Nearly one month after Franco Foda coached his last game for 1. FC Kaiserslautern, his replacement, Kosta Runjaic, will make his debut as the new man in charge of the ‘Red Devils.’
And we will all be watching in hopes it goes similarly as well as his debut in his former gig 368 days ago when he managed his first match as the new man for MSV Duisburg, a 2:1 loss at, incidentally, Kaiserslautern.
Though, there was a slight measure of success in Runjaic’s start in Duisburg back on the 16th of September of last year in that the Zebras had lost by a margin of only one goal. Over the first four matches of the season, they had lost by at least two every match day, surrendering a total of 12 goals and scoring just two. As Oliver Reck would learn, such results are a good way to lose a job.
And now poor Mr. Reck is a lowly goalkeeping coach over in lowly Düsseldorf…
While it’s virtually impossible to know how Runjaic will send his team onto the field Friday, you can probably expect two holding midfielders, as the 4-4-2 with a double 6 and the 4-2-3-1 were his preferred formations while at Duisburg. Similarly, between Foda and his temporary replacement, Oliver Schäfer, the Red Devils have used no other formation so far this year, at least according to my exhaustive research (looking at Transfermarkt and that’s about it).
While Tobias Sippel has proven himself to possess enough quality to be firmly entrenched as the FCK number one, I will always remember him as the keeper who scored a goal on himself by essentially bouncing the ball with both hands backwards. It was the type of amazingly awful mistake at which you have to laugh, unless you are, of course, Sippel.
The biggest Homer Simpson moment for Timo Horn in my recollection was the one in Dresden to open the season, though its leading to a goal was assisted by some questionable officiating.
Keepers have to be expected to occasionally mishandle the ball, but you pretty much assume they’ll not throw a ball fully in their control into their own net.
Sippel has the experience advantage, especially having some amount of Bundesliga experience Horn simply does not yet have. Yet, I think Horn is the more-talented player overall, not to mention his being about six inches taller, which likely gives him better coverage naturally.
Advantage: 1. FC Köln
Florian Dick returns from a red card suspension to man the right defensive wing and, I assume, his captaincy. Our man in that spot is also our captain: Miso Brecko.
On the other side, former Borussia Dortmund man Chris Löwe would be making his eighth-consecutive start as Kaiserslautern’s left back. Funny enough, Löwe was more a midfielder before he landed in Dortmund from Chemnitz.
We, of course, boast our own semi-converted midfielder on the left side of the back line. Jonas Hector missed last week due to some issues with influenza, but has been practicing and maybe is likely to start, despite not yet quite finding the form of last season that quickly made him a fan favorite.
The central defense pairing for Kaiserslautern features a bit of youth. 20-year-old Willi Orban has been a fixture in the line-up, while another 20-year-old, Dominique Heintz seems to have taken the job from Jan Simunek, having started the last four matches next to Orban.
Dominic Maroh is the stalwart for the Effzeh in central defense and, with 26 years, would likely be the most-senior player in that position tomorrow. The trend has been for Bruno Nascimento to be paired with the Slovenian national player, but with some on-field failings in the last few games, it would not be a huge upset (for me, anyhow) to see Roman Golobart get another chance to play with the big club.
Golobart scored a goal with the second squad against Velbert on Saturday, which is great for a defender of course, but my reason for wanting to see him play is because I can’t shake the image of Nascimento being simply man-handled and outrun by opposing forwards the last few matches. While Golobart definitely made some risky plays in his starts, he definitely seemed a bit more solid in the back, which might be useful in a match where the opposing team’s players will be looking to show-off for their new coach.
Overall, the home side will have a slight edge in experience, if not also talent, though Runjaic is definitely not without decent material.
Slight advantage: 1. FC Köln
Out on the flanks should be a pair of players acquired on free transfers from Frankfurt this summer: Karim Matmour on the right and Marcel Gaus on the left. Matmour came from Eintracht Frankfurt where he managed one goal in 24 matches, while Gaus tallied two goals in nine matches for FSV Frankfurt after missing the first half of the season due to injury.
Markus Karl has started six times at defensive midfield so far this season. Karl has been a regular in the line-up last year after transferring in the winter window from Union Berlin, but an injury ended his season before April got rolling.
