Report Card: Eintracht Braunschweig – 1. FC Köln

It’s now three days since the season opener for the Billy Goats. I’ve been mostly avoiding looking at the replay of the game, even though the only thing really to do, blog-wise, would be to discuss it.

Sure, there is still the lingering non-presence of Geromel, Rensing, and Pesko to be sorted. It’s certainly worth a look.

Podolski will be back in town soon for the ‘friendly’ visit from Arsenal. That definitely has the interest of many.

There’s all the financial business of the club. I know it impacts what sort of direction the team can take with personnel, but it otherwise bores me to tears.

Finally, the most impactful of all the non-game related matters would be the overtaking of Twitter hash-tag “#EffZeh” by a marauding band of mindless Twitterbots, making it almost impossible to use the tag for keeping up on fan chatter. (Why the hell can Twitter not stop these things?)

Alas, we’re left with the game. We all know how it went.

Actually, some of you may not. I suppose it’s entirely possible a friend of mine would do me the favor of pity-reading this while shaking their head at the time and effort wasted writing about a team nobody in my country follows.

So, #SPOILERALERT!

Even though the Effzeh took the loss Sunday, it still seemed to me the Billy Goats had the run of the place. It’s hard to overlook the disastrous set piece that ended up deciding the game, as well as the utter lack of touch in the offensive space which allowed one miserable play to BE the deciding factor, but I still came away thinking the 1. FC Köln was the better squad overall.

Of course, being the better team on the pitch counts only as far as it translates into having more goals than the opponent.

Which can suck a bit in times like these.

A-minus

Christian Eichner

For my money, Eichner was the most-effective player on the field, at least in the first half.

Now…was he he one player whose position allowed Braunschweig to be onside in the set piece that yielded the game’s lone goal?

He was.

However, I think that was more a tactical error than a personnel issue. Eichner was an absolute stud all day long in the defense and made a few plays on the other side of the field to keep pressure on the hosts.

What it comes down to for the defenders is that Braunschweig never threatened Köln’s goal during the run of play. The primary job of the back four would have been to keep Timo Horn from having to work too hard, and that was certainly achieved. Eichner dominated play when the ball came into his area.

Dominic Maroh

Tidy defending all day long.

What do you say about his pulling down of Dennis Kruppke right in front of the goal late in the first half? If he gets caught, it’s a clear penalty kick and would put Köln’s goalkeeper in the unenviable spot of needing to stop the elfmeter to keep his team level. The thing is, he didn’t get caught, which made it just one among several successful defensive plays Maroh made on the day. He was a large contributor to keeping Brauschweig mostly silent offensively.

You do have to point out that Maroh was one of two players who could have and should have been watching Ermin Bicakcic during a free kick (due to a pretty bad call, I might add…) into the box that was headed by Kumbela toward the net, finding Bicakcic all alone while Maroh and (Matuschyk) were standing several feet away marking either nobody or one-another. Could have been a disaster, but Bicakcic ended up looking like a defender when the opportunity arose and Horn ultimately pounced on the ball before anything happened.

Otherwise, Maroh was a show-stopper for the EffZeh. When Braunschweig tried to increase the pressure in the second half, Maroh was frequently there to turn them away. He even managed to draw a yellow card for Braunschweig’s captain Koppke, making it appear he caught an elbow to the face (he didn’t). You can’t ask for much more from a central defender. Full marks.

B-Plus

Miso Brecko

How much blame can you give the captain for the failed strategy of attempting the trap on the free kick that ultimately lost the game?

I don’t know how all that works, so I’m not going to saddle him with it any more than anyone else. It was not a great decision, in my opinion. You leave too much to chance. You have to have the right timing and you also have to hope the linesman sees it AND actually calls it. Plus, Braunschweig doesn’t exactly have anyone known for scoring headers off set pieces. Geromel could have handled anyone in the air.

Wait…Geromel isn’t on the field? He’s still under contract, but not playing?! What the fish?!

Anyhow, Brecko looked solid in defense and actually helped create some opportunity in the offense. I think he had a strong game, overall.

But, my man with the delious Japanese soup for a first name, please tell everyone to just defend such free kicks straight-up rather than pull the trap. Nobody wants to see that again.

Adil Chihi

Chihi is a problem for defenders.

