2023 has come to an end and the Bundesliga enters its traditional Winterpause, which gives us here at Bundesliga Fanatic the ideal opportunity to take a closer look at each of the eighteen clubs and rate their performance in the first half of the season. Next we run the rule over Union Berlin.
The story so far
Is the fairy tale over for Union Berlin? It’s probably too early to say, but it is definitely the end of an era with the club taking the heart-wrenching decision to part company with legendary trainer Urs Fischer following an abysmal start to the Hinrunde. The meteoric rise of the Eisernen had to end at some point, but few would have predicted the slump that would follow their first-ever top four Bundesliga finish.
Two wins at the start of the season (Mainz and Darmstadt) gave no indication of the dire run of results that were to follow. Matchday 3 saw a 3-0 home loss to RB Leipzig in the ‘Battle of the East’ and that defeat was to be the first of nine consecutive losses in the Bundesliga. If you add in three Champions League reverses, Union went on an appalling run of twelve defeats on the trot.
The things that had worked for the past few seasons just didn’t, and the rub of the green was abandoning the Köpenickers, but the hope that things would have to eventually improve just didn’t materialise. A run of four league defeats from matchday 8 saw them concede twelve goals, scoring none themselves, whilst also failing to score in their DFB Pokal exit to Stuttgart.
Something had to give and the club, together with Urs Fischer decided that the time had come for the architect of Union’s success to step aside. “This is a very sad moment not only for me personally, but certainly for the entire Union family,” said Union president Dirk Zingler.
“It hurts that we have not managed to break the negative run of recent weeks. I am grateful and proud when looking back on the time we have spent and the successes we have celebrated together.”
“The last few weeks have cost a lot of strength,” said Fischer. “We’ve tried a lot, and the team has put in a lot of effort, but it hasn’t paid off in terms of results. I am very grateful for the confidence I have always felt here. Nevertheless, it feels right to make a change now.”
Youth team trainer Marco Grote oversaw a 1-1 draw with FC Augsburg to finally stop the long losing streak before the club announced the appointment of Nenad Bjelica as the new head coach. The former Dinamo Zagreb and Trabzonspor coach had three games before the winter break beating Gladbach and Köln, but losing to VfL Bochum.
Tale of the tape
Record: 4-1-10, 13 points (0.87 per game), 15th in Bundesliga
Home Record: 10 points (3-1-4) Away Record: 3 points (1-0-6)
Goals: 17 (1.06 per game), Goals Against: 31 (1.94 per game), Diff: -14
xG: 18.5, xGA: 23
The opening two games with Kevin Behrens hitting a hat trick against Mainz and Robin Gosens hitting his first Bundesliga goals against Darmstadt saw the season start on a high, but a massive low was to follow. Hearing the Champions League anthem ring out for the first time was a spine tingling moment (albeit at the Olympiastadion).
The Hinrunde after matchday 2? The parting of the ways with Urs Fischer has to be the absolute low point of the season so far. The Bundesliga trainer of the season last year and the architect of Union’s rise since his appointment in 2018 will go down as a club legend. Alas, football is a cruel results business and Fischer paid the price for a dismal Hinrunde.
This is going to be a tough choice for all the wrong reasons. Amongst a field of massive underperformers, midfielder Aissa Laidouni has at least emerged with some credit and gets the nod here. The Tunisian will however be missing in January as he represents his country at the African Cup of Nations.
How does a club go from an A+ at the end of last season to an F in the following Hinrunde? Football is a funny old game and nothing can be taken for granted. Union are facing a completely different challenge this season- fighting for their lives rather than keeping the fairy tale rise going.
Last season saw them topping the Bundesliga for weeks on end, this time around they are struggling to keep themselves off the bottom. New Year, new coach, new outlook? Union fans will desperately hope so.