1. FC Köln / match reaction / soccer / Sports

Match Day Six: 1. FC Köln 0:2 FC Bayern München

Thanks to Stefan Unkelbach for the great choreo pic.

Match day six?! What happened to match day five?!

Well, I did not see the 1:0 loss in Hannover. I have still not, in fact, even seen highlights. I know the match featured the first goal against and, of course, the first match in which we came away empty-handed. So much is clear. I’ve also inferred from many comments about the match that it was probably what is often called “an undeserved loss.” Sounds like the play was slanted to one side, that side featuring the goal on which the Effzeh were shooting.

More than this, I do not know, but it seems safe to say the offensive finishing continues to be a real problem.

The tough part of this is that it left me knowing the next 1. FC Köln match I would get to watch was going to also be, in all likelihood, the second part of a two-match losing streak. You can point to my match tip (if you’re part of the FC Echo match prediction group, that is) and say, “But you clearly predicted the Effzeh would win,” and you would be correct. I am never willing to publicly predict my team to lose a match, even if my head knows better. When the Detroit Lions of the NFL cruised to the league’s first-ever 0-16 season, I was proudly proclaiming for fifteen consecutive games that each would end the victory drought, even as it was clear to the more-analytical side of my fandom that mismanagement of the personnel situation and an incredibly poor choice of head coach had doomed this team to more failure than what would seem reasonable.

Don’t believe me? Ask the Missus who just a few days ago rolled her eyes when I started going crazy about how the Lions have started 3-1 and look as good as they’ve looked in some time. If I’m honest, I would admit to seeing the flaws, but that’s not going to really happen . . . at least not anywhere fellow Lions fans can see it (except for my boy Mingus, because we have an understanding about our Lions and the eating of the cornbread).

Before I drop too many references that will make no sense to people who come here for the football stuff . . . let’s get back to the business of Saturday’s mandatory 90 minutes of irritation that must come twice a year for most sides playing in the Bundesliga.

Starting Eleven

Timo Horn: I was asked by an English-language Bayern fan site to answer some questions about 1. FC Köln as part of their match preview. One of the questions was with regards to whether Horn is the “next big Bundesliga keeper.” My response was, essentially, that he may very well be, but the impressive start to his top-flight career has been aided hugely by the defense in front of him. I also threw the readers, most of whom are bound to be Bayern fans, a bone by offering that it might be their club that truly tests young Timo’s abilities in a way he has yet to see this season.

Of course, no number of amazingly athletic saves would earn a home win if you don’t get goal support, but I think those getting their first look at our Timo were given nothing to disappoint.

The same four we always see: Just because the defense finally conceded a goal is not reason enough to make unnecessary changes to the back line. Brecko and Maroh had plenty of opportunity to defend, but a lot more of the action was sent through the side where Wimmer and Hector were stationed. It was overwhelming at times, but I thought the youngsters mostly held their own against the world-class attack. In particular, I quite enjoyed some of Wimmer’s success against Arjen Robben, some highlights of which can be seen in a video Wimmer posted on his Facebook page (worth the click. trust me).

Lehmann, Matuschyk, and Gerhardt?!: Wasn’t sure what to think here. Hadn’t seen Matu in the starting eleven since match day one, and Gerhardt got his Bundesliga debut as a starter against the most-dominant club in Germany. It quickly became evident that we were either looking at a trio of defensive midfielders or maybe even playing with a seven-man back line. The role this trio played really seemed to inform the overall strategy: don’t get killed.

Olkowski and Halfar: I guess you’d say these two were meant to support Ujah as the lone striker, even though Olkowski arrived ostensibly as an alternative to Brecko at right back, or so we all thought. So now you have a defensive-oriented player as 50% of your offensively stationed midfielders/flankers . . . well, Olkowski did get a crack at the Ponies’ goal in the derby, so it’s not all defense over there, but you have to think that was why he was selected.

Ujah: Well, he was in the match. I know he was in the match because my son pointed him out several times. Other than that, though. nothing in the way the match played out had much to do with the concept of a striker, which is why there is suddenly so much talk of a crisis in the offensive portion of the club.

So . . . offensive crisis then?

