Home (relative) struggles continue for 1. FC Köln

A quick reaction to 1. FC Köln’s scoreless draw with SC Paderborn.

Starting line-up and formation

What it Means

The sales pitch is necessarily going to be that the 1. FC Köln collected another point to the goal of retaining the class.

And that IS the right way to view the result.

However . . .

A scoreless draw at home with a Paderborn side that had surrendered eight goals in their last two matches will leave a bitter taste for home fans who’ve seen just one victory and four goals in ten matches at RheinEnergieStadion since being promoted.

And now the vaunted away form is about to get its toughest test of the season, with trips to Mönchengladbach, München, and Dortmund all in queue.

Right now, you can say the EffZeh has neither conceded a goal nor lost a match in 2015. Will we later be looking at this week’s home matches and pointing out the failure to beat relegation-threatened sides at home as a primary reason the club has not managed to stay in the middle of the table?

Stock Watch

Rising –  Kazuki Nagasawa quickly made himself a fan favorite last season by arriving as a relative unknown from Japan in the winter break and instantly bringing energy to the offensive end, quickly making himself a regular starter.

An injury in a test match last summer limited Nagasawa to eight minutes before his insertion today, but after making more noise in 18 minutes today than his teammates had managed the prior 72, it won’t be long before we should expect to see Nagasawa auditioning for a full-time role in the midfield. His energy and skill definitely gave a boost in making the Köln offense more-dangerous down the stretch, forcing Paderborn to form a wall to hold onto a point.

Rising – Have you heard about Pawel Olkowski? The Polish right back increasingly is one of the key elements of the 1. FC Köln team.  He has the speed to be defensively reliable while also frequently joining the attack. He can hold the ball, distribute, and even launch shots that don’t look like they’re coming off the foot of a defensive-oriented player. Olkowski made himself a nuisance for Paderborn with constant motion on the right side. It’s up to Köln to find a way to put their right back’s versatility to more-productive use.

Falling – Anthony Ujah was substituted for a second-consecutive game without having managed a single shot on goal. His six goals on the season make him the squad’s most-consistent goal threat, so when things don’t run well and chances are rare, the focus on the Nigerian striker gets fairly intense. Ujah went through a dry stretch in last year’s Rückrunde, which ultimately led to him starting a run of matches on the bench. With Bård Finne getting a start today, Yuya Osako getting a longer run than he’d been getting, and new acquisition Deyverson becoming a possibility, the chance that Peter Stöger puts his best striker on the bench to watch a while before coming on as a dangerous sub would seem to be rising.

Defense First: Source of Frustration and Strength

Does Stöger sacrifice offensive chances for defensive stability due to the lack of the right personnel to attack with more vigor, or does the dedication to defense somewhat neuter his attackers’ offensive prowess? Whatever the case, you can’t really argue that he’s getting the results he believes he needs to keep the team from going down, which remains the singular goal for this season.

The problem will come if the players feel increasingly pressed to make something happen in offense in front of the home crowd and leave openings for opposition strikes. So far, so good, but it’s still a long way to go to 40 points.

Match Ball

Kevin (Robo) Vogt, since transferring from FC Augsburg, has been even more valuable an addition to this team than anticipated. Nobody wearing the special Karneval jersey of the home side covered more distance than Vogt, nor did anyone for either side manage more shots at goal. Had Vogt’s chipped ball over Lukas Kruse been just a bit to the left, his impact would have been more obvious, but you’re also not meant to be relying on your defensive-mids to bring the scoring. Another great performance from Vogt.

Next?

It’s a short trip west for the big Karneval-weekend derby battle with Borussia Mönchengladbach next Saturday. The last meeting between the two ended in . . . wait for it . . . a scoreless draw.

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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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