After the flurry of games that came in the English week, being on Wednesday without an effzeh match since Friday seems almost as eternal as an international break, doesn’t it? On top of that, you do realize we don’t play until Sunday, right?
Our people are plenty capable of filling even the shortest of breaks with much agonizing over any perceived shortcomings from preceding performances, so it should be no surprise that about halfway through this eight-day stretch of days without the red-and-white taking the field, the chatter about the team’s current woes displayed in the two matches since the derby victory.
Because football is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, it’s okay to lose perspective and flail about wildly with opinions. Some might even consider it fun. Even so, let’s try to also make sure we do eventually work some reality into the frantic midweek analysis work.
As it’s early in the second year in the Bundesliga with the determined goal being to build a solid foundation on which the 1. FC Köln returns itself to its proper status as a first-division mainstay, the fact that we are sitting seventh in the table after match day seven with eleven points needs to be recognized as a fine start to the season.
As a corollary to this current standing, a glance toward the bottom of the table where the bottom three teams have just four, three, and two points, the attack on our primary season goal of reaching safety a bit earlier than last season is off to a great start. Even noting that things can change for anyone quite quickly with a few results, deserved or no, we have to look at the way teams like Augsburg (somewhat sadly?), Stuttgart, and Hannover have performed and feel that much better about our overall prospects of achieving that safety by season’s end. After all, the only requirement for retaining the Bundesliga class is out-pointing three of 17 competing clubs.
The problem comes when people allow early residence in the European spots to morph into the notion that there is where the club should reside, simply by continuing to collect points from clubs below us in the table.
Because that’s how it has traditionally worked?
I return to the idea of “perspective,” because I do not wish to obscure the fact that there are valid questions raised from the loss in Berlin and the draw with Ingolstadt. Just as there were things that showed Peter Stöger is a fine leader who has developed a team that works well as a unit, it’s clear that over the course of any 90-minute competitive match that it’s far from a flawless product at this point.
If for no other reason than the fact that Hertha BSC were missing so many of their regular starters last Tuesday, effzeh fans certainly could be said to have been justified in believing that at least one point was there for the taking from Berlin, even if many used that plus the good vibes of coming off the downing of Mönchengladbachh to propel a leap to sheer certainty that an away victory was in the making.
From that perspective, the overall performance of our guys was incredibly disappointing. Maybe it was the short time between matches combined with the trip to Berlin, or maybe over-confidence from the Saturday result matched with Hertha’s injury problems. Whatever the reason, it may very well have been the worst they’ve looked all season, and it came at an inopportune time. It felt like a big blow to momentum gained from the derby win, which was a great salve to getting burned so badly in the prior road match at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Oh, that’s right! Winning on the road in the Bundesliga can be unreasonably challenging, as we’re reminded for the second-consecutive road trip!
But I was mostly with the rest of you. If you listen to Axel and I calling the game on Rabble.TV, you can hear our concerns before the 1:0 and then our frustration with the response for the next hour until it went 2:0.
I just don’t think it was suddenly clear-cut proof that the team and/or coach is on the wrong track.
Then came Friday and a match against a promoted team, at home, in a situation where everyone wanted (and thus expected) a response to match the derby win that followed the embarrassment in Frankfurt.
Collectively, we ignored the fact that FC Ingolstadt had won all three of their road matches since joining the Bundesliga and that they did so by keeping clean sheets in each of them. This casual dismissal of Ingolstadt’s early accomplishments came despite it having some strong similarities to our own club’s strong start the year before, using a heavy focus on defense to keep opponents from scoring well before even considering putting together much in the way of offense.
Hence, when Anthony Modeste headed home the 1:0 to become just the third team to score on die Schanzer this season and the first to do so against them as visitors, it was seemingly treated as a natural result of a top side on its way to dismissing a second-division pretender.
Of course, we all know what followed . . . Matip equalized, the offense struggled to create quality chances, Osako blew his chance at being a hero, and Stöger left two substitution opportunities on the field, all of which led to a full weekend of armchair analysts decrying the players and coaches as unworthy of trying to maintain our newly reacquired top-dog status and, accordingly, to blame for consecutive results that can be seen as nothing other than utter failures.
The outrage was so loud, in fact, that both Stöger and sporting director Jörg Schmadtke have felt the need to publicly pump the brakes on what seemed to suddenly be spiralling-out-of-control expectations.
Welcome to Köln, by the way, fellas!
I think that all sides should probably just calm down a bit. It’s only late September, leaving plenty of time before season’s end in which to get overly worked-up about things in time frames much more appropriate for such frantic sports concern.
In fact, Jörg and Peter, feel free to ignore all of it and just keep doing what you’re doing. Most of us realize full well that you both are to be thanked for where we are (as Schmadtke has pointed out), not blamed for where we are not . . . even if we’re not necessarily great at expressing it all the time.
I’ll even avoid adding to the fire by voicing my own incredulity over Osako’s continued usage.
Did I just type that out loud? Sorry, coach.
The long wait between matches finally ends Sunday in Gelsenkirchen, our last visit to which ended in an 0:2 road win over a scuffling Schalke side. This year, Schalke looks a lot more stable early under Andre Breitenreiter than they did late under Roberto diMatteo, so while it was proven that our effzeh absolutely can compete with the royal blues despite the huge gap in available finances (another thing Schmadtke was happy to note this week in defending his work against anticipation of near-future complaints), it certainly shouldn’t come to be expected that we’ll just march in and earn a result.
Which is truthfully how we ought to be approaching each and every match day until we have already established ourselves as that which we aspire to be and have done so for longer than a match or a month or even a season.
I realize that’s not the nature of being effzeh, but when the banter starts to feel destructive, someone has to raise a point of order.
Even so . . . let’s take three from Veltins (a.k.a. poor excuse for beer) Arena!
COME ON EFFZEH!
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