No other club side in European football has been promoted to the top flight in the 21st century as many times as Köln have in Germany. Six times in the last 19 years, the Geißböcke have moved up from the Bundesliga.2 to the top division. The flip side to that however, is that the Rhineland club have suffered relegation five times in that period.
Their mission now is to turn themselves into a constant Bundesliga presence for years to come, rather than experiencing the yo-yo effect. So how are the club set in their mission to first achieve survival this year, and then consolidate?
Despite winning promotion at the first attempt and finishing above both Paderborn and Union Berlin, the season last year wasn’t without its turmoil.
The power struggle between General Manager Armin Veh and President Werner Spinner led to the latter’s resignation and the club will have to wait until September’s election to find his replacement. Spinner’s Vice Presidents Toni Schumacher and Markus Ritterbach both ruled themselves out of running, meaning it looks like a shoe-in for Dr. Werner Wolf.
Veh also fell out with coach Markus Anfang despite him leading the club back to the top flight as champions at the first time of asking. Veh cited tactical issues as well as a failure to fully identify with the club as the reasons for his decision to sack Anfang in the closing weeks of the season.
Veh has appointed former Jahn Regensburg trainer Achim Beierlorzer to oversee their return to the Bundesliga. It is a decision, which may see Veh live and die by his own sword. Having made the ‘wrong choice’ with both Stefan Ruthenbeck and Markus Anfang, the pressure is on the General Manager to get this decision right.
His own contract only runs until 2020, so his own job may depend on it. Köln are however financially secure (as their summer spending shows) and have the fan base to support long term success. In Veh we trust? Only time will tell.
You would have so say that of the three promoted sides, Köln look to have the better chances of survival. Their relegation at the end of 2017/18 was a shock to the system after they had finished the previous season in 5th and qualified for Europe.
Köln’s squad going into the new season looks well-equipped to face the challenge. The club kept established players like Jonas Hector, Timo Horn, Marco Höger and Simon Terodde following relegation and those wise heads will be of great importance this year.
The biggest plus for Köln last season was their re-signing of striker Anthony Modeste. The striker, who scored 25 goals in the 2016/17 season returned from China and will provide a real thrust up front.
The purchases this summer have all come in key areas the Billy Goats needed to address. The centre of their midfield has seen the additions of Tunisian Ellyes Skhiri from Montpellier (€6 million) and Belgian Birger Vestraete from Gent (€6 million). Attacking right back Kingsley Ehizibue arrives from Dutch side Zwolle, while highly rated 20-year-old centre back Sebastiaan Bornauw has been signed from Anderlecht to provide competition to both Jorge Meré and Rafael Czichos.
The forward two favoured by Achim Beierlorzer is well catered for with John Córdoba, Modeste and the Bundesliga.2 Fußballgott Simon Terodde.
Jonas Hector and Timo Horn remain, while the wide positions in the 4-4-2 system can be filled by Florian Kainz and Kingsley Schindler, while Dominik Drexler can operate in the number 10 role. Then there is Vincent Koziello, while many keen observers are expecting big things from 19-year-old Macedonian Dario Chulinov.
Köln look well-equipped to deal with their return to the Bundesliga. They will need to tighten things up defensively as conceding 47 goals in the second division last season to less potent attacks than they’ll face in the top tier is a concern.
On finally clinching the Bundesliga.2 title last season the Köln fans were singing “Nie wieder Zweite Liga”(never again second division). They should be fine this season, but much will depend on their tricky start when they face Bayern, Dortmund,Wolfsburg, Freiburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach in their opening five fixtures.
It is time to cut that string from the yo-yo.
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