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 the club from the Domstadt- Köln.
The story so far
After changing their coach mid-season for four seasons running, Köln looked to have finally found some coaching consistency under Steffen Baumgart. He became an instant fan favourite by taking them into Europe and last season he steered the club well away from any dalliance with the relegation scrap. This season however it has all unravelled and once again the Billy Goats are looking for a new coach mid-way through a troubled campaign.
The opening day loss at Borussia Dortmund saw them as the better side, but in the end the home side made their chances count. The season just never really got going for Köln and losing six of their first seven matches and taking just a solitary point against Eintracht Frankfurt was far from the positive start they had wished for.
Matchday 8 saw a 3-1 home win in the Rheinderby against rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach, but any hint of a recovery were soon squashed with a 6-0 mauling at the hands of RB Leipzig in their next game and then a DFB Pokal exit at the hands of second tier Kaiserslautern. Two draws followed before a ‘respectable’ 1-0 defeat at home to Bayern.
Fellow strugglers Darmstadt were beaten to notch up just a second league win before a draw (Mainz) and two defeats (Union Berlin and Freiburg) ended the Hinrunde and led to the difficult decision to part company with Baumgart. “We were very open, direct, factual and respectful in the last days and weeks, as to whether or not the strength and conviction are there in the required amount,” managing director Keller said. “For that reason, it is to be fully respected that Steffen questioned his own personal conviction. As a result, we collectively decided to end our working relationship — even when that hurts, personally.”
Too many defeats have hurt Köln in the Hinrunde and a chronic lack of goals has been a major contributing factor. They have scored a measly ten in sixteen matches giving them by far the bluntest attack in the Bundesliga (bottom side Darmstadt have scored double while Harry Kane has 21 by himself).
To make matters worse the Court of Arbitration for Sport have confirmed the club’s transfer ban meaning that they will be unable to register new players for the next two transfer windows. Whoever comes in to replace Baumgart is going to face a real fight to keep the club in the top flight this season. There’s not too much Christmas cheer at the Rhein Energie Stadion right now.
Tale of the tape
Record: 2-4-10, 10 points (0.63 per game), 17th in Bundesliga
Home Record: 5 points (1-2-4) Away Record: 5 points (1-2-6)
Goals: 10 (0.63 per game), Goals Against: 28 (1.75 per game), Diff: -18
xG: 17.7, xGA: 34.3
There haven’t been many moments of joy so far, but the stand-out match was definitely the 3-1 win over Gladbach in the home Rheinderby. An early penalty dispatched by Florian Kainz gave them a first half lead only for a Nico Elvedi header to pin them back. Manu Koné’s red card swung the balance in their favour and another Kainz penalty restored their lead before a late Luca Waldschmidt goal put the icing on the cake.
Losing six out of the first seven games was a lowlight and the painful decision to part ways with charismatic coach Steffen Baumgart was also a low-point in a dismal Hinrunde. In terms of an individual match, the 6-0 defeat at Leipzig on matchday 9 was perhaps the worst with the Roten Bullen 4-0 up by half-time and it really could and perhaps should have ended with an even higher margin of defeat.
The only player to really emerge with much credit from the first half of the season is goalkeeper Marvin Schwäbe, who continues to show that Baumgart was right to move him into the number one shirt ahead of club legend Timo Horn a few seasons back. His save percentage of 68.2% puts him 11th amongst the Bundesliga keepers.
Aside from the Derby win, there is not much that can be seen as positive from the Hinrunde. Köln fans thought their days as a yo-yo club were behind them, but this season they are facing a real fight to retain their Bundesliga status. They will need to get a positive start under their new coach (whoever that is) and then deal with the transfer ban later on. Someone is going to need to start scoring goals as in terms of the strikers, the report would probably read as ‘ungraded’.