Look, if we were suffering a crisis in offense, it seems completely idiotic to raise the alarm after a match with FC Bayern. They are an offensive juggernaut who can comfortably hold the ball for most of the match and are backstopped by the best goalkeeper in the world. Stöger’s crew could have entered that match averaging three goals per 90 minutes and still been held without a goal by Bayern. That’s just the reality, so let’s not do this right today.

That said, yeah, there is a problem. And I can say this because I was saying it even before the loss at Hannover, which seemed to really put the problems on display from what I’ve read. Nobody is going to feel great about it until we see more goals, especially some not assisted by Stuttgarters, but don’t pull the fire alarm the week after a match with Bayern. Bitte?

That was the plan, too . . .

I’m too lazy to go find it right now, but I know I read that the coach said there was a decidedly defensive stance Saturday because they knew they were outclassed and approached the match with an eye toward limiting the damage.

I see no problem with this. We’re just arrived from the second division facing a team packed with World Cup winners and league-leading scorers and guys with contracts bigger than the annual domestic product of some nations. There is absolutely no benefit to risk being saddled with a huge, lopsided result this early in the season just to stubbornly play into the “on any given day” idea of sporting competition.

Even with the way the match was played almost exclusively in our own defensive half, Bayern got their first goal due to a really poor decision by Daniel Halfar while under pressure along his flank and maybe a missed hand ball (my rules knowledge is a big dodgy, but I would have been fine with a whistle there . . . assuming it was handled, which I thought it was).

The second goal was all Halfar stumbling in defense and scoring into the unguarded side of Horn’s goal. Halfar was trying to keep pace with David Alaba, who probably hammers that cross home if Halfar doesn’t do it for him (you know, unless Halfar actually clears it).

And then there is the fact that there was a pair of huge chances from out of nowhere that could have dramatically altered things. There was a cross (delivered by Gerhardt, I think) that ended with Manuel Neuer having to parry away a shot by Matushcyk and a rebound effort by Ujah in quick succession.

A big “why don’t you go get stuffed” for Robben and several Bayern fans

“Oh, I don’t understand what their offensive plan was. They just sat back and didn’t seem to want the ball.”

Admittedly, I don’t have as huge a problem with the captain of the Dutch diving team pointing this out after the match as I do with Bayern fans talking about it in a condescending “why aren’t you even trying” tone, especially those doing it while using the Effzeh hashtag on Twitter, making it plain they are taunting Köln fans.

I equate this to being in a stand-off situation with an unarmed person while wielding a baseball bat and saying, “why aren’t you trying to attack me?”

And I HATE making this simile, because it feeds into the fevered egos of the glory hounds who love to hear how dominant their team is. The fact remains, though, that they compete an a whole other plane. They leverage their fiscal power to assure they have their pick of the top talent in Germany. Should you somehow threaten their primacy by making it hard for them to beat you on the pitch, as Borussia Dortmund did a few years ago, they will beat you with their bank statements and pluck your top talent away.

It’s all within the rules, so it’s fine. It’s a practical matter for clubs with the resources to fund their aspirations. Buy’em is looking to dominate three separate competitions, requiring depth and talent beyond what would otherwise be needed for strictly domestic play with maybe some slight aspirations toward limited European glory.

But don’t jump on that bandwagon and then pretend it’s something that it isn’t. The fact is, just as you know that most of the Bundesliga clubs are not really able to compete with you, we don’t consider you our competition either. You win, well, you’re expected to win. You drop points, and it’s momentous for us.

I’d think that would be a bit of a lonely way to spend weekends during the football season, but y’all seem to enjoy yourselves.

But now just take your three points and go away.

Moving along . . .

If we’re going with the idea that it’ll take 40 points to secure, at worst, 15th place in the league, which is the stated goal of the club, then we need to average a bit more than a point per match. Heading into the Bayern match, we were well above that rate. Now we’re slightly below that.

First, I don’t believe it’s going to take 40 points to survive this league the way some of the clubs below have been playing.

Second, I think we’ll get 40 anyhow.

Third, we’re six matches into a 34-match season. Hardly time to worry about anything just now. This team plays well together, and the coach will get what he needs from it.

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