Karl’s most-frequent partner so far has been Alexander Ring, who transferred from HJK Helsinki after spending last season at Borussia Mönchengladbach on loan from the Finnish side. Ring appeared just six times for the ponies.
Clearly, Peter Stöger has options in midfield, but let’s just say he trots the same group onto the field as he did Monday, which means it’s Marcel Risse and Daniel Halfar on the outside with Matthias Lehmann and Yannick Gerhardt inbetween.
This one is NO contest, even with Lehmann being, at times, a dicey proposition and Gerhardt being so very, very young. Risse and Halfar are going to cause problems for their opposition up and down the sideline, in my opinion.
Heavy advantage: 1. FC Köln
With 30 goals between them last year, Kaiserslautern forwards Mohammadou Idrissou and Albert Bunjaku were two of the top seven goal scorers in the league last season.
And that would be both relevant and daunting if either of them were going to be playing tomorrow.
Bunjaku injured a knee in July. His time frame for returning is currently in question.
Idrissou…well, he’s a jerk, and sometimes jerks get suspended. The out-and-proud homophobe attacked VfR defender Oliver Barth after Kaiserslautern conceded an own goal early in the second half of a game they would go on to lose 4:0 and mark the final match for Foda as manager.
Since I really don’t like Idrissou, I don’t care to spend much time talking about him. He clearly can score, but I’m glad he’s not in my club.
Olivier Occean and Simon Zoeller worked together in attack the last two week in Idrissou’s absence. I think the polite thing to say is that they are a work in progress.
Of course, so too is the new pair in Köln, which took about 111 seconds together to equal Occean and Zoeller’ two-game goal output and about five minutes more to double it.
The return of Patrick Helmes brought a top-flight Bundesliga offensive talent into the team, which seemed to instantly make Anthony Ujah a lot more valuable, as the Billy Goat attack has left the days of “Ujah or bust” long behind. Stacking defensive focus on Ujah is suddenly a lot more dangerous than it was even a few weeks ago, much less last year when there was no second obvious scoring threat.
Idrissou and Bunjaku against Helmes and Ujah would be a lot more interesting a conversation, but, even more so than at midfield, I think this one is a complete mismatch.
Huge advantage: 1. FC Köln
Confession: I really, really wanted to see Kosta Runjaic as a serious candidate for the vacancy at 1. FC Köln this summer. Simply, I thought he did a remarkable bit of work in Duisburg, and would have liked to see how that translated into a more-talented squad.
While I think he has joined a more-talented squad, this is not the same Kaiserslautern crew that nearly made the direct return to the top class. Aside from the aforementioned situation with the club’s top two forwards, gone are names such as Alexander Baumjohan, Erwin Hoffer, and Mitchell Weiser in a very busy summer where the clubhouse entrance had to be temporarily replaced with a revolving door so all the players leaving would not bump into all the new arrivals.
Given time Runjaic is likely to do well with his new club, which still has more talent than did the Zebras who were dead in the water when he arrived. Whether enough talent remains to combine with his coaching abilities to keep the Red Devils in the promotion discussion remains to be seen. If I had to guess, I’d expect them to be a factor down the stretch.
But that is in the spring. For now, it’s essentially square one.
Peter Stöger, on the other hand, no longer is fielding a team that looks like it’s still adapting to a new philosopy. With eight goals in the last two matches, they look like they’re perfectly comfortable with what the man in charge wants them to do.
Gone are the complaints about the series of draws that started the season, replaced with wonder and amazement over the offensive outburst that has put smiles on faces of Effzeh fans everywhere. Don’t know that we can say, definitively, we’re about to see a repeat of the offensive juggernaut Stöger had working at FK Austira Wien, but with the information we have to examine, things are looking good.
Advantage: 1 FC Köln
And, there you have it. My scientifically flawless breakdown of the two clubs taking the pitch Friday shows, definitively, the home side would appear to simply be superior in all phases of the game.
If only we could just agree and award the three points to the proper side.
Then again, if we did that, what would we do tomorrow?
See y’all on the Twitter tomorrow!