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June 2021

The reason Cologne are in the Europa and yet bottom of the German League tells us all about German football.

By Bulldog Drummond

Approaching the game against 1. FC Köln I was pondering how a team that could do well enough to get into the Europa, could then be bottom of their league by the time the first Euro game came around.

The answer turns out to be not too hard to fathom, and it comes about because the German league is so dominated by Bayern Munich that it makes the Spanish League look like a real competition (which of course it isn’t).

Pos Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Bayern Munich (C) 34 25 7 2 89 22 +67 82
2 RB Leipzig 34 20 7 7 66 39 +27 67
3 Borussia Dortmund 34 18 10 6 72 40 +32 64
4 1899 Hoffenheim 34 16 14 4 64 37 +27 62
5 1. FC Köln 34 12 13 9 51 42 +9 49
6 Hertha BSC 34 15 4 15 43 47 −4 49
7 SC Freiburg 34 14 6 14 42 60 −18 48
8 Werder Bremen 34 13 6 15 61 64 −3 45
9 B. Mönchengladbach 34 12 9 13 45 49 −4 45
10 Schalke 04 34 11 10 13 45 40 +5 43
11 Eintracht Frankfurt 34 11 9 14 36 43 −7 42
12 Bayer Leverkusen 34 11 8 15 53 55 −2 41
13 FC Augsburg 34 9 11 14 35 51 −16 38
14 Hamburger SV 34 10 8 16 33 61 −28 38
15 Mainz 05 34 10 7 17 44 55 −11 37
16 VfL Wolfsburg (P.O.) 34 10 7 17 34 52 −18 37
17 FC Ingolstadt (R) 34 8 8 18 36 57 −21 32
18 Darmstadt 98 (R) 34 7 4 23 28 63 −35 25

In last season’s table Wolfsburg went into the play offs to survive – which they did.  The 17th and 18th team were relegated.

But let’s look at Köln.  They finished an enormous 33 points off the top of the league and just 24 points off the bottom of the league – much closer to the bottom than the top.  Indeed they were only 12 points (ie four wins) above having to play in the play off relegation games.

Thus they were closer to relegation than winning the league.  Closer than the 13 points than they were away from getting into a champions league play off game.  And yet they made the Europa.

In short because of the uncompetitive nature of the League, a team just getting into the Europa spot is in fact relegation fodder.

Now just to complete the picture, Hertha BSC also qualified for the Europa League qualifying stage since Borussia Dortmund won the 2016–17 DFB-Pokal. Therefore, the vacant spot in third qualifying round is given to the team that finished seventh, SC Freiburg.

So Köln is not really a top team, and unfortunately for them this summer as they lost their top scorer Anthony Modeste to Tianjin Quanjian of China.

It is true that the rest of the squad remain unchanged, but Köln have yet to find a way of replacing Modeste and have only scored once in the Bundesliga this season, and they are still waiting on their first goal from an attacker.

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Here’s the bottom of the table as it stands – Freiburg aren’t doing too well either.  In Germany it is always close at the bottom, but never at the top.

P W D L F A GD Pts
13 Mainz 3 1 0 2 3 3 0 3
14 VfB Stuttgart 3 1 0 2 2 5 -3 3
15 SC Freiburg 3 0 2 1 1 4 -3 2
16 Werder Bremen 3 0 1 2 1 4 -3 1
17 Bayer Leverkusen 3 0 1 2 4 8 -4 1
18 1. FC Köln 3 0 0 3 1 7 -6 0

The manager  however is putting a brave face on things, saying, “It would only be dangerous if our playing style were to be a catastrophe.  But that’s not the case. At Augsburg all the stats but the deciding one, the result, favoured us.”

Newspaper reports say that while 1. FC Köln had 67 percent possession of the ball against Augsburg, they were unable to turn their dominance into goals — just like in their previous game when they had 71 percent possession in the 3-1 defeat to Hamburg.

“We only had around 40 percent possession on average last term,” the manager added. “We were able to rely on our transition play.”

But the captain Matthias Lehmann, was less upbeat saying, “The situation can not only turn into a dangerous one, it already is.   We should not underestimate it. The games are happening quickly now and we don’t get a lot of time on the training pitch.”

