While Cologne may have lacked consistency in the 2022/23 Bundesliga season so far, there are still plenty of positives that give cause for optimism ahead of the return to action in January.
The story so far
Cologne finished in an impressive seventh place last season, earning a spot in the UEFA Europa Conference League play-offs as a result. However, their plans for this campaign to be a springboard to greater things were dealt a serious blow when 20-goal top scorer Anthony Modeste was poached by Borussia Dortmund in August.
Head coach Steffen Baumgart had to rejig his side as a result and it took him a while to settle on his preferred line-up, testing out Sargis Adamyan, Florian Dietz and Steffen Tigges across several games.
While early results were promising, with a strong collective spirit going a long way to make up for the lack of a proven goalscorer up top, the squad struggled to cope with the demands of playing European football on Thursdays and Bundesliga matches on Sundays.
That won’t be an issue in 2023 after exiting the Europa Conference League at the group stage, and after being knocked out of the DFB Cup in the first round, the silver lining is that Cologne can now focus solely on Bundesliga matters. Expect them to climb up from their current position of 13th in the coming weeks and months.
Key player: Florian Kainz
Losing Modeste so late in the summer - between Matchdays 1 and 2 - meant that Cologne had to find goals from somewhere – and fast. Up stepped Florian Kainz. The attacking midfielder is the team’s most dangerous attacker this term with five goals and four assists, meaning he has had a direct hand in almost 43 percent of all of Cologne’s goals. He’s also had more shots (30) than any of his teammates, while he has taken and converted two penalties. If the Billy Goats are to climb up the table in the second half of 2022/23, much will revolve around the 30-year-old.
Cologne went unbeaten in six of their first seven Bundesliga assignments at the start of the season, but the game against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 8 threatened to derail their progress. After going into the half-time break 1-0 down, Baumgart’s charges came roaring out for the second half to complete a blistering turnaround, scoring three times in 18 minutes to take a 3-1 lead, including a goal from former BVB forward Tigges in an eventual 3-2 triumph. They have only won once in the league since then, but it serves as a reminder of the quality in the side and the threat they can pose.
Watch: Cologne's Matchday 8 win over Dortmund
One to watch: Denis Huseinbasic
The 21-year-old had never played in Germany’s top flight before this season. Nor in the second division. Nor in the third tier. In fact, he amassed 57 appearances in the Regionalliga – the fourth rung on Germany’s football pyramid - over the last two campaigns, and also hit four goals in three games for the Cologne reserve side at the start of 2022/23.
That prompted his promotion to the first team and he hasn’t looked back since making his Bundesliga debut as a late substitute against Wolfsburg on Matchday 5. Huseinbasic registered an assist in his next game and a goal in the one after that to earn his first start on Matchday 10. He repaid Baumgart’s faith in him with a goal in the 3-2 success over Augsburg and has remained a first-team regular ever since. Just imagine what he’ll be like with a bit more experience and top-flight know-how under his belt!
View from the camp
“We’re in a pretty good position with 17 points on the board, but we’ve dropped far too many. We could have been in the top half of the table, but instead we’re in the bottom third.” - Baumgart
Key fixtures in 2023
- Werder Bremen (h), 21 January
- VfB Stuttgart (a), 18 February
- Borussia Mönchengladbach (h), weekend of 1 April
- Augsburg (a), weekend of 8 April
- Bayer Leverkusen (a), weekend of 6 May
Watch: The Bundesliga is back!
All 2022/23 season reviews:
Augsburg | Bayer Leverkusen | Bayern Munich | Bochum | Borussia Dortmund | Borussia Mönchengladbach | Eintracht Frankfurt | Freiburg | Hertha Berlin | Hoffenheim | Mainz | RB Leipzig | Schalke | Union Berlin | VfB Stuttgart | Werder Bremen | Wolfsburg
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