Match Day 4: 1. FC Köln 0:0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

As much as I was excited about my first “Rhine Derby” since becoming Effzeh, I could tell that there was a lot lost in the distance from here to Müngersdorf.

I never really found myself wanting to say/think/post hateful things toward the ponies of Borussia Mönchengladbach, even when reading some of the hateful things toward our club written by fans of that club.

I wanted three points, of course, but I want that every week. Would it have been just a tad sweeter knowing it had come against a big rival? One whose fans can’t help but remind everyone that recent history of the rivalry has been fairly one-sided? And one who has been feeling pretty cocky not only about the “guaranteed six points” they expected to get from us this season, while they also are playing in Europe?

Hell yeah it would have been. I love that those people have been somewhat hushed by the fact that they’ll need to rewrite those sure points down to four, even while they try to spin the result as some sort of victory them or focus solely on some of the off-pitch incidents as a way to lob accusations of a lack of class.

All I can say to any of that is, “Shut up, Granit Xhaka,” and “Handle your own business, Ponies fans.”

If I’m honest, I would rather sit and have a beer with a typical Mönchengladbach fan than I would a self-proclaimed Effzeh “Ultra” who uses football as an excuse for criminal behavior. A fan of the ponies can do very little real harm to the club, while a dickhead in red and white is capable of, at the very least, putting the club and its fans in a poor public light. There are many right ways to be a football fan and really not that many wrong ways, but these guys are putting a LOT of energy into doing is all sorts of wrong.

Now, as for the Choreo with the animation of a severed horse’s head being carried by an eagle (the symbolism of which I’m sure is at least partially lost on me) . . . Ja, it might be a wee bit distasteful, but  . . . it’s a cartoon. If there is ever going to be an appropriate place for a severed horse head, it’s in a cartoon. The clutching of pearls while gasping in mock outrage over such offensiveness is comical.

THIS is what’s triggering all the hand-wringing? Get the fish out of here!

So, to review: actual violence = bad, cartoon violence = semi-acceptable

And my hesitation on it is only because my younger son, with whom I someday hope to attend my first live Effzeh match, is crazy in love with horses. He adores them. Even if he didn’t, he’ll probably be old enough by the time we get to Müngersdorf to understand what he’s seeing and to require some explanation.

My preference would to be able to always explain things with something like, “Well, our fellow club members simply love their club,” rather than how “there’s enough hate toward another club to make people want to symbolically show that the hate is very extreme.

Yeah, parenting . . . never turns off. Who knew?

Startelf

Timo Horn and the impenetrable four: Even if for just superstitious reasons, you can’t really change the back line until the scoreless streak ends. I don’t know if Stöger thinks that way or not, but he’s trotting Brecko, Maroh, Wimmer, and Hector out there consistently. I think we’ve covered that they are not quite impenetrable, but results are results, and the result is that the only team yet to concede a goal is 1. FC Köln. Ride it as long as it will run!

Matzelinho & Vogt:  The duo at the double pivot should not be undervalued in the way the defense has looked incredibly stout so far this season. In fact, I’d say they’ve played a larger role than has even the keeper, as Horn has hardly faced much in the way of dangerous chances, largely because Lehmann and Vogt have sternly turned away most of the action that comes into the defensive half through the midfield. I’m not sure why Vogt replaced Matuschyk after the HSV match, but he did and continues to do well. He also brings a bit of grit to the game. Who doesn’t like that?

Also, how the hell did Lehmann go from a guy who seemed to find a way to never touch the ball in the second division to a guy who is constantly throwing up road blocks at the Bundesliga level? If you saw Lehmann during the Stanislawski regime and had him pegged for being the anchor of the best defense in 2. Bundesliga history, you are a damned genius.

Risse, Osako, & Olkowski: The one-week Simon Zoller experiment goes back to the lab for the derby, but Halfar goes to the bench for Olkowski? This move, I do not understand, except that it seems to me that you’re trading what little offensive spark has been available on the flanks for a additional defensive help from that side.

There are many good reasons I’m not a football coach, though.

And even more better reasons Peter Stöger is.

So . . .

Just like far too much of his time at Arsenal, Poldi will only be watching. Cool hoodie, bro! (but turn the cap around, would you?)

UJAH! : Who else? Without question, more is needed from the offense. Ujah is the easiest target for criticism, even from those well aware that the tactics are at least partially accountable for why the goals have been so scarce. The fact remains that our Tönn is the best, or most-proven, offensive weapon available right now. He hasn’t always gotten it right, but the quality chances have been a lot thinner this year.

More Midfield Meandering

First things first. This scoreless draw was nowhere near as dull as the one in Paderborn.

But it wasn’t a lot more thrilling, either.

And it surely was not on a par with all the build-up, the excitement of a rivalry renewed, or the incredible atmosphere created by the home crowd. Quality chances were thin on both ends. Mönchengladbach was often content to kick the ball around between their defenders looking for a way through the Effzeh defense, while the Effzeh defense was content to let the ponies keep the ball while they focused on their own organization without it.

Well, that was pretty much the story of the first half, at least.

