North on this pitch is Cologne's XI for the 3-2 home loss to Dortmund in January. The lack of width was detrimental, while the position of Maniche was never fully solved. The formation shown in the southern part of this image is the team Soldo sent out for the round 24 clash at local rivals Leverkusen. The lack of width still rendered attacking problematic, but the creation of more banks ensured that Cologne's team linked up more effectively when they did have the ball.
Is Zvonimir Soldo the new Claudio Ranieri? Cologne’s Croatian manager loves to tinker, amending his side’s personnel and tactical layout each week.
Such excess is in part borne from necessity – clubs of Cologne’s middling, relegation-flirting size have to adopt straitjackets when Bayern & co. come to town.
Inevitably, such variety equates leads to vastly contrasting results. Despite corking Bayern and at-the-time table-topping Bayer Leverkusen, the North Rhine-Westphalian side were hammered by both Stuttgart and Hoffenheim last season.
Such thrashings were odd given that Cologne’s inability to score was matched by an ability to render opponents equally impotent. However, the aforecited defeats were at RheinEnergieStadion – their unhappy home hunting-ground.
With more holes to exploit in away games, Soldo’s counter-attack-constructed side were fluid and rampant on their travels. But as hosts, Die Geißböcke couldn’t adjust accordingly.
Embarking on a third successive top-flight campaign, Soldo’s soldiers must achieve mid-table anonymity at a far earlier stage – the 62-year-old club only survived *comfortably* last time out due to the failings of others. Continue reading