The time for preparation is over. It has been a month since the new season of the Turkish Super League kicked off and the teams have already played four games. In addition, most of them played at least five or six friendlies during the preseason, which began in July. So that gives each team two months and ten games worth of experience - a period that should be enough for any team to come up with a plan, a structure. Now, with their final chance to revise strategies during the international break, we will see which teams will be able to distinguish themselves from the others this season. Since Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, two of Turkey's Big Three, have performed badly so far, I will take a look at their chances this weekend.
Let us start with the coach who is facing the greatest risk, Fenerbahçe's newly appointed manager Phillip Cocu. After losing three games in a row and having been eliminated from the Champions League qualifiers, Cocu already has critics among Fenerbahçe fans. The losses even shook the foundations of the newly formed Fenerbahçe administration. The performance of his team was mediocre at best, given Cocu was busy establishing a strategy for the final third and forgot that he had to find quick solutions for the short-term. Although the team can defend well, their offensive performance was far from good, even for the Super League.
Unfortunately for Cocu, his first game after the break is against Atiker Konyaspor, a team which boasts a solid defense and is very tough to score against. Although Konya had a shaky start to the season, it has rediscovered its classic identity in the last three games, conceding just one goal. Coach Rıza Çalımbay is a master of exploiting the space left by enthusiastic teams and punishing them. Cocu is most probably aware of this and would not attack Konyaspor with full-force. As a result, Fenerbahçe will have to prove that it has come up with a new and sophisticated offensive strategy during the break. Nevertheless, I do not expect too many goals in this game since a defeat would put Cocu in a world of trouble.
Next up, Beşiktaş - a team that keeps on confusing itself. During the international break, Beşiktaş beat Altınordu, a second-tier team known for developing young talents. But the Black Eagles played a second-string squad, mostly made up of player who did not get a chance in the Super League or the Europa League so far. Thus, it would not be logical to evaluate Beşiktaş's performance in-depth. But one thing was clear in their performance, and that is Negredo and Love are not capable of carrying this team in the final third of the pitch. This means whatever coach Şenol Güneş's plan might be, it needs to involve Cyle Larin, at least until the next transfer break.
This is good news and bad news at the same time. It is good news because Larin has displayed good playmaking skills around the opponent's penalty box against Partizan, and that is what Beşiktaş desperately needs right now. But it is also bad news because Larin, unlike Cenk Tosun, is not a target man. Güneş has wanted to use Larin as a target man since the beginning of the season which has produced no results because Quaresma's crosses from the right wing only work when you have a target man like Talisca or Tosun in the penalty box.
This week Beşiktaş will play Evkur Yeni Malatyaspor, a team that can easily catch reckless opponents off guard - like it did with Fenerbahçe. Just like any regular Turkish team, Malatyaspor is dangerous in counterattacking but lack the proper organization to dominate the game. So either Beşiktaş will use Larin the right way and build a game around him in the final third, or it will face a probable goalless draw or even a close win for Malatyaspor.