Is history repeating itself from 2018? At that time, 1. FC Köln were relegated from the Bundesliga as a European Cup participant – and the team is currently giving the impression that this could happen again.
1. FC Köln should have been warned about this season. Sure, the joy was huge after reaching the Conference League in seventh place last Bundesliga season. But the memories of the 2017/18 season were still quite present. At that time, Cologne started in the Europa League and celebrated exhilarating evenings – but the performance in day-to-day business suffered as a result. The Domstädter finally dismounted.
Modeste leaves a huge hole
This scenario was reminded of from several quarters in the summer of 2022 and many warned that it could now be possible again. Because like five years before, Cologne had to pay tribute to the success insofar as top performers left the club afterwards to strive for even greater things. This time there were “only” two stars in Salih Özcan and Anthony Modeste (both from Borussia Dortmund), but they were extremely decisive.
How much Modeste is missing from Cologne is currently noticeable. The storm is the Achilles’ heel of Steffen Baumgart’s team, in the second half of the season they didn’t score in six of eight games. The fact that newcomer Davie Selke scored for the first time last weekend could be a glimmer of hope, but given the fact that BVB had already scored six times before, this thought didn’t matter. “No, that’s nonsense, that’s nonsense,” Baumgart reacted to “Sky” quite angrily when asked if he was happy about the striker’s goal.
No goals, many goals conceded, less lead
Because the coach has far more worries. The midfield lack – mainly because of Mark Uth’s long-term injury – the ideas or their implementation, and the defense is not nearly as stable as before the winter break. In the last five games, Cologne have conceded 13 goals, even after deducting the six BVB goals, seven goals in four games are a more than expandable record. Especially since there were clear defeats against the relegation candidates VfB Stuttgart (0:3) and VfL Bochum (0:2).
So the FC is on the way to having to look at these teams as competitors again. The club is gradually slipping further into the relegation battle and is now only six points ahead of the last three places. Five weeks ago there were still nine points on relegation place 16 and ten points on the direct relegation zone. “We are aware that the points cushion is melting further and further. We have to be aware of that and bring performance back to the pitch,” Captain Jonas Hector demanded.
Baumgart has to do better than Stöger and Ruthenbeck
His trainer sees a special responsibility in himself. “We know and see the possible danger. Anyone who doesn’t see it is powdered with the staple bag,” said Baumgart. “We have to find solutions, I’m responsible for that. I’m the one in front and the one who has to go ahead. I am asked twice, I have to give double answers.”
In 2017/18 a Cologne double searched in vain for answers. Peter Stoeger, who had led Cologne to Europe, found no way to prevent the crash and his successor Stefan Ruthenbeck (took over from early December) failed to lead the team out of the relegation zone. In the end, Cologne was the last to descend, 14 points behind the saving bank.
Will the derby against Gladbach turn the tide?
It won’t get that far this season, after all, FC now have 27 points, five points more than after the entire 2017/18 season. But the fear that the result after 34 matchdays – or a subsequent relegation – will be the same is slowly spreading. The derby against Borussia Mönchengladbach (Sunday, April 2, 2023, 3:30 p.m.) would be the ideal opportunity to defuse the relegation battle alert.