At the end of last season the club got a run of two wins and three draws to secure their place in the Europas but this season is has been a 1-0 away defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach, a 1-3 home defeat to Hamburger SV and then the 3-0 away defeat to Augsburg.

All this suggests that Arsenal could put out a fair number of “fringe” players and still win, but Mr Wenger may well want to start Alexis and then substitute him in the second half, to get him fired up for Chelsea, who as you may have noticed, beat Qarabag 6-0 yesterday using a number of players who might not make it into the weekend’s squad.

Incidentally speaking of last night, on the domestic front the results gave us something we have not seen in a while – Leeds United are top of the Championship, having spent quite a few years exploring the delights of League One, or the third division as we call it.

On 4 May 2003 Leeds beat Arsenal at Highbury, to end our challenge for the title, leaving me thoroughly depressed as I left the stadium, since I was convinced we were going to do it. We did however win the FA Cup – which in those days was a trophy.

Leeds had been one of the top teams in the league in both the 1970s and 1980s (although with a slip into the second division in between), and won the last ever first division trophy before it became the Premier League.  By the start of 2007/8 they were down in the third tier.  It’s amazing how easy it is to fall, but it’s a lot harder to get back up.  If they do return this year it will be 13 years in the lower leagues, and nearly as many totally barmy owners on the way.

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15 comments to The reason Cologne are in the Europa and yet bottom of the German League tells us all about German football.

  • Josif

    Last season, English Premier League had seven clubs out of 20 that won 50% of points or more – 35%. A higher percentage than the German 22%.

    The gap between 1st-placed Chelsea and 7th-placed Everton was 32 points.

    The gap between 7th-placed Everton and 8th-placed Southampton was 15 points.

    The gap between 8th-placed Southampton and 18th-placed Hull City was 12 points. Basically, the 8th-placed team was closer to relegation than to the European place.

    English football doesn’t have a team like Bayern but other than that, I think German football is on the healthier grounds than the English one. That’s why they produce so many top players every year. Those who don’t know how to produce…well, they have to buy.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Need to get used to watching Arsenal play on Thursday night…

  • Vivek Arulnathan

    German football produced a WC winning generation. And not all came from Bayern. They have a fantastic super club in Bayern and it is frustrating that they win the title most of the times. But that doesn’t reflect the true quality of German football. It is a place that backs youth football, fan involvement, tactical innovation and technical development. Leicester won the title and finished closer to relegation than the top 4 the next year. How does that reflect on the quality of the PL?

    It is surprising that UA talks about the financial might of other clubs as one of the reason for Arsenal not being able to compete(it is not like we aren’t one of the richest clubs in the world) but is happy to crap on smaller German clubs and a fantastic football system that promotes home grown talent and tactical development because they can’t compete against Bayern.

    If the barometer you use to judge teams like Koln and Hertha(the team I go to watch as I live an hour away from Berlin) is how close they are to winning the title, how isn’t that ever used to judge Arsenal? We finished 20 points off Chelsea despite being one of the richest clubs in the planet. I don’t see UA judge Arsenal so harshly. So give German football the respect it deserves. It has produced our club captain and four of our starting XI last week. How many came from our academy? So stop being disrespectful to other leagues when the one your club plays in is no better.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Notwithstanding, despite the poor start of FC Klon in the Bundesliga this season, the Gunners should not take them for granted in the Europa League match tomorrow night’s at the Emirates Stadium and therefore become overconfident in the game. But they should be confident in the match and play confidently by putting their chances away as they come to them in their numbers.

    The idea of starting Sanchez in this match to get a strong match fitness ahead of our big away PL game against Chelsea on Sunday is ideal. However, I will prefer to see him come on with 20 minutes left in the match to have a good run in the game to get a good competitive match practice but not burn out all his energy if he was to play 70 minutes. But save some of it for Chelsea.

