It maybe did not come as much of a surprise for the people who saw the iceberg coming, but Istanbul giants Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray's early fall from the title race was a shock for most Turkish fans. With nine weeks left until the Super League ends, Galatasaray are nine points behind the leaders Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe are 11 points behind. Only Başakşehirspor, who many people ignored until they proved their strength, are close. They are now two points behind Beşiktaş and chasing a miracle. From now on, two different philosophies, those of Beşiktaş and Başakşehirspor, will fight for the title, while Turkish football looks to turn over a new leaf amidst rapidly changing regulations and empty stadiums.
Firstly, even though Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş is a reformist character and his methods are more scientific and contemporary than his colleagues, Beşiktaş are a classic Turkish giant when compared to Başakşehirspor. They have a huge fan base, decent budget and lots of fancy players like Ricardo Quaresma, Anderson Talisca and Ryan Babel. Added to that, coach Güneş's philosophy of coaching has changed drastically this season, becoming pragmatic and opportunistic, which has taken the team farther than their earlier revolutionary position. Last year the team was taught how to conduct attacks with collective action and execute them with great precision. Now they do not dare to play the same way due to the expectations on them, which are considerably higher this season.
On the other hand, Başakşehirspor are the true champions of hard work, dedication and consistency. They have been working with the same coach, Abdullah Avcı, for the last 10 years, save for a small international team break, and they have gone from a team that can hardly stay in the league to a team that can play for the championship with nine weeks left. Lacking Beşiktaş's individual talent pool, they utilize their collective action to create opportunities and prevent the opponent from doing the same. They are the best team in the league when it comes to utilizing set-pieces to find enough time and space to play football. While their opponents mostly rely on individual talent to create time and space, their tactical quality is in itself sufficient to create them.
Thus, even though Beşiktaş have chosen a slightly crooked path this season, it is obvious that those who dare to challenge the ancient methods of football get results eventually. It is also clear that the stadiums are empty, there is almost no talent production and Turkish teams are failing to reach the latter stages of European competition. It is also clear that Turkish football needs a new philosophy. Both Şenol Güneş's and Abdullah Avcı's philosophies can deliver this, and I am glad to see that reformist, positive and productive football is getting results. However, if the Turkish Football Federation shakes the foundations of the clubs by changing crucial regulations like the foreign players limit, then the chaos that will occur afterward will swallow all the results that have been created by long term hard work.