The Effzeh pushed the issue a bit more in the second half, but not to great effect. The plan seemed to be to lob balls forward and hope someone could get to it. Between the lack of accuracy on the attempts and Ujah’s tendency to be offside, it was a parade of frustration for those of use nursing an increasingly colder mug of coffee while hoping for just one of those attempts to connect and deliver a lead.

The Return of Risse

Clearly motivated by my pleas for more aggressiveness, Marcel Risse finally again got me excited about his play. He was much more visible, especially in the first half when very little was going forward.

The only real chance the Effzeh had the entire first half was the direct result of a nice pass from Risse to Olkowski. The Startelf debutant drilled a decent shot on goal, but Yann Sommer was able to parry it away with his mitt.

If I’m honest, Risse did seem to step back a little bit in the second half when it seemed Stöger had made adjustments to try to get something started with the offense.

But I’m not trying to focus on that. I liked what I saw early, so I’m banking on Risse to be a key contributor this season

No Halfar?

Again, I would never have any business coaching even my son’s team of preschoolers, such is my level of football sophistication.

Okay? Okay.

Now, why in the hell did Daniel Halfar not start the match?

The answer MUST be that which I mentioned earlier, which is the desire to have the more-defensive Olkowski on one flank. It could even be that having Olkowski on one side somehow freed Risse from some defensive responsibilities, which made him seem to be at his most-aggressive this season.

But Halfar, for me, has maybe been the most-reliable midfielder in the offensive end over the last year. For me, trading what he brings to the offensive game isn’t worth whatever bump you get on defense, especially considering that Halfar has been around for all the great defense, too.

That said, Fabian Johnson was absolutely negated for 90 minutes. If it weren’t for the fact he was on the US men’s national team, I don’t know he would have gotten a single mention on the broadcast here. Olkowski had to have had some part in that.

All I know is that the early season has always had it’s most interesting moments going forward when Halfar was on the ball. Taking him off the pitch seemed an early concession that the Effzeh was playing for the null.

Inaccuracy and Poor Timing

An ongoing theme with this team in the early stages has been the long-ball approach to counterattacking. I suppose you make sacrifices for the amount of defensive security we’ve been enjoying, but there does not seem to be any significant improvement in getting the ball into dangerous spots.

People are annoyed with Ujah having been offside several times Sunday. That’s fine, but I don’t think you saddle him with the entirety of the blame. If he’s trying to get an early start on chasing down long balls, it is at least in part due to the fact he’s seen so much possession surrendered due to passes delivered with far too heavy a hand.

This is not to take Ujah entirely off the hook, either, mind you. The defense has shown they can collaborate. The offense needs to get better at piecing their opportunities together, rather than everything seeming to hinge on hope.

That’s targeted at you, Kevin Vogt and Yuya Osako, in particular. Some of those deliveries were obscenely off-target. If you are intentionally going to play more defensively, you get fewer possessions, which means you have to be more efficient. Hammering a ball toward the goal line that is so far away from both the goal and any teammate so that nothing can come from it but a goal kick is unacceptable.

And then, when you do it, don’t look around at everyone with a look on your face that seems to be questioning the location of your four-meter-tall teammate was on that early cross so he could head it into goal. It’s insulting to all of us.

The Red Sweater is back

It’s back-to-back appearances for the red sweater with block sponsor logos. I don’t think we’re going to get much better at this point.

As poorly executed as that bit of marketing is, it’s still somehow better than the “Borusse!” hooded sweatshirt Jürgen Klopp dug up for Dortmund’s Champions League match last week.

Then again, I’m betting the BVB fan shop is selling plenty of those “Borusse!” shirts the last week. Ain’t nobody buying thin red cardigans with “REWE” and “Männer” block logos on the collarbone area.

Speaking of “Borusse!” Mega-fan Kevin Großkreutz was at the derby and Instagramming.

Maroh & Matze

Somewhere in the hazy beginnings of my becoming an Effzeh fan, Dominic Maroh and Matthias Lehmann were brought into the club for the beginning of the 2. Bundesliga stint. I always think of them arriving to the club about the same time I did.

I liked Maroh instantly. Not only is he frequently a bearded brother, but his play in the central defense is so consistently solid that even a Fußball neophyte like myself could see he had quality.

I did NOT like Lehmann, though. He never seemed to be near the ball, nor in position to keep the ball from getting through the midfield. Didn’t see much in the way of tackling or otherwise challenging opposition. He was an invisible man in my eyes, but consistently in the starting eleven.

For me, Maroh just gets better and better at his own work, while also likely having some role in the continued growth of Kevin Wimmer. The two of them have been fantastic in keeping the area clean.

And Lehmann is as reliable as anyone. I can see that now. Maybe I misssed it that first season, but I’ve gone from doubter to believer since early last season. Hopefully some of what he’s able to do rubs off on young Yannick Gerhardt, who is bound to become a regular at the pivot in the near future.

Hannover? We have to score, right?

Even with it being an away match . . . even with Hannover getting some decent early results . . . this needs to be a bit of a break-out match here in the English week.

I think their coach, Tayfun Korkut, is a solid commander. I also think they have some dangerous players.

But I also think we need to be able to score on a Hannover 96.

Or I’m just tired of not seeing goals go into our column.

Incidentally, I’m perfectly content with the continuation of no goals in the other column. Keep that rolling as long as you can, as far as I’m concerned.

 

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