Fenerbahçe could be lethal with a bit of polish

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published 04.08.2017 22:58

Although it was definitely not the best game Kadıköy has ever seen, Fenerbahçe managed to eliminate Strum Graz from the Europa League and qualified to the final round before the group stage. The effects of the new coach, Aykut Kocaman, were obvious, the team's tactics have changed drastically since Kocaman came to the club. Fenerbahçe now play with the ball more, position their defense closer to the opponent's half and most importantly press the opponent around their penalty box. This is the groundwork for the championship next season, but it will take much more to achieve that. The effectiveness of the tactics is bound to Mathieu Valbuena, and defensive midfielders Ozan Tufan and Josef Souza fail to participate in attacks, defensive players Hasan Ali Kaldırım and Şener Özbayraklı fail to operate on the wings and Alper Potuk simply drives almost every attack in to chaos. Coach Kocaman can solve these issues either by buying more players or transforming his game to be a less talent-driven one.

First of all, it was nice to see Fenerbahçe knowing what they were doing when the opponent had the ball. Kocaman's team pressed the Strum Graz defense fiercely throughout the game. Youngster Ahmethan Köse put in a great effort in moving the ball from defense to attack, and for his age he has a very clear vision of the game. Nevertheless, the problem started when Fenerbahçe won the ball; the team did not actually know what to do afterward. The initial reaction of almost every player who intercepted the ball was to play it to the wings, which is a clear sign of a strategy. But the fact that Valbuena was all alone in the playmaking duties reduced offensive efficiency more than everything. Nabil Dirar on the right wing also tried to bring some action, but right now only Valbuena has enough skill to shape Fenerbahçe's attacks. Coach Kocaman's first and foremost duty should be increasing the numbers of playmakers and making the game less talent-bound with more clever set-pieces.

At this point, unfortunately the one who fails to help Valbuena is Alper Potuk, and his blind dribbles do much more harm than good. At the number 10 position, it should have been him, not Valbuena, collecting balls in midfield and distributing them from the center of the game. Right now all Potuk does is dive into the opponent's defense regardless of the position of his teammates and the position of the opponent's defense.

Another crucial component that is missing is the attacking participation of the defenders. Center backs Martin Skrtel and Roman Neustadter do their job by shortening the game and collecting the rebounds. But wing backs Hasan Ali Kaldırım and Şener Özbayraklı are simply not talented enough or physically strong to produce a sufficient threat on the wings. Defensive midfielders Josef Souza and Ozan Tufan also do not possess the skill to participate in attacks meaningfully. One of them may stay in the starting lineup with more defensive roles, but Kocaman has to put a more creative player into the midfield if he wants to increase the quality of circulation.

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