Thank you for joining me once more for the third post of ‘Turkish Delight’, this time its a review of my first season in charge of Gençlerbirliği. If you missed the last post where I assessed the clubs facilities, finances and players then please click here to catch up.

Before I start here is a reminder of the 10 challenges that I want to achieve throughout this save:

  1. Win the Turkish Süper Lig
  2. Win the Turkish Cup
  3. Win a European Trophy
  4. Become the first Turkish side to win the Champions League
  5. Become the best team in Turkey on paper (Media Prediction 1st)
  6. Increase the Süper Lig coefficient so it becomes a top 5 European league
  7. Produce 5 homegrown Turkish Internationals (newgens only)
  8. Turn down an approach from one of the big 3 (Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş)
  9. Have a player I sign or produce become Gençlerbirliği’s record goal scorer (Current record is 72 goals by Andre Kona N’Gole)
  10. To beat those b*stards across the city by 5 goals or more

My first call of action when taking over at any club on Football Manager is to determine the formation and style of play. Formation wise I’m not a one trick pony but I definitely use some more than others, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 DM wide being the most common. In the previous post I mentioned that I’d be going with a flat back 4, 2 wingers and a lone front man which meant that both formations just mentioned were possible options. There were a few different ways the midfield could be shaped but I felt the most effective would be one I haven’t used before, a double pivot of a Segundo Volante next to an Anchor. An advanced playmaker attack will line up in front of them and look to join the attack. I’ll also have 2 other formations set up for when things aren’t going so well or when we have injuries as I feel the primary formation suits the best 11 but not the squad as a whole. With the double pivot we’ll aim to force the opposition inside when we are out of possession and then exploit the space created when we win the ball back.

In terms of style of play, I probably am a one trick pony. I like my teams to press high and retain possession which fortunately suits the group of players that I’ve inherited. It’s not strictly Gegenpress or Tiki-Taka but definitely has elements of both. The two other formations I have set up are 4-2-3-1 DM AM wide and one of my favourites, the 4-3-3 DM Wide. Although this post is released at the end of the season, I write it as I go along so hopefully these formations work and I don’t end up telling you I’ve scrapped them in a few paragraphs time!

Now that the formation and playing style are confirmed I assess the staff at the club and remove any that don’t have philosophies inline with my own. The clubs financial situation isn’t the best but I feel that for us to succeed I need the right people in place to support me and therefore its worth paying the compensation fees. New staff come in, all who have a ‘passing‘ playing style.

With the staff sorted its then onto the team. With minimal transfer funds available its not about looking for first team players just yet, I’m actually pretty happy with the first 11 but the squad depth needs strengthening so that we have at least 2 players in each position. In doing this I need to consider the league rules, I aren’t going to run through them all but here are a few that I’m going to call out:

  • A maximum of 8 foreign players registered in the squad
  • No more than 5 foreign players in the playing 11
  • The match squad must have at least 1 under-23 player trained by the club
  • The match squad must have at least 3 under-25 players trained by a club in Turkey
  • The match squad must have at least 3 domestic under-21 players

The main issue I have is that all of my under-21 players are crap! They were the ones I’d identified as deadwood however I’m going to have to keep them in order to meet the rules. This means that some of my back up options are going to be very weak so lets hope there aren’t too many injuries and I get a golden generation later on in the season!

My transfer policy will evolve as the save goes on based on our situation. For now fees can only be paid when I feel that I will be able to develop and sell the player on for a higher fee in the future. I am limiting myself to one loan signing per season (this doesn’t include loans already at the club when I start) as I don’t want to be developing other teams youth. When making a loan signing, an optional future fee must be agreed so that if the loan goes well there is a chance I can sign them, this means keeping the optional fee realistic too. I can’t just loan a player with no potential of me signing them in the future.

Before the friendlies started I made one new signing, striker Ahmet Sivri signs for £93k up front that could rise to £125k based on appearances and goals. I needed some better back up than what I’ve got up front, at 22 he will improve and I think I should be able to make some profit on him in a year or two. He won’t be in my starting 11.

Three players leave permanently, Israeli winger Sintayehu Sallalich generating a decent bit of money and a couple of youngsters go out to develop on loan.

Onto the friendlies and things go very, very well! We get seven wins out of seven, admittedly some were against lesser opposition but the 2-1 victory over Süper Lig side İstanbul Başakşehir gives me real hope that we can overachieve and get promoted this season. I predominantly used the double pivot with the advanced playmaker attack just in front but also dabbled with the other formations. The double pivot with the cm sat in front will be what we start the season with. The only worry I have is up top, Blessing Eleke missed all of pre season after picking up an injury and won’t be back till 5 weeks into the new campaign, new boy Sivri only managed one goal during pre season which was from the spot. Inverted winger Sandro Lima can also play up top, I’m going to stick with Sivri for now but that may change soon.

