I missed the first round of games on family vacation. While I still have the Gladbach-Bochum game on DVR to watch for fun, my first game of the season, albeit delayed, was Dortmund’s 1-0 victory at home over Köln. It was a thoroughly deserved victory where Dortmund put the Billy Goats to the sword and could have easily won by half a dozen goals, so commanding was their display. They held possession for 58% of the match, had 16 corners to Köln’s 1, out-shot them 24 to 7 with 11 shots on goal. Soldo’s men had no shots on goal. It was a misleading 1-0 victory, where the visitors looked unlucky to have given away an own goal. That was hardly the case, with Dortmund proving that they have the defense and midfield to push for a European slot this year.
Seven Notes About the Match
- An argument could be made that Köln were without their biggest stars. However Geromel’s absence was negligible, as McKenna and Mohamad were two of the best players on the pitch on the day. Podolski would have made little difference as the midfield is where Köln lost the game. Novakovic would have provided a long ball target, but still it was the selection of Maniche, Chahi and Sanou where the problems lay as they were woeful on the day, incapable of passing the ball or holding it for more than two seconds.
- The real issue was that Soldo got his tactics wrong. Last year Daum would not play Petit as a holder but as a conductor, with Pezzoni and Brosinski behind him. He tried to slot Maniche into that role, who was clearly not up to a full game. He was absent for most of the game and looked ready to keel over at any second. Meanwhile Sanou was quickly subbed for Ehret, who was a tidy player on the left last year. And markedly absent for Chahi was Vucicevic, who they let go, but was a solid player last year. So either Soldo needs to reevaluate his tactical plan or find the right players for a 4-2-3-1, which he looks set to play.
- This brings us to the third issue: Why did Soldo take off Petit for Matic? Köln were having massive issues with getting the ball and retaining it. Taking off the one guy up to the fight was lunacy when you had another guy in Maniche who wasn’t physically ready for a full game
- Hummels stint as a DM at the Euro’s seem to have made an impression on Klöpp as he brought the young center-half in late with the lead to pair with Sahin in a double-6 to lock down the game. It worked quite effectively.
- Less effective was Hajnal on the wing. Absent except for corners in the first half, it wasn’t until Klöpp changed shape to a 4-1-3-2, letting Sahin set behind Hajnal, Kuba and Tinga, that we started to see the mad Magyar. He began to drift to the center and cause havoc for the Köln defense. It’s a very English move, to make a classic #10 into a wing player, but it is an option that Klöpp will have to look at unless he moves to a 4-5-1 as Kehl and Sahin are both too good to sit.
- Barrios is going to have to toughen up. He wasn’t bad, but he did shy away from the physicality of the play and if German defenders start to sense that he’s timid, he will be a massive waste of money. He’s only been in Germany for two weeks, so I do think he will adapt. But the sooner the better as his most shining moment was a header that just missed when he lost his mark. Had McKenna stayed with him, he would haven’t tried for that ball, in my opinion.
- The MOM would have to go to Köln’s physio. Early in the first half, keeper Fayrd Mondragon asked to be subbed after pulling a muscle in his leg. It looked to be a hamstring; however, we don’t know as they kept Mondragon on. He limped admirably through the first half, only to return in the second and play out-of-his-skin. 11 saves was almost enough to earn his side an undeserved point, but an errant leg my Matic was too much for the Colombian shot-stopper.