Few leagues in Europe are as balanced on a yearly basis than Germany’s 2. Bundesliga, but this year may be very different with FC Köln’s arrival after finishing last-place in the Bundesliga last season.
For instance, here’s the average point differential from first-place to last-place teams in Europe’s Top 5 footballing countries’ second-tier leagues the past four seasons:
2. Bundesliga (GER) 39 points
Segunda Div. (ESP) 44.5 points
Serie B (ITA) 46.5 points
Ligue 2 (FRA) 48.5 points
Championship (ENG) 65 points
It should be noted the 2. Bundesliga has just 18 teams compared to 22 in Ligue 2, Serie B and the Segunda Division and 24 in the Championship, yet the point remains that this league is typically the most balanced among the five.
Köln’s presence should change that this season, however.
The ‘Billy Goats’ have a squad capable of absolutely running through this league. Their disaster of a 2017-18 Bundesliga campaign culminated by finishing dead-last with a mere 22 points, but they finished out the season with a 5-4-9 record – a respectable 19 points in 18 matches. They were done-in by a historically poor start, going winless in their first 16 games.
Vice-captain and Germany international Jonas Hector remained with the club though, even signing a contract extension, pledging his loyalty to the club which is nearly unheard of in this era of football. Hector is the best player the 2. Bundesliga has seen in several years, if not more than a decade.
Austrian international Louis Schaub joined the side this summer, a massive signing and one who should really bolster this Köln midfield for both now and years to come. Schaub has five goals in nine career appearances for Austria and he was a key component for Rapid Wien of the Austrian Bundesliga for six years.
Also remaining with the club despite relegation was captain Matthias Lehmann and goalkeeper Timo Horn, both longtime Köln talents. Horn has been one of Germany’s best shot-stoppers over the past five years, and Lehmann’s leadership will be important this season.
Adding forward Simon Terodde from Stuttgart in the winter transfer window last season completely sparked a once-dead Köln attack. Terodde bagged five goals in 15 Bundesliga appearances. However, former Mainz forward Jhon Cordoba earned a spot in the starting XI in Köln’s opening match against Bochum last weekend, as manager Markus Anfang opted for the strong, physical Colombian instead.
Veterans Marcel Risse and Christian Clemens have loads of Bundesliga experience and will combine to form a dominant right side of the field as they did for Köln in their season-opening take down of VfL Bochum last weekend, 2-0. Risse was the Man of the Match, earning an 8.5 rating with a staggering 12 tackles.
Köln managed to hold 53% possession despite being a man down in the final 25 minutes after Jorge Mere received a second yellow. They won 27 aerial duals compared to Bochum’s 12, led by Cordoba’s 7 and fellow forward Sehrou Guirassy’s 6. A forward pair with that level of physicality and strength will be impossible to stop in the 2. Bundesliga, where there’s average to weak competition.
Hector and Horn’s decision to stay with Effzeh, turning down offers from not just big German clubs but big European clubs, will ultimately be why Köln runs through the 2. Bundesliga. This league, as competitive as it is, simply doesn’t typically see players like these two as they truly are two of the best in the country at the position. Hector is arguably Germany’s best left-back. The supporting cast is good enough to help guide Köln back to the Bundesliga quite easily this campaign – it may only be a matter of how wide of a margin they win the league.