August 23, 2017

1. FC Köln: What Can We Expect from Jhon Cordoba?

Knowing that prolific goal-scorer Anthony Modeste desired a summer transfer, 1.FC Köln acquired Jhon Cordoba from Mainz during June.  They paid 17 million euros for the 24 year-old striker, who in two years with Mainz had scored 10 goals in 51 Bundesliga matches

The back and forth Modeste transfer odyssey stalled briefly, making it look like the Billy Goats might have two experienced Bundelsiga strikers going into their upcoming season that includes their first foray into European football in 25 years. But the Anthony Modeste era in Köln ended a few days ago, with Modeste, as expected, transferring to the Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian F.C. (in a rather unusual deal that calls for a two-year loan deal netting Köln six million euros and giving the Chinese club the option to buy out Modeste’s contract for 20 million euros).

That 17 million euro transfer fee was quite a bit more than Mainz had paid for the Colombian striker just the summer before, as they spent just 6.5 million for the 24 year-old  after he’d finished his first year with Mainz on loan from Granada CF.  And the 2016/2017 wasn’t a stellar one for Cordoba.

FC general manager Jörg Schmadtke opined after Cordoba’s acquisition

Jhon Cordoba is a center forward with speed, physicality, and a direct line to goal. He has a lot of experience for his age, but we still see him as a player with plenty of potential

But the question is, can a center forward who never has scored more than six goals in any season do enough to replace the 29 year-old Modeste, who scored 25 league goals last year after netting 15 times in Bundesliga action for the Billy Goats the year before.  Cordoba has a similar build to Modeste, is a center forward like Modeste (Cordoba has played 97 of 100 career matches in the center forward role) and is five years younger,and three years younger than when Modeste joined Köln.

Cordoba’s Positives

Cordoba slumped like most his teammates last season at Mainz, scoring five goals in 27 starts and two substitute league appearances for the 05ers, the same amount as he scored the year before in only 14 starts and eight substitute appearances, the one in which Mainz earned a direct place into the Europa League with a fifth place Bundesliga finish.  After missing last season’s opener against Borussia Dortmund, Cordoba scored on MatchDays 2 and 3 against Hoffenheim and FC Augsburg, but didn’t score again in the Hinrunde until December’s fixture against Bayern Munich. He scored only two goals in the Ruckrunde, in March against VfL Wolfsburg and in May against Eintracht Frankfurt.

But despite no additional goal production in much more playing time in 2016/2017, Cordoba did have some positives last season, and in his career.

  •  The Colombian averaged two shots per game, (1.6 from inside penalty area, .1 inside 6 yd box, .3 outside the box), 2.8 aerials won per game, 68% passing success on 16 passes per game last season
  • The goal against Die Adler on MatchDay 33 was huge.  Struggling against relegation and down 0-2 at halftime, Cordoba’s goal from the right early in the second half began a Mainz rally that saw them score three more second half goals to earn all three points and avoid demotion
  • Cordoba has been healthy since missing much of the Hinrunde in his first season with Mainz — he only missed two matches last season with injury
  • Cordoba has scored in both games that he’s played against the Bundesliga’s best side, Bayern Munich (he missed two of the four Bayern fixtures over the last two years with injury)
  • Cordoba brings Europa League experience to a Köln side short of players with European experience — Cordoba played in 6 EL matches last season, scoring one goal
  • Despite being relatively young (he turned 24 in May), Cordoba has been playing professionally since 2010, in Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Germany, and he has the pedigree of being the son of a professional footballer.  Cordoba also played 17 matches for Colombia’s U20 squad, scoring six times
  • Cordoba has only earned one red card in 172 professional matches.