Dude started a little slow. I didn’t even see him the first 25 minutes of the game. Though, it was a dreadfully boring 25 minutes during which both teams seemed like they wanted to test the waters from as far away as possible rather than jumping in.

In addition to a few fairly nice-looking corner kicks, he put Tese in position to score with a few nice passes.

There was also a moment where he made an errant pass that went off an opposing player, but was recovered by Chihi as he ran around three other players to the goal line and crossed the ball brilliantly, ending in a headed chance that did not connect.

Only criticism might be for him to be a little more consistent and not disappear. He appeared to go down as if he were struck in the face, trying to draw a whistle, but it sure didn’t look as if he were actually hit. He later took a pretty weak dive in the penalty area when it was clear he wouldn’t reach a ball from Bröker. It’s not an attractive strategy (until it works, of course).

He could really just be a little less rash in dealing with the officials, in general. He gets so mad!

Probably, I’d want to give him higher marks for his play, as he really was a catalyst out there. At some point, however, you have to consider the end result, which is that the Braunschweig keeper was tested little more than was Horn. I like what I saw from Chihi, but it needs to develop into goals.

Daniel Royer

Royer made a few impressive plays on both ends of the field. He is very confident in handling the ball. He makes smart passes. He (mostly) patiently waits for a clear opportunity to strike toward the goal, rather than wildly firing away when there is no clear path to scoring. He didn’t have a lot to do, but I liked what he did when he had the ball. Plus, he very capably defended near the corner flag in the first half when Braunschweig had managed some offensive possession, eventually earning a throw for the EffZeh while apparently frustrating his opponent.

Of the two young new Austrians in the squad, Royer was by far the more successful. He was fortunate to have avoided a yellow card when playing the ball with his hand at one point, but, since he didn’t caught…no harm, right?

Royer did get a golden opportunity when a backward pass from Bröker found him just to the right of the penalty spot. He definitely had some interference from the defending Kevin Correia, but likely should have at least put the ball on net. Unfortunately, the shot went wide, and keeper Daniel Davari continued his day untested.

I don’t really understand why he was one of the replaced players late in the game.

Referee Peter Gagelmann

I thought the officiating was decent. Gagelmann definitely missed a few items: Maroh definitely should have been called for a penalty kick after pulling Koppke down by his jersey; he didn’t catch Royer playing the ball intentionally with his hand; Brecko was called for a foul on a play in which he clearly jumped straight into the air, which was followed by a dangerous free kick chance.

He certainly wasn’t afraid to tell Chihi to shut his yapper. Maybe Brecko should also tell Chihi to tone it down a little bit.

B-minus

Adam Matuschyk

Needs more patience and control. He came out in the first half as if his pants were on fire. He made one long shot/pass from midfield that had absolutely no chance of scoring or reaching a teammate. Shortly after that, he rifled a ball down the flank which Eichner could head forward only through a pretty impressive effort.

I’ve long been fond of Matushcyk for his energetic play, but he does seem to have trouble harnessing and knowing when and how to unleash it. He did ultimately settle down and put a decent shot on goal in the first half. He then put his team’s first shot actually on target (in the 66th minute!) making Davari actually stop the ball from going behind him into the net. It wasn’t a tough save, but at least he was made to do something after an hour played, and that was due to Matuschyk.

Holger Stanislawski

The overwhelming issues with the EffZeh last season were a discombobulated defense and lack of a striker not transferring to Arsenal.

While the striker issue is technically a management issue, Stani has to know Chong Tese is not going to magically become a weapon. Would like to see a little more creative approach to that.

The defense, however, looks a lot more orderly than last we saw it. Hence, I have to feel like Stani is pulling the team in the right direction. Everyone appeared to work well together. Even the youth and inexperience of Kevin Wimmer was fairly well disguised.

The choice of Brecko as captain looks just fine thus far, but time will tell.

I trust this team will score at home against Sandhausen, who will be far less organized and consistent (in all likelihood) than Braunschweig.

C

Matthias Lehmann

Where are you and what are you doing?!

Other than a couple of questionable pass attempts early in the game, I don’t remember seeing Lehmann do much of anything at all.

