The 2017/18 Bundesliga season has reached the halfway stage, giving us here at the Bundesliga Fanatic the opportunity to take stock of each club’s progress so far. Here, we look at how 1.FC Köln have fared in the Hinrunde.
The story so far
This wasn’t supposed to be how the script developed! Köln’s adventure story has quickly turned into a horror story- a real Jekyll and Hyde narrative. Last season’s elation of European qualification has turned into the worst season in the club’s long history as they’ve suffered one of the worst Hinrunde’s on record.
The season started badly and just got progressively worse for the Geißböcke. An opening day defeat in the derby against Borussia Mönchengladbach wasn’t ideal, but then nor was losing your opening five games. A point secured away at newly promoted Hannover on matchday 6 provided a glimmer of hope, but it really was like the club had broken all the rules about good luck- black cats, walking under ladders, upside down horseshoes, spotting lonely magpies…. the lot.
VAR denied them a late penalty against Stuttgart before Chadrac Akolo scored a late winner on matchday 8 confounding the appalling bad luck befalling the club. A second point was picked up on matchday 9 against Werder but the losses continued to pile up despite not actually playing that badly.
Matchday 15 saw them race into a 3-0 lead against Freiburg in blizzard conditions with a first win on the cards, only for the Breisgauer to stage a stunning comeback and ultimately win 4-3. How much more were Köln fans expected to take?
The club lost sporting director Jorg Schmadtke, who resigned and despite continuing to publicly back coach Peter Stöger, they also parted ways with their long-serving trainer after the 2-2 draw with Schalke on matchday 14.
It looked like Köln would go the entire Hinrunde without a single win, but then they provided a glimmer of redemption by beating Wolfsburg in their final game of the year.
If there has been a bright light in a dire Hinrunde it has been the unwavering support given by the fans. Despite witnessing probably the worst season on record, the atmosphere inside the Rhein Energie Stadion hasn’t faltered and could forget the scenes when North London was literally invaded as Köln faced Arsenal in their Europa League opener.
P17 W1 D3 L13 F10 A32 Pt6 (18th)
- Köln have both the poorest scoring record (10 scored) and the worst defensive record (32 conceded) in the Bundesliga this season.
- Yann Bisseck became Köln’s youngest-ever player when he made his debut against Hertha Berlin on matchday 13 aged just 16 years 11 months and 18 days
- Only SC Tasmania 1900 Berlin have amassed fewer points in a Hinrunde. Back in 1965-66 they only managed three points (in the days when a win got you two points).
Top Performer: Dominique Heintz
Looking around the Köln squad for a top performer in their current predicament might seem a pointless task, but it has to be stressed that in many games they haven’t actually performed that badly and that dreaded ‘luck’ has played a significant role.
24-year-old centre back Dominique Heintz has been a top performer in a struggling side. The defender has made 14 appearances this season winning 18 tackles with a success rate of 44%. He has made 40 interceptions, 64 clearances and six blocks.
His highlight though had to be his Goal of the Month contender against Stuttgart when he curled home a superb shot from distance to equalise.
The summer signings
It is safe to say this is an area that Köln have to seriously take a look at and realise just why they are in the position they find themselves. None of the summer signings have really made much of an impact and the club are fighting on two fronts with pretty much the same squad that over-achieved last season.
The loss of Anthony Modeste’s goals have not been compensated with the arrival of Jhon Cordoba and with the Colombian injured the desperate measure of signing veteran Claudio Pizarro also didn’t pay off as he’s also been injured. Tim Handwerker has looked a talent, but has only been a late second half substitute. Neither Jannes Horn nor Jorge Meré have pulled up any trees so far at the Rhein Energie Stadion.
It has been one low-point after another for Köln this season, but their loss to SC Freiburg on matchday 15 was probably the nadir of a depressing Hinrunde.
With the game Sunday match delayed so the deluge of snow could be cleared from the pitch, spirits were surprisingly high as Köln faced fellow strugglers Freiburg. Those spirits were given a further boost as the home side raced into a 3-0 lead with goals from Lukas Klünter, Sehrou Guirassy and an own-goal from Caleb Stanko. Hallelujah! The first win was upon them.
Wrong! Goals from Nils Petersen and Janik Haberer gave the Breisgauer hope but Köln were still ahead. A 90th minute penalty from Petersen burst the Köln bubble and there was much worse to come with another penalty in the 95th minute. The final kick of the match saw the visitors take all three points.
With only one win in seventeen games, the highlight can only be the 1-0 win over VfL Wolfsburg on matchday 17.
In a game where the Geißböcke dominated for the majority of the game, it looked for a while that once again they’d have to settle for a point when more was deserved. Inspired by a fine performance from Milos Jojic, substitute Christian Clemens was on hand to score on 67 minutes to finally give long-suffering Köln fans something to cheer.
Only the most optimistic Köln fan, who believes in miracles would have any hope of Bundesliga survival for the Geißböcke. They are 11 points behind Mainz in 15th and will need an immediate good start when the league resumes in January.
That said, if the likes of Mainz, Stuttgart, Freiburg, Hamburg and Werder all continue to drop points and Köln somehow find the form that took them to a 5th place finish last season, then the ‘Great Escape’ could be on.
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