The group composed of Beşiktaş, Benfica, Napoli and Dynamo Kiev will probably be one of the most unpredictable groups in the Champions League this year. Yes, Benfica are perhaps first choice to win the group, but Napoli, Beşiktaş and Dynamo Kiev were clearly unlucky to have drawn each other given there were weaker teams they could have been drawn against. Nevertheless, for all the fans who are wondering what to expect from Şenol Güneş's Beşiktaş, here is an overall analysis about the Eagles' present performance. The only thing that is clear is that they are a completely different team than the one that conceded eight goals at Anfield nearly 10 years ago.
Firstly, the most formidable aspect to the Beşiktaş squad is their experience and ability in playing a pre-planned, collective and systematic game. Last year Güneş's players were able to beat their archrivals Fenerbahçe in the championship race despite their rivals having a clearly better squad than them. Although many columnists tend to associate this success to the individual talents at Beşiktaş, like Mario Gomez, Jose Sosa, Oğuzhan Özyakup and Ricardo Quaresma, the determining factor was the general game play that enabled those players to perform effectively working as a team. Sure, those players had a crucial role in the championship win and the loss of Mario Gomez and Jose Sosa will affect Beşiktaş, but still, a team that is capable of implementing sophisticated strategies with collective action is always one to be afraid of.
On the other hand, head coach Şenol Güneş's work is not yet complete, and given he lost two of his most important players, he will need to replace them with new transfers. Even though Beşiktaş bought Talisca from Benfica to replace Sosa and are looking for a striker to fill the Gomez's shoes, it will definitely take time for the team to climb back to where they were last season. Until now, main striker Cenk Tosun has not shown he is capable of covering for Gomez and it is obvious that Beşiktaş will struggle to score if they continue with him up front. Furthermore, Atiba Hutchinson and Oğuzhan Özyakup make up a balanced midfield tandem with Hutchinson covering defensive duties and Özyakup in an attacking role, but Jose Sosa's departure will force Güneş to put Oğuzhan Özyakup in the playmaker position. Thus, Tolgay Arslan, injured throughout last year, now stands as the best option to take over Özyakup's former role. Arslan has been decent in the friendlies, but Özyakup has been in that role for almost three years and without his skill, Beşiktaş may even struggle to retain the ball in the opposition half.
I personally think that this issue of circulation can be solved, but it will definitely take a lot of time and hard work. New transfers in defense, left back Adriano from Barcelona and right back Gökhan Gönül from Fenerbahçe will contribute significantly to the fluency of Beşiktaş's offence, but Şenol Güneş must renew his strategy to utilize these players given Beşiktaş did not have this kind of a power on the wings last year. Individually, the defensive line, starting from goalkeeper Tolga Zengin, is not very reassuring and plenty of personnel have demonstrated a tendency toward making mistakes and potentially costing the team dearly. If their opponents play an intense, high-end press, it could disturb Beşiktaş's build up from the back. The result: Şenol Güneş's team might suffer, even in the Turkish Super League.
Beşiktaş are a promising team that is on the right path to satisfying the demands of modern football, but they lack the man power and strategic capacity to achieve serious success in the Champions League. I am 100 percent sure Beşiktaş prove themselves tough opponents and have a real chance for the knockout stages, but doubt that the team is capable of dominating later-stage games.
Overall, Güneş's team will at least surprise European fans a lot and excite many Turkish fans by playing good football - that is for sure.