Cordoba’s Negatives

Squawka rated Cordoba 90th among Bundesliga strikers last season, his rating pulled down by an atrocious -472 possession score, as he was dispossessed 3.3 times per game,and lost possession (bad touch) 3 times per game.  To put those numbers in perspective, no one else on Mainz approached those numbers, and of all the players on the three clubs that finished below Mainz last season, only Dario Lezcano of Ingolstadt was worse in bad touches per game than Cordoba.  Additionally…

  • Of Cordoba’s 59 shots last season, eight were blocked, 32 were off target, and only 19 were on target
  • Last season Cordoba earned eight yellow cards, tied for 5th most in league, and with an average of 5.4 bookings per season over his career, Cordoba will likely miss a match for the Billy Goats from card accumulation
  • Cordoba ranked 132 of 263 players rated by whoscored.com (Pierre-Michel Lasogga ranked 263, behind Borja Mayoral and Oliver Burke)
  • Köln is the striker’s 8th club since career start in 2010/2011 in his native Colombia, although three of his moves involved loan deals.  He has scored more than five goals only once in seven professional seasons

A Reasonable Expection for Cordoba with Koln this Coming Season

What is a reasonable expectation for Jhon Cordoba with the Billy Goats in this big upcoming season that sees them in three competitions?  Can the Colombian light up the Bundesliga as Modeste did, finishing 3rd and 5th in the last two scoring races, with only Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang outscoring the Köln man last year?

Probably very few expect Cordoba to score 25 goals this season.  Actually, it would be unreasonable to expect Modeste to score 25 again had he stayed with the Billy Goats — he’d never scored more than 15 times in any previous first division season (he did score 20 for Angiers in Ligue 2).

Cordoba should benefit from getting away from a dysfunctional Mainz side and coming to Köln, which had TWELVE players provide at least two assists last season Only 10% of Cordoba’s shots last season came from within the six-yard box — he should have a much higher percentage of shots from close range with so many of his teammates able to provide quality chances for their striker.

Also, Cordoba this season will have the benefit of working with Köln Coach Peter Stöger, who took over with the Billy Goats in June, 2013, when the club was in its second season in Bundesliga 2.  The Austrian coach was able to get Köln back to the first division in his first season with the club, and although recognized for his ability to create a solid defensive team, has also found success centering his club’s offense around one striker.

When he arrived at Köln, Stöger inherited center forward Anthony Ujah, a Nigerian of a similar build to Modeste and Cordoba who’d scored 13 goals in his previous season with the Billy Goats in Germany’s second division.  Although Ujah had scored 27 goals over two seasons with Norwegian side Lillestrom earlier in his career, he’d only scored twice in 12 Bundesliga matches with Mainz before joining Köln.  Stöger solidified Ujah’s career, as the Nigerian scored 11 goals in his first year with the Austrian coach and was able to find success in Germany’s first division, scoring ten times for Köln in their return to the Bundesliga and 11 times for Werder Bremen the next season before Ujah headed to China.  Modeste came from Hoffenheim to replace Ujah.  The Frenchman had  scored 19 goals in two seasons of playing regularly for the village team, but blossomed into an elite goal-getter under Stöger, with 15 and 25 goal seasons.

Having had success with two previous foreign-born strikers who’d been good but not great previously in Germany’s first division, one would expect that Stöger will help with his finishing and his problems with being dispossesed so frequently.  One can imagine the Austrian coaching Cordoba into a more productive player.  It’s unreasonable to envision the Colombian becoming an elite scorer like Modeste in his first year with the Austrian coach, but it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine Cordoba being a fairly productive striker as the popular Ujah was — not an elite scorer, but a physical presence who scores enough to keep the Billy Goats competitive.

Stöger has a knack for developing players.  Left back Jonas Hector has been a German national team regular under the Austrian’s tutelage, Timo Horn has become one of the Bundesliga’s top keepers and Dane Frederik Sørensen is considered an elite Bundelsiga defender now.  Yuya Osako, who only scored two goals in his first two seasons for Köln with regular playing time blossomed last year with a productive seven goal, six assist season.  Stöger has the tangible ability to improve players at all positions.

The Billy Goats have been pretty adept at creating a quality squad on a relatively low budget, and the management team of Schmadke/Stöger must have seen a lot of positives in Cordoba and were willing to pay a fairly hefty fee to obtain him.  They must be confident in the chances of Cordoba developing with Köln and emerge, at the very least, as a productive striker.Considering their track record, it’s likely that the Colombian will become another Anthony Ujah, and perhaps, with luck and a few years working under Stöger, another Anthony Modeste.

Note:  The Billy Goats have reportedly been seeking to acquire Hoffenheim attacker Mark Uth, whose scored 15 goals over the last two seasons, but Julian Nagelsmann wants to retain the 25 year-old.

Jhon as a Billy Goat
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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.

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