Many problems in Salzburg: new Cologne coach Struber in analysis

Hehard Struber 1. will lead FC Koln back to winning ways. At his last stop in Salzburg, the Austrian had to contend with several problems. An analysis.

Gerhard Struber published in Salzburg in April.
Christian Hofer – FC Red Bull Salzburg

1. FC Köln will start the upcoming second division season with Gerhard Struber. The Austrian was named the new head coach of the Bundesliga relegated side on Wednesday and has a contract until 2026. “Hehard fits the profile of our needs perfectly. Examples include his ability to adapt to the FC game idea and his talent and experience. Development of young players,” Cologne managing director Christian Keller was quoted as saying in a press release. But how promising is Struber’s commitment to the people of the cathedral city really?

In his last stop in Salzburg, Struber missed all of his season goals. The Austrian league did not winter in Europe for the first time since the 2016/17 season and a domestic cup semi-final loss to Sturmgroß, who ended Salzburg’s ten-year reign in the league in May. Struber played no small part in this, as he was unable to provide long-term stability to the country’s best team in terms of quality until his sacking in April.

No dominance in Salzburg

The reasons for this are varied: like FC Bayern Munich in Germany, Salzburg lack the unconditional will to win after years of national dominance. Games were often won only because of individual strokes of genius, and Salzburg did not bring their usual dominance to the pitch. In addition, the common terms of RB Cosmos, such as attacking displays and power football, gradually became foreign words after a very promising start to the season.

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However, the truth is that Struber had a weaker team compared to his predecessors. Key players such as Benjamin Sesco, Nicolas Seewald, Noah Okafor and Junior Adamu could not be adequately replaced, and bad luck with injuries did the rest. It became clear after his sacking that Struber was not solely to blame for Salzburg’s title-less season. Under ex-Schalke man Onur Sinel, performances have been as volatile as ever, with the team two points behind Sturm in the league.

Difficulties against deep enemies

Struber’s preferred formation at Salzburg is a 4-3-1-2, previously he often played in a 4-2-2-2 and 4-2-3-1 at New York Red Bulls. At English second division club FC Barnsley, where he worked from November 2019 to October 2020, the 47-year-old relied mostly on the back three. While the basic formation has differed in Struber’s most recent three positions, the principles have always been the same: As a trained RB coach, Struber relies on high intensity in run-up behavior, and his own attacking play to be as direct as possible and with quick passes to the back of the defense. Something that has rarely been achieved in Austria, with mostly low-level opposition.

However, in defence, despite the lack of time to acclimatise, things went to plan almost immediately – Matthias Zeisle unexpectedly left for Saudi Arabia a few days after the start of the season. Struber produced the best defense since joining Red Bull in 2005, conceding only twelve goals after 22 rounds. Given the problems in the attacking game, it is still not enough for the high demands of the Mozartstad team. Struber became the third Salzburg coach in the RB era to resign during the season.

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Struber will also be under pressure from the start in Cologne. The relegated team – despite their transfer ban – start the new season against the strongest teams in the league, so usually have to play the game themselves. Especially in this respect, Salzburg did not have the best ideas last season. The difference: In Cologne, Struber has had an entire summer preparation period to teach the team his style of play.

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