The European arena has not been fruitful for Turkish teams of late, after Galatasaray's elimination from the Europa League, Başakşehir put up a decent effort against Sevilla in the Champions League, but it was not enough. Nevertheless, the real shock was Fenerbahçe's elimination by Vardar, a small Macedonian team that gave iPhones to their players as a qualification prize. After some unsuccessful results in a row and a dull game play, Aykut Kocaman's Fenerbahçe have undergone the toughest part of the season. In my earlier pieces, I always emphasized the potential of Fenerbahçe, but now it is time to talk about how this process can be accelerated.
First of all, as a team that have trouble with producing opportunities and scoring lots of goals, Fenerbahçe have no slack for simple mistakes on the defensive side. Individually, center back Roman Neustadter and left back İsmail Köybaşı are not sufficient for a team like Fenerbahçe, and they have to be replaced immediately. Martin Skrtel in the center of defense must be teamed up with a quick, explosive stopper who can cover Skrtel's slowness. On the left, Fenerbahçe need another Mauricio Isla who can push forward with decent efficiency and make Valbuena or Dirar able to dig into the opponent's penalty box. In Kocaman's patient circulation game, the wings have a crucial role, given the ball must circulate with great accuracy in the wide areas, and the only way to create sufficient space without lengthening the game vertically is widening the game horizontally via wingers.
On the other hand, despite the fact that Mehmet Topal's and Josef Souza's limited offensive participation is blown out of proportion by the media, I also believe that there must be a more creative game designed for Topal and Souza. Ozan Tufan, however, is another case in which I believe there is no need to insist on him. Tufan has not developed his game over the last two years and still his physical qualities and vision are not enough to lead Fenerbahçe's midfield. Added to that, when Tufan's individual insufficiency is combined with coach Kocaman's superficial style on Topal and Souza, or with only one of them with Tufan as in the Vardar game, the whole responsibility of creativity is on the shoulders of French wingman Mathieu Valbuena. Nevertheless, Valbuena's role is not to create a tactic, but delivering deadly assists near the penalty box and posing a threat on the wings. Thus, whenever he takes the playmaker role Fenerbahçe loses a priceless threat near the opponent's penalty box.
Even though I claim that Aykut Kocaman's style will result in good performances in the near future, he and his team must not fall into a mental decline before they can enjoy the fruits of their hard work. The only way to assure a safe passage to the complete version of Fenerbahçe is to replace the individually insufficient players, and especially a defender must be found to be placed in the center back position. As I said earlier in my pieces, fans should not abandon Fenerbahçe yet, but the team definitely need some fresh faces for both technical and mental reasons.