Following their 2. Bundesliga triumph in the 2013/14 season, 1. FC Köln enjoyed an impressive first year back in the top flight finishing their campaign in 12th, just six points off a European spot.
Kevin Wimmer’s move to Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur was already nailed on prior to their final game last season, a 2-2 draw against VfL Wolfsburg. Losing the talented defender brought doubts to Köln fans who saw their team concede just 40 league goals last season.
Cue the long summer ahead for Jörg Schmadtke and Peter Stöger. The arrival of Dominique Heintz from 1. FC Kaiserslautern was the first part of Köln’s defensive plans – with the 21-year old having played a part in Germany’s U21 semi-final defeat to Portugal in summer.
The second defensive arrival was that of Frederik Sörensen. The Danish defender spent last season on loan at Hellas Verona, having had two spells at Juventus, broken up by a two-year stay at Bologna. Impressing in pre-season, the 23-year old has received plenty of praise from fans and management alike – a great replacement for Wimmer.
After losing last season’s top scorer Anthony Ujah to Werder Bremen, fans were disappointed at the way in which the Nigerian chose to leave the club – certainly on sour terms. As a result, that saw the arrival of Anthony Modeste from TSG Hoffenheim where he scored seven goals. A proven goal scorer in the top flight, Modeste found the net on 14 occasions during his time at Ligue 1 side, SC Bastia.
1. FC Köln finally got their man
Following Modeste’s arrival, long-term target Philipp Hosiner was the next forward to arrive. The Austrian was due to arrive in January on loan, but the medical found a tumour on the forwards’ kidney, which delayed the move. After netting in his pre-season games, 26-year old Hosiner has looked impressive in front of goal, working on a partnership with Modeste.
Arrivals of Milos Jojic and Leonardo Bittencourt soon followed and both are likely to solve Köln’s creativity problems, something which they lacked last season. The former joined die Geißböcke in a deal expected to be worth around €3 million. Despite being tipped for big things at Borussia Dortmund, football just didn’t work out how it was supposed to. Was it lack of guidance? Mismanagement by Jürgen Klopp, or was it the fact that Dortmund struggled? The Serbian started just five Bundesliga matches last season, but he is expected to play as much as possible under Stöger.
Another product of Dortmund is that of 21-year old Bittencourt. Despite not making a name for himself during the 2012/13 season, the midfielder was shipped out to Hannover 96 where he spent the next two seasons. Starting 35 Bundesliga games over two years, Bittencourt will provide pace down the flanks for Köln. Again, something they have lacked in recent years and even more so now since the departure of Daniel Halfar to 1. FC Kaiserslautern.
A selection headache for Peter Stöger?
A slow start to life in the Bundesliga for Yuya Osako, the Japanese started to enjoy his football in Köln towards the end of last season, following his move from 1860 München. With the young Bard Finne also impressing during pre-season, Stöger will certainly have a selection headache over who to start in attack, something that he’s lacked in the previous two years.
Is Yannick Gerhardt the key to 1. FC Köln's success?
After turning down a big move to Portuguese side, SL Benfica at the start of last season, Yannick Gerhardt was expected to play a big role in the Köln side last season. Injuries however stagnated the development of the youngster. An impressive Colonia Cup saw Gerhardt play against Valencia CF and Premier League’s Stoke City, which resulted in the 21-year old clinching an MVP award.
A tricky away trip to Stuttgart
Köln kick off their Bundesliga campaign away to VfB Stuttgart – A side who just managed to avoid relegation last season. The Swabians have recently extended the contracts of two youngsters in Timo Baumgartl and Alexandru Maxim, two players who could play a big part against Köln. Modeste has already impressed competitively this season, netting a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory against SV Meppen in the DFB-Pokal as they look to take that form into their game against Stuttgart.
Köln welcome last season’s Bundesliga’s runners-up Wolfsburg to the RheinEnergie Stadion on matchday two – a fixture which saw Köln take two points off the Lower Saxony club last season.
Arguably Köln’s biggest game of the season is their match against rivals, Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Rheinderby takes place on matchday five – which is likely to be a heated affair. Last season’s away trip saw a number of Köln fans arrested as they invaded the pitch following a defeat in added time. Their remaining home games, barring the last game of the season saw a section of their stadium shut following the troubles in Gladbach.
Season closes at home to Schalke 04
So, can Köln better their 12th place finish last season? Their final game of the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign will see them play host to Schalke 04, a side who have something to prove under André Breitenreiter after finishing just sixth in the league last season under Roberto Di Matteo.