    The Ozil’s stalled contract extension news making rounds doesn’t look good if it’s true that it is the Arsenal board that have not reopen talks on the issue since February when they last offered him far less than the reported £250k/week new wage purportedly offered him to extend. What is happening in the Arsenal board as regards to extending the contracts of the Gunners? More so, of those of the key Gunners when the renewals have become important so that the Gunners involved can focus 100% on Arsenal and not be wavering in their focus but be performing optimally in their games for the club. In view of the importance of Sanchez and Ozil to Arsenal whose contracts need extending, the Arsenal board should therefore without any more delays reopen contract extension talks with them and the representatives of these duo star Gunners to have their contracts renewed by giving Sanchez the wages offered him by Man City and also give Ozil the £275k/w wage claimed by the media but was said he declined.

  • Chris

    @ Vivek,

    having come here for years I had to re-read the post because on first reading I did not see anything that was disrespectful.
    A second reading does not give me a sentence or combination of words that is disrespectful
    So I’d appreciate you quoting them

    As for the players, you state our club captain and four players care Germans ? I must have missed something cause last time I checked, there were 3 Germans on the field.

    Apart from that the article states a few facts based on the league tables and a few other information. So state facts is not being judgemental.

    What have I missed ? What is all the criticism about ? Were you missing attacks against the owner, the board or the manager ?

  • Josif


    Per Mertesacker is our club captain.

    Shkodran Mustafi is a German.

    Mesut Özil is a German.

    Sead Kolašinac is a Bosnian but he was born and raised (in every sense) in Germany.

    Granit Xhaka is a Swiss but he made his football name in Germany.

  • Scuba

    I’d be wary of too much rotation in this one. Koln aren’t nearly as bad as that three match sample indicates, and there’s a huge dropoff in the quality of our squad without Kos, Alexis, and Ozil. Beyond the danger of just a general lack of cohesion in an over-rotated side, the bulk of our squad is made up of guys that wouldn’t look out of place in a good but not great Bundesliga side.

  • Flares

    I think the title is misleading. The way I see it, German football is excellent and good value for money in general, but their top league is pointless, and that’s the point. If Wenger had elected to take Bayern up on their offer way back when, he could have been the Alex Ferguson of the Bundesliga. There’s a good reason Pep surprised everyone by going there; I doubt he did much thinking about it in New York either. After the staggering heights he reached with Barca he needed a sure thing to keep the momentum rolling, so Bayern was the only choice. Like taking candy from a baby. However, his previous success had grown so monstrous that three consecutive league titles with no CL win was seen as failure. The fickle mind of football.

  • Chris


    fine with me, that is 3 Germans then. Sorry, facts.

  • Josif


    Vivek didn’t claim we have five German players. He claimed:

    “So give German football the respect it deserves. It has produced our club captain and four of our starting XI last week.”

    The German football basically made Kolašinac and Xhaka players they are even if they are non-German footballers.

    Kolašinac was eligible to play for Germany as well (which means he’d have been considered as a HG-player at, say, Bayern München) but that was never a realistic option because Sead was afraid of his conservative father. Xhaka built his reputation in Germany as well, at Borussia Mönchengladbach.

  • Gunner6

    I look at it from an opposite view to the author.

    Bayern M aside, the small gap between the other clubs show the competitive nature of the league.

    I think it would heathier for any league and the national team if the points spread are more even than a league that is top heavy. Rather than starting the season aiming for survival and achieving minimum points to avoid relegation, this would encourage so-called smaller clubs to aim to qualify for Europe as well.

    This can only be a good thing is it not for quality as well as financially?

    Of course, other factors like technical development are just as important.


  • Oludotun

    It’s early days yet, so Koln could still come up but needs to address the goalscoring issues. After 3 games Arsenal were 16th or something, so Koln’s placement tells us nothing about the Bundesliga.
    The league is well-organised and Bayern’s dominance aside, there’s a tight group there with highlights of quality here and there.

  • Pat

    Koln are only bottom after three games. That is nothing. Anything can happen. Let us not get complacent for heaven’s sake.

  • Jimbo

    Despite the result Dortmund looked on a different planet to the tiny totts,who’s Wimbledon style football got them over the line thanks also to some awful decisions from the officials.Why do officials always favour the crappier football team?