The “yo-yo status” of 1. FC Köln can be assumed the most accurate representation of any club in Germany branded with such a title. There is every chance that the club could fall under the same bracket when new head coach Steffen Baumgart graces the Müngersdorf sidelines. Though, something feels different. An optimistic vibe is searing through Domstadt despite what has been a horrendous season. Baumgart could be the man to solve their problems, even if they face the drop.
Relegation to 2. Bundesliga is staring Köln directly in the face. Only recent poor form of relegation rivals Arminia Bielefeld and Werder Bremen has saved Köln from being cast as dead certainties for the drop. A win over already relegated Schalke 04 and results going their way could somehow save them this weekend. The question is, would relegation be the worst thing for the Domstadt side? Sometimes it’s better to take the hit to regenerate and fix what went wrong. An issue they ultimately failed to solve after relegation in 2018.
Interim head coach Friedhelm Funkel has quite frankly made little impact since his return to management for the Rhein Derby against Bayer Leverkusen last month. His controversial comments following that game however, hardly gave him a fighting chance at winning over the fans. Unfortunately for Funkel, even if he saves the team from relegation, he will most likely be a forgotten figure, as will this season, in Effzeh fan memories. Important to remember that Funkel was in charge of a sinking ship back in 2002 and failed to save Köln from relegation.
Obviously money talks in football and the financial situation at Köln would not be benefited by another relegation. On the pitch though, relegation results in deadweight being shipped out, young legs being given their chance and with a brand new coach starting from scratch, Baumgart has the opportunity to take this former Bundesliga great and finally create stability and bring back the passion that floods from the terraces.
Look at the young talent that the Billy Goats have to offer in 2. Bundesliga, should relegation be confirmed and they are chosen to stay. Noah Katterbach, Ismail Jakobs, Jan Thielmann, Sava-Arangel Cestic and you can even bring Salih Özcan into that equation. Baumgart has the foundations to grow a capable squad around that. Many players will be expected to leave, survival or relegation. If they were able to keep club legends, Jonas Hector and Timo Horn, and include the in-coming Dejan Ljubicic, there is definitely a talented enough squad there.
Outgoings are ultimately necessary in either scenario. Sebastiaan Bornauw is most likely the easiest to call. Bornauw has proven he can play at a higher level in the Bundesliga at least and it is doubtful we will see him in Köln next season. Other certainties would be the likes of Emmanuel Dennis, Max Meyer, Ondrej Duda and Ellyes Skhiri, players that will see themselves ahead of 2. Bundesliga standard. A complete new defensive line needs to be created by Baumgart. Large proportions of this season has seen a rotated back four with very few variants proving successful. A strong defence is proven to give you consistent performances in a League where we see many goals every weekend.
Considering the resources he had available in Paderborn, he was hugely successful and adored by fans, not just the Paderborn faithful. A connection that has been missing between the fans and the head coach in Köln for quite some time. Baumgart has the experience of being with another ‘yo-yo” club in Germany, but can he create consistency with a traditional and massive Bundesliga club? Time will tell.
A strong start, the correct recruitment, soak up that infamous passion from the stands and Baumgart should be successful in Köln.