It’s entirely possible he was simply always in position to deter Braunschweig from even trying to move in his area. I’m certainly amateur enough to know I don’t know for sure how effective he was in keeping Köln in charge of the match for the most part.

But, I do know I didn’t see him do much actively on the pitch. That has to mean something. So, while he was in a defensive midfield role and Braunschweig was largely stifled offensively, I can’t really do much more for him than this. Would like to see him more engaged in plays. Matuschyk was lined up right with him, but you sure knew Matuschyk was on the pitch.

Thomas Bröker

I felt like Bröker was meant to be more an offensive threat than he appeared on Sunday. Other than Horn, I don’t think any single player was more invisible than Bröker in the first half. He was among those who put a decent pass into the path of the flailing Tese, but was otherwise just not around the ball much, which is fine if you’re Horn, but not for an offensive-minded midfielder.

He did seem to come to life a bit in the second half. Definitely started to look for comfortable making passes in the offensive area. I feel like I’m being a bit harsh, but Bröker needs to be more aggressive, especially when it’s being proven the striker situation is a bit grim.

Someone is going to have to be productive. I think Bröker needs to show he is part of the solution.

D

Kevin Wimmer

Wimmer…maybe isn’t quite ready for the big time. He was  burned by Kumbela early, allowing the striker to run right by him onto the ball. Wimmer somehow recovered and secured a goal kick, so he should be credited for that, but the opportunity was partially there because he lost track of Kumbela. At least he cleaned up his own mess.

The Austrian newcomer’s best play came in the second half when he was fouled and stayed down long enough to get the whistle as Braunschweig gained possession and looked to have a clear breakaway chance. Of course, if the whistle doesn’t come, he looks really bad. Of course, he might have been legitimately hurt; he was certainly legitimately fouled.

Again, the defenders mostly had Braunschweig locked down, but the few times they threatened, you could see Wimmer in someone’s rear-view mirror. He’s going to have to develop a better sense of the game quickly because it won’t always be enough to recover with just the speed and skill he has. He can’t put himself and his teammates in poor position and hope he’ll always be able to fix it before it goes bad.

F-Minus

Chong Tese

A mystery. I can’t seem to see anything in his game that would inform why he’s even in the league.

Tese was on the receiving end of several passes in the first half. Not all were perfect, but a few were very good. Tese showed absolutely no ability to do anything with them. A few of his efforts were almost laughable, in that it appeared as if he knew he had to make an effort to appear as if he were going to do something, but never actually appeared capable of doing something. The best chance of the first half, by far, found him with a wide-open look at the net when Chihi was gifted the ball by Braunschweig defender Kevin Correia and directly put it in front of Tese. Tese then turned toward the net and fired a weak, low shot a few feet wide of the post.

When Chihi again found Tese with a pass on the right side of the penalty area, Tese had just one man to beat, which apparently meant to him he should just push the ball forward, lean into the defender, and fall down in hopes of a penalty.

It was truly a sad effort.

You have to wonder whether he looks amazing in practice, or Mikael Ishak is horrible in practice, or Tese has photos of Stani lying naked in a pile of bratwurst and Kinder eggs. Most likely, however, is that Tese’s continued presence in the squad is Stani’s way of showing management that they need to find a striker before the transfer window closes because what they have isn’t going to cut it even in the zweite liga.

Or, maybe he had a bad day.

The fact of the matter is, when your team dominates the ball the way Köln did throughout the match, you have to eventually turn that into a lead. Tese was presented with plenty of opportunity due to the hard work of his teammates, but did not live up to his end of the business.

Incomplete

Timo Horn

Overall, it’s hard to say much about Horn. He had almost nothing to do all day. The goal scored was the fault of 10 other guys in red not named Timo Horn, as it was a failed offside trap off a set piece that had the 19-year-old keeper staring down a trio of yellow jerseys with the ball in the penalty area. Knowing what I was like when I was 19, I’m impressed enough that he was out there looking like a professional footballer, even if it was handling only the odd backpass or harmless hopeful long shots.

Mikael Ishak, Mato Jajalo, and Kevin McKenna

All substituted into the game too late to really do much. McKenna just missed putting his head on a ball struck into the box from near midfield by Brecko, which would have been more than enough for his few minutes in the game. Otherwise, the three had little to do with the game’s ultimate outcome.

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