The readers of this column know that Ersun Yanal is one of my favorite Turkish managers due to his systematic approach and long-term planning. He is one of the few coaches in Turkey who do not rely on individual talent and chaos. His methods led Fenerbahçe to the earliest championship in 2014, and Fenerbahçe has not been able to win the Super League since. Obviously, this season will be better for Fenerbahçe than the last one, as the club is now under the total control of Chairman Ali Koç, and everyone is rallied behind Yanal. Nevertheless, Yanal's making lots of experiments in the friendlies, which signals that he is still looking for the winning formula.
Of course, it is perfectly normal for a manager to try almost all players and all strategies in preseason, but that period has passed already. Less than a month is left before the new season begins, and Fenerbahçe are still experimenting. If the team wants to make a good start to the new season they have to practice the same game with the same players at least 5-6 games in a row. Only after practicing over and over again can a team play a certain game with good efficiency. It is important to find a good strategy, but finding it and mastering it late can cost a team lots of points, and Fenerbahçe fans were drained of their patience last season.
I think Yanal can continue with his classic strategy and shape his team accordingly. His usual strategy relies on quick transitions and pressing the opponent in the midfