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2017-18 Bundesliga Preview: FC Koln poised to keep improving

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Can the Billy Goats string together another top-five finish?

Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images

As part of our season preview, we will be profiling all 18 clubs in the Bundesliga, and how we think they will fair during the coming season. Today, we will be focusing on FC Koln.

LAST SEASON

FC Koln began the 2016-17 season on a high note, winning six of its first 11 games. The club suffered a major blow when Timo Horn went down injured with a meniscal tear in early November. Over the course of 20 matches from November 26 through April 29, Koln sputtered, posting a record of 4W-9D-7L.

Horn made his return to action in mid-March, helping to steer Koln back in the right direction again after a disastrous middle of the season. The “Billy Goats” maintained themselves defensively during Horn’s absence and were able to scrape together a fifth place finish.

One of the bright spots for Koln last season was Anthony Modeste, whose 25 goals were nearly half the 51 total Koln scored last year. Modeste was heavily linked with a move to China after the conclusion of the season and subsequently signed on loan with Tianjin Quanjian for two years with an option to buy at the end.

TRANSFER SUMMARY

Transfers in

  • Jhon Cordoba (€17 Million)
  • Jorge Mere (€7 Million)
  • Jannes Horn (€7 Million)
  • Joao Queiros (€3 Million)
  • Tim Handwerker (Free)
  • Nikolas Nartey (Academy)

Transfers out

  • Anthony Modeste (€6 Million)
  • Marcel Hartel (€250 Thousand)
  • Neven Subotic (end of loan)

OUTLOOK

Losing Modeste will not be easy on the Koln offense at first. In the early goings, it will be difficult for FC Koln to find its scoring touch, which will have a big effect on the club’s final place in the standings.

Though unlike last season, Koln will operate in a more systematic, unified attack rather than going through one player at the top. While Cordoba might not solely replace Modeste’s production, Artjoms Rudnevs and Yuya Osako have also shown their ability to put the ball in the net.

In the midfield, Marcel Risse and Milos Jojic will have an expanded role offensively. Youngster Salih Ozcan could be approaching his much-anticipated breakout campaign which will see his playmaking ability flourish. Leonardo Bittencourt, Marco Hoger, and Christian Clemens will also play major roles in the team’s success in 2017/18.

Defensively, Koln should remain rock solid at the back if Horn can stay healthy for the whole season. Timo Horn will likely have a terrific bounce-back season and is set to be the most instrumental piece for Koln this year. Left back Jonas Hector will undoubtedly be the top defender for Koln while Lukas Klunter and Pawel Olkowski will battle for the starting job at right back once again. In the middle, Dominique Heintz and Frederik Sorensen return much improved from last season while both remain very young.

One area of concern is depth ahead of an extremely busy fixture list with UEFA Europa League competition a factor. Defensively and in the midfield, the club has done well to bring in key depth pieces to help with such a compact schedule. There is, however, growing concern over the depth at striker. Regardless of European play, an injury to Cordoba or Osako could be devastating to a team with a lack of scorers.

It will be interesting to see if the young Koln defense can click for an entire season. If so, FC Koln will compete for a top-3 spot and will possess one of the most threatening sides in the Bundesliga for the future.

PREDICTION: 4th Place

While it may seem rather high to place Koln (and I’m sure all you commenters will love to say how wrong I am even though the season hasn’t started yet), the only significant loss was Modeste while the defense remained intact with some additions to help improve. There could be some rocky patches at the start of the season and throughout the “dog days” in February and March. However, if the club remains healthy and can find ways to score, the defense will carry the club through to another successful season.