At their first serious or, at least serious looking, friendly games, Istanbul giants could not surpass the suspicions over them. Fenerbahçe's talented feet were beaten to death by two tough, compact teams, Sivasspor and last year's Europa League finalist Dnipro. Galatasaray, on the other hand, struggled to derive a 3-2 victory from two goals behind against mediocre Austrian side SV Ried. Of course it is the earliest period of the season to determine what to take away from these teams' performances, but the way that their coaches make them play gives some clue about their strategy.
Firstly, Fenerbahçe's new superstars were able to present their skills and get a 7-0 victory against weak Iranian team Zob Ahan, which was full of fancy Iranian players who tried to impress Fenerbahçe executives. Nevertheless, the dry and refreshing atmosphere of Sivas struck Fenerbahçe before they conceived what was happening to them. You could hear the crashing bones and see the misery in the faces of the baby-boy superstars of Fenerbahçe. Given the fact that Sivasspor is iconic for Turkish football's toughness and physicality, it was a real test for Fenerbahçe to see themselves in an atmosphere that they will be in throughout the season. But seeing as teams are not even near their top physical form now, it was not a surprise for me to see Sivasspor's fatigue in the second half and Fenerbahçe's domination afterward.
However, Fenerbahçe's second rival was even tougher and much more organized than Sivasspor. Ukrainian side Dnipro actually did not show any signs of offensive variety, but they were much more stable and compact than Fenerbahçe throughout the game. The game was completely under Fenerbahçe's control, but it was useless given the immaturity of Fenerbahçe game play. On the other hand, Dnipro, as a classic counter-attacking team, utilized the two obvious opportunities Fenerbahçe gave them and made one of them count. The important point here is that even if Fenerbahçe has high quality players separately, their cooperation is not as easy as it looks. Added to that the way Vitor Pereira tries to organize them does not help players communicate and cooperate on the pitch. Pereira expects all of his players to do defensive work, but in offense he is also one of the coaches that leaves their job to the individual skills of their players. As long as Nani crosses great balls, Diego fires unbelievable shots or Fernandao does lethal headers, there is no problem. But there will be a time, probably in the Champions League, that Fenerbahçe will need a self-sufficient, talented and sustainable game.
Secondly, Galatasaray is more like a closed book compared to its rival Fenerbahçe. Their humble manner in transfer season and Hamza Hamzaoğlu's decision to put reserve players on the field first made Galatasaray's fate more unpredictable. I respect the new administration's decision not to make "sensational" transfers and to focus on balancing the budget first, but they need to throw a cherry on top by building a comprehensive football strategy. I do not know if Hamzaoğlu's decision to use young players against SV Ried points to a paradigmatic shift in Galatasaray, but one thing I am certain of is that Galatasaray still has no plan to overcome last year's chaotic game.
Fenerbahçe veteran goalkeeper Volkan Demirel managed to cover his position despite the huge revision in the team, and given the new transfer Fabiano Ribeiro's performance, he will be number one this season. In the Sivas game, Fabiano's performance was shaky and he could not give confidence to the defenders. On the other hand, Galatasaray's two young goalkeepers, Eray İşcan and İsmail Çipe, are far away from taking Fernando Muslera's position. I understand anxiety, but both of them did not show an impressive performance in goalkeeping terms.