The curious case of Trabzonspor

Published 27.11.2018 00:10
Updated 27.11.2018 00:17

Imagine a team, which was devastated 5-0 just two weeks prior, misses the chance of beating its arch-rival by five goals the very next game. Imagine a team that can score against almost any opponent but is also unable to prevent even the weakest opponent from scoring. Welcome to the world of Trabzonspor, a world which is filled with passion, anger and chaos. Since the match fixing scandal in 2011, in which Trabzonspor claims that their championship was stolen, the team's fate has been unstable at best. The club has not been able to achieve any significant success since then and it is giving mixed signals this year. For the Black Sea team, the positives can trump the negatives if it treads more carefully.

To understand Trabzonspor's case better, we need to understand the city of Trabzon better, since a city's football style is highly related to its culture. Added to that, the climate and the geography of a city dictate the types and means of agriculture and from agriculture comes culture. Trabzon is a Black Sea city that has a very mountainous geography with a rainy climate. There is not much land to farm and the resources are limited. Even though Trabzon is a big city now, the people of Trabzon, as a habit from the past, think fast and act fast to survive. As my dear friend and colleague Sedat Tunalı, who is a native of Trabzon, once said, "Life in Trabzon is as fast as its rivers flowing down steep valleys."

Honestly, I cannot recall any coach who has tried to play a controlled possession game with Trabzonspor. The fans and the local media react negatively to any signs of building a controlled game in Trabzon and that is why the knowledge of the Trabzonspor's football culture has not cumulated to a significant extent. Of course, the problem of cumulating knowledge is everywhere in Turkish football but at least the big three in İstanbul once in a while manage to do that. But Trabzonspor, as the center of the rebellion against the Istanbul hegemony in Turkish football, never achieved continuous success. The people of Trabzon expect their team to play fast and succeed fast.

That is what the current coach Ünal Karaman is trying to build, a team with excellent offensive capabilities, if given enough time and space. But the problem is, as the disastrous defeat against Yeni Malatyaspor showed two weeks ago, they have no clue about defending. Karaman has focused on creating a fast attacking team so much that he has not made a backup plan, for when their opponents counterattack. When it is basically too risky to attack with full force, especially in away games, the only defensive maneuver Karaman does is to park the bus. Therefore, it is a sophisticated defensive strategy focused on strategic pressing that is needed to make Trabzonspor great again.

The primary goal of Karaman should be creating units from his team, which are responsible for pressing in certain areas of the pitch. These units should not press the opponent all the time, anywhere but rather push the opponent to a mistake and then press in the right moments. Since possession is not suitable for this strategy, strategic pressing is key to create opportunities against defensive opponents without giving away defensive security. If Trabzonspor can adopt such a pressing strategy, their game can be lethal against any opponent in Turkey.

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