Beşiktaş won the day against Napoli, but someone has to play the bad cop
by Arda Alan Işık
ISTANBULOct 22, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Arda Alan Işık
Oct 22, 2016 12:00 am
I know, it is a bit cheeky to criticize a team who just beat Napoli away from home, but given my aim is to watch Turkish teams play equally powerfully against their European rivals, I will continue to be the bad cop in the Turkish media. The game, even though Beşiktaş got three points, was pretty much one-sided throughout the 90 minutes. Napoli pressed fiercely and dominated the midfield, which Beşiktaş wholeheartedly left to them. The statistics were pretty self-explanatory, Napoli doubled Beşiktaş's pass completion by 507 complete passes and found 18 opportunities, only to waste all of them generously. Of course, victory was crucial for the Eagles, but understanding the difference between repeatable success and a lucky day will determine the future of Beşiktaş and Turkish football.
First of all, Beşiktaş's game against Napoli summarized the performance of Şenol Güneş's players so far. The team, which used to play a promising offensive game, has now started to regard every game as an away game against Napoli. Defensive concerns are always the priority and the notion of offensive organization has been simplified to classic counter-attacking. Yes, Champions League is the next level in football, but this does not mean that you have to play every game so conservatively. Beşiktaş's squad and tactical experience is enough to play their own, dominant game in the Champions League, but coach Şenol Güneş seems to have become addicted to the comfort of this reactionary strategy.
One of the most popular arguments to justify this huge shift at Beşiktaş is the lack of talent after the deprival of Jose Sosa and Mario Gomez. Although, Beşiktaş bought Anderson Talisca and Vincent Aboubakar, this argument suggests that Beşiktaş lost too much to play offensively. Of course, I do not agree with this argument, because it simplifies and the complexity of an offensive organization and collective action behind it. Besides this argument overlooks the role of other players in last year's Beşiktaş and ignores the fact that this team has the experience of playing offensively. Thus, even though Sosa and Gomez were crucial players, they did not play alone last year and certainly their role can be filled by other players. Seeing as Talisca and Aboubakar also showed decent performances, it is Şenol Güneş's decision to play so defensively, rather than lack of individual talent.
However, if the only result of such a defensive and simple game had been unbearable gameplay for fans, I could have lived with that. Nevertheless, this strategy not only collapses when Beşiktaş have to score, but also gives all the initiative to their opponents, which eventually makes Beşiktaş bound to their opponent's simple mistakes or lack of experience. Given the quality of their squad, the tactical capacity of their coach and the budget they have, this should not be the case for Beşiktaş. It is time for Beşiktaş and other Turkish teams to leave this loser attitude against European teams. Today, the best Turkish teams have the financial power to compete with almost all European teams, and the only thing needed is a daring and revolutionary strategy to guide it. Otherwise, I guarantee you that these victories will happen only one in a decade.