|Head Coach||Markus Gisdol|
|Bundesliga 2019/20 finish||14th|
Returning to the Bundesliga after a year absence, FC Köln much of the 2019/20 campaign in the relegation zone until the arrival of former Hoffenheim and Hamburg hear coach Markus Gisdol. Replacing Achim Beierlorzer in November, Gisdol masterminded five wins from his first nine games as head coach, which included a derby win at Bayer Leverkusen and a 4-2 win to Eintracht Frankfurt after finding themselves 2-0 down. The appointment of the German was a shrewd move but with a well-drilled side, Köln managed to avoid relegation rather comfortably in the end, despite their dire performances following the resumption of the Bundesliga after the Covid-19 pandemic.
We could well be talking about European football when mentioning FC Köln but with no wins in their final nine games resulted in a 14th placed finish. The arrivals of Sebastian Andersson and Ondrej Duda has softened the blow of losing Jhon Córdoba and with the likes of Noah Katterbach (19), Ismail Jakobs (21), Sebastian Bornauw (21) and Jan Thielmann (18), Gisdol has a nice blend of youth and experience amongst their ranks. Their 2020/21 campaign could go either way.
Likely Starting XI
An arrival from SV Auersmacher in 2010, Germany international Jonas Hector has been a wonderful servant to FC Köln. After two years playing for the second team, Hector made his Bundesliga debut for the Billy Goats at left-back under Peter Stöger. A defender by trade, Hector’s transition into midfield has been seamless and it’s one that the RheinEnergieStadion outfit has benefitted from. His experience and quality on the ball has made Hector one of the Bundesliga’s more consistent players and his performances during the 2017/18 campaign attracted the interest from Liverpool.
After Köln’s relegation back into the second division, transfer speculation was rife, but Hector showed his loyalty to the club that gave him a pathway in life, signing a contract extension with the Billy Goats despite their relegation. Hector’s leadership qualities with the number of talented youngsters in the squad will be key to continuing their stay in the top flight.
Signing to watch
Sebastian Andersson – Striker
An arrival from Union Berlin following the departure of Jhon Córdoba to Hertha Berlin for a reported €15 million, Sebastian Andersson arrives with huge expectation. Simon Terodde left for 2. Bundesliga side Hamburg whilst Anthony Modeste has trained individually due to niggling injuries and so, the Swede is currently the only fit striker at the Billy Goats and will be their main source for goals.
Standing at 1.90m, Andersson has an ariel presence, which could suit FC Köln given their preference to attack down the flanks. With 12 Bundesliga goals last season for Union and the ability to finish with both feet, the Swede is an excellent addition by Köln’s recruitment team given the scarce funds and limited options on the market. At €6m, Andersson adds a proven goalscorer to the front line and his goals could be the difference between Köln staying up or going down.
Whilst finances have been scarce, one thing that FC Köln has done extremely well is bringing youth players into the first team. Noah Katterbach and Ismail Jakobs both made their Bundesliga debuts last season under Achim Beierlorzer but it was Markus Gisdol who developed the duo into the players they are today. Katterbach won the Fritz-Walter medal in his age category whilst Jakobs was named Bundesliga Rookie of the Month for December. Jan Thielmann also made his debut at 17 under Gisdol whilst pre-season Tim Lemperle and Robert Voloder have both impressed. Averaging a game every 4.5 days due to the shortened season, FC Köln may need to depend on their youth.
One thing that FC Köln have struggled with is consistency. A four-game winning streak early in Gisdol’s tenure promised a lot, but also conceding five against Borussia Dortmund and two against both Mainz and Fortuna Düsseldorf following the resumption of the Bundesliga raises some obvious questions. The talent and ability is there, but sometimes their concentration isn’t. Two-nil up against Mainz in May resulted in a 2-2 draw whilst conceding six on the final day to Werder Bremen gives off obvious warning signs. This season, FC Köln must be able to see games out.
It’s always difficult to predict just how well FC Köln will do. One match they play as though they’re challenging for a place in European football. The next, they look like a side destined for relegation. A full season under Markus Gisdol will do the team wonders and will add a bit of stability to a side that have had five coaches, including caretaker coach, in the past three years. The departure of Jhon Córdoba is a huge blow given his work rate but they can’t dwell on his departure. With Hoffenheim, Arminia Bielefeld and VfB Stuttgart in three of their opening five fixtures, FC Köln must hit the ground running and make a statement early on.