After a successful pre season I chose not to make any more signings for the time being, my scouts are busy looking at players but no one has stood out as a must have just yet. I only have a little bit of money so I have to bide my time and get the right players before the window shuts in a few weeks.

Into the first game of the season we go, confidence is high after 7 wins from 7, its Buluspor at home who are predicted to finish 15th, it should be a comfortable win and a chance to put down a marker…

I did not see that coming! An awful start results wise, we did however create more chances than them, was it just one of those days? I decide to stick with the formation rather than abandoning it but having moved Sandro Lima up top during the second half, I saw a significant improvement in our performance and therefore decided he will be staying there and Sivri will drop to the bench for our next game.

This creates a vacancy on the wing and there is a youngster I’ve been eyeing up for a while. In comes Muhammed Gümüşkaya on a season long loan from Fenerbahçe with an optional £3m future fee agreed. Now you maybe thinking where are you getting that £3m from and that’s a fair comment, but I’m aiming for promotion and if we get it I think it makes the future transfer much more realistic. Its a large fee but having him for a season will allow me to work out if I think he’s worth it or not.

Did he have an instant impact? No, but only because I left him on the bench. We win our next 2 games, the panic is over and it looks like that first game was a freak result!

With the window due to shut before our next game, I make a couple more moves in the transfer market. We really needed another DM and a CB as we are light in those areas. Former Aston Villa man Yacouba Sylla signs on a free transfer, he was on trial for 4 weeks and impressed in pre season but we couldn’t afford his wages, he’s now dropped his demands and we get the deal done. At 30 years old he isn’t going to get any better but he can cover both roles in the pivot, is good enough for the first team and hasn’t cost us a penny. Rahmi Karadaş is the centre back who joins us for a whopping £18k, he’s played for Gençlerbirliği during 2 previous spells, I’m hoping he isn’t needed much, its just a case of needing another body in the building for emergencies. When it comes to selling him, we should be able to get more than £18k!

There is one more departure with Rahmetullah Berişbek going out on loan, I wanted to sell him but unfortunately no one was willing to pay the money. The window then slams shut and we can get back focused on the football.

It turns out the opening day defeat really was just one of those days, we win 10 of our next 12 league games, going unbeaten and head straight to the top of the table. We have a short cup run, where we make it through 2 rounds before going out on away goals to Süper Lig side Çaykur Rizespor thanks to a 92nd minute goal by them at the end of the second leg. Heartbreak for us but it shows that we can compete with the league above! We had a small issue with Blessing Eleke, after coming back from injury his training performances were poor which was to be expected whilst he got up to speed but they just didn’t get any better. I pulled him to one side and basically told him to sort his sh*t out. Sometimes this approach works, sometimes it doesn’t and in this case it didn’t but then it kind of did! He got really tense, threw his toys out of his pram but then settled down and started scoring goals, happy days! The double pivot is really working, Gökhan Gül and Dmytro Hrechyshkin have formed a really good partnership with Yacouba Sylla stepping in when required. At the time of writing this Ole has just been sacked by Man Utd (real life not on FM), if he’d had these boys in the double pivot he’d still have a job, I’m telling you now! Loan signing Muhammed Gümüşkaya struggled for game time, I was giving him minutes off the bench where he failed to impress before he turned one game on its head with an assist. This earnt him a start in the next game where he bagged, only to go off injured and put him out for 2 months, typical!

Our youth intake preview arrives in my inbox and it’s the one we all hope for, the one that fills you with excitement, only usually to end in disappointment! The term ‘Golden Generation’ gets thrown around a lot on Football Manager, only time will tell whether it is one or not!

Elsewhere you may have noticed that those b*stards across the city are struggling down in 9th place however that’s actually an improvement! A few weeks ago they sacked their manager which has resulted in the usual up turn in form a new boss brings and has seen them win their last 2 games.

Its not great timing for us as the derby game is next and its at their ground, they go into it with momentum but so do we, its time to show them who the best side in Ankara are!

We get off to a flyer! Kerem Can Akyüz swings in a corner that Arda Kızıldağ meets at the front post to head us in front, the away fans go wild and several flares are thrown onto the pitch. It takes a few minutes for order to be restored but there isn’t long to wait before the flares reign down again, winger Barış Alıcı gets away on the right and drills it across the keeper to make it 2-0. He then adds a third just before half time after a mazy run, we are in dream land, one of the challenges I set at the start of the season was to beat those b*stards across the city by 5 goals or more, could we do it at the first time of asking? Just minutes into the second half and in a carbon copy of the opener Arda Kızıldağ nods in from a Kerem Can Akyüz corner making it 4-0 and 9 goals in 15 for the centre back. I thought I was a genius with my near post corner routine until I went on twitter later that day and it turns out everyone’s doing it! Something that will surely be fixed when a future patch comes out but lets make the most of it whilst we can! Unfortunately Ankaragücü suddenly wake up and make it 4-1. From here the game fizzles out, it’s a great victory but the completion of the challenge will have to wait for another day!

