will be a challenge for Union – due to a temporary departure: Taiwo Awoniyi is competing in the Africa Cup with Nigeria in Cameroon. “We miss him. That annoys us of course and is not good for us because we will miss him without any question,” said Ruhnert. With nine league goals, Awoniyi is currently the most accurate Union player. If the Nigerian national team makes it to the final of the continental championship, the 24-year-old would miss five competitive games in the Köpenicker – in addition to four Bundesliga duels, the cup derby at Hertha BSC.
Urs Fischer is the longest-serving Bundesliga coach after Christian Streich. In 2018 he came to Köpenick, made the promotion in the first season – and established the club in a hurry in the upper house. “I consider Urs Fischer to be one of the best coaches in the Bundesliga,” said ex-Unioner and current Cologne coach Steffen Baumgart im a few weeks ago “Express” and joined the ranks of Fischer fans. He has achieved continuous development in a short time. “That is remarkable for Union. Everyone is waiting for the break-in, but it will not come.”
Fischer’s latest success: managing the triple exposure. Your controls are “almost the greatest strengths we have this season because we have no injuries,” said Christopher Trimmel recently. Open communication is important for this. “The players have to be honest. If you don’t feel good and you can’t give one hundred percent, it’s no shame to say so,” said the captain. The trust between the professionals, Fischer and his coaching team is great. The coach is not a man of big words on the outside, but seems to find exactly the right ones internally.
Expectations for the second half of the season
… try to keep the Köpenicker down. The successes of the past seasons have not changed anything in terms of conservative communication. The goal is to stay out of the league, recently underlined Urs Fischer and Oliver Ruhnert also set his sights on the 40-point mark: “I won’t sit back completely relaxed until we’ve got 13 points again. It won’t be that easy either. You always have to stay in it and focus. “
But it is more likely that the Köpenicker – despite all verbal restraint – will remain a candidate for the European places until the end. The breaks between games will be longer without the Conference League games. This gives the trainer more time for tactical fine-tuning during the week and the professionals the opportunity to catch their breath. “The team went over the limit at times,” said Fischer at the end of the first half of the season. Now and then it became visible. So the last minute point losses followed in Stuttgart or Cologne on European duels on the previous Thursday. With less strain, Union could now become even more dangerous for the competition for the top places.
Broadcast: evening show, December 30th, 2021, 7:30 p.m.