Think about this: Peter Stöger has NEVER lost a match (well, not one that mattered) as head coach at 1. FC Köln.
Now, that’s only nine league matches and a pair of tournament battles. That’s not statistically significant for a long career, but it’s a hell of a start, the sort of which I don’t think even the most-optimistic fans of the 1. FC Köln would have predicted.
By contrast, the team led by Holger Stanislawski had already tasted the sourness of defeat four times at the same point last season.
Further, with all the assumptions you might have had about the offensive-oriented style of play Stöger would bring with him and its impact on the defense, which had been a strength during Stani’s season, it’s certainly notable the Effzeh goal has been kept clear of balls for over 430 consecutive minutes, with the clock still running.
Overall, we have to like where things stand.
Let’s face it, though, this team will eventually suffer its first loss of the Stöger era; its inevitable. If they don’t lose a match by the end of the season, which would mean, in all likelihood, the team is being promoted and has won the DFB Pokal, there is a good chance they’d lose the coach who led the effort, so we’d just call that the “loss” so my assertion is correct.
Yet, we’d like to delay any and all of that as long as possible. For now, grabbing at least one point in Karlsruhe Saturday is the only real business at hand, which is evident from the post-practice quotes offered by Stöger and Patrick Helmes as published by the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Wednesday.
“In Karlsruhe, the match will be similar to that in Aalen,” said Helmes about Saturday’s challenge. “The away matches are always difficult, because for all clubs it’s a huge thing to play against us, and, hence, they are always very motivated.”
Such motivation on the behalf of opponents is unlikely to subside as long as the unbeaten streak continues, too. Clearly, the 1. FC Köln would naturally be a highly desired scalp among 2. Bundesliga sides, as would any club of similar size and stature, but being on a such a run and sitting in an automatic-promotion spot makes the target on the club even bigger and more alluring.
Karlsruhe, for their part, have also enjoyed a rather successful start to their second-league campaign, considering they are in their first season back in the league after being promoted from 3. Liga. Currently sitting ninth in the table, they’re only five points behind the promotion places. Though, as they are certain to be away, they’re also only three points above the relegation zone. With their mid-table placing anything but assured this early and better placement not far from reach, odds are good that coach Markus Kauczinski will have his club prepared for a better performance than the one that saw them lose 3:0 in Aue last Friday.
“Should the run of play not be so that we lead 2:0 after ten minutes, it will be as in Aalen a very tight game,” offered Stöger by way of prediction.
Despite the continued elevations of expectations that come with success, Stöger reported the spirit among his players at practice was good, but that he has not seen it evolve into any level of arrogance.
“When the results are somewhat agreeable, the mood naturally is also better with the players,” Stöger said after Wednesday’s practice. “We will work hard to not become too cocky. I think, thought, that we have nobody in the team who is truly cocky. If we were to recognize it, though, we would steer away from it.”
Not sure whether this includes Slawa Peszko’s assertion that, with the acquisition of Helmes, the Effzeh has “best team in the league.” I suppose this could qualify as being more “confident” than necessarily “cocky.”
The general good mood seemed threatened a few weeks ago when Kevin Wimmer hinted he should be getting more regular playing time after a successful substitution for the injured Bruno Nascimento early in the scoreless draw with FC Kaiserslautern. Though Wimmer was the first to voice anything remotely bordering on displeasure with his extended time on the bench, he has not been the only player who has been relegated to spectator while the team has progressed to this point.
Yet, Stöger claims the lack of playing time for some has not been an issue with team spirit.
“The reserve players must now take note that things are going well. If one still gets used, I expect of them that they are prepared to really seize every opportunity, for example, as Adam Matuschyk did during his instertion against Mainz. I don’t have the feeling, though, that anyone is frustrated.”
As far as Wimmer’s status for Saturday’s team sheet, Stöger was typically non-revealing.
“In the central defense, we have many options. Currently, Kevin Wimmer has the edge by a nose. Nonetheless it should be that nobody rests on their laurels.”
And, I think it’s safe to assume that the “nobody” refers to everyone in the clubhouse.