That leaves us with one more game before the winter break and its against second place İstanbulspor. A top of the table clash is always a big game but when its against a side from the city we are aspiring to become greater than it adds that extra spice. We make hard work of it throwing away a 2 goal lead but manage to get a late winner from Eleke to send us 7 points clear at the top, 8 points ahead ahead of 3rd place and 17 points ahead of the last side in the playoffs. To not make the playoffs we would have to have a catastrophic second half of the season. With how we’d done so far I was no longer aiming for promotion, I was aiming for us to win the league.

Into the transfer window we went, its always tempting to make new signings but I was happy with the squad and didn’t have the finances to sign real quality so opted to stick with my current hand. To this point I’ve not delved into the data hub, the way I see it is the data hub is there for me to use when I need to work out why things are going wrong and currently they aren’t doing so hopefully I won’t need to use it for a while yet!

I decided to make the most of our current league position and ask the board to improve our junior coaching and recruitment but with our poor financial situation they declined both. The financial situation is really quite worrying, we are supposedly moving to a 62332 capacity ground in a couple of years but we are currently averaging a mere 2,487, it makes zero sense. I could have helped our finances by selling my main centre back Arda Kızıldağ as two of the big boys came in for him but the offers weren’t big enough to tempt me. Fenerbahçe came back with a couple more offers but still I wouldn’t budge. He did kick off originally but after promising him I’d sell him if we didn’t go up he simmered down.

We resumed after the winter break and looked like a different side, not in a good way! We completely lost our momentum and got just 3 wins in the next 11 games. Amazingly we were still top but only by a point but it had really tightened up behind and suddenly the title race was wide open. I’d tried using the other 2 formations I had as back ups but none seemed to be working.

I should have learnt from Ole that a double pivot doesn’t work, I’d given it the big un at the start of the winter break and it had come back to haunt me! It was time for me to do delve into the data hub to work out what was going wrong. For the most part it said that we were still doing really well, the exception was that we were making fewer blocks and fewer clearances than our rivals. Now I think part of that was because we were having to do less defending but it still seemed like an area to improve in. Further to this we were making fewer tackles and strong tackles. I scrapped all 3 existing tactics and decided to focus on just one. It was a 4-3-3 DM Wide but with different instructions, I now had the boys getting stuck in and using tighter marking.

The tactical change worked as we won 4 on the bounce and went 5 unbeaten giving us a 3 point lead with 3 games to go.

First up it was those b*stards across the city and it didn’t go well as we were beat 2-1, it was a really poor performance but results elsewhere meant that we were promoted despite the defeat. We were still top but level on points with İstanbulspor who we faced next! We had the same goal difference but had scored more goals than them.

The game was in Istanbul making them favourites but in our best performance of the season we came away with the spoils and had one firm hand on the title. The game finished 2-0 to us with goals from Eleke and LuaLua, we controlled it from start to finish and didn’t give them a sniff. It would have been a bitter pill to swallow if we hadn’t won having been top for so long.

We just needed a point to get the job done on the last day but we got all 3! The title was ours, champions at the first time of asking. We were on our way back to the Süper Lig, we’d made hard work of it but what a season it had been!

Before we look at the squads performance, lets talk about that golden generation.

It didn’t dissappoint, 5 players with first team potential. The stand out was goalkeeper Bahadır Temiz who was already my second best keeper. Due to injuries he actually played 2 games for me despite only being 15, including the game away at İstanbulspor where he kept a clean sheet that had really helped secure us the title.

And finally here is a view of the squads performance over the season. The particular stand outs for me were my left back Kerem Can Akyüz who got an incredible 17 assists, centre back Arda Kızıldağ with 10 goals and segundo volante turned box to box midfielder Dmytro Grechyshkin who was our main man in the middle of the park. One thing is for sure, regardless of the transfer budget I’m given, I won’t be making the loan signing of Muhammed Gümüşkaya permanent, he’s done ok at best but certainly doesn’t warrant a £3m fee.

None of the challenges have been completed just yet but I didn’t expect them to be at this early stage. Thanks for taking the time to read another of my posts, I’ll be back soon with a review of our first season back in the Süper Lig.


The Last Throw.


One thought on “SEASON REVIEW 21/22

  1. Pingback: SEASON REVIEW 22/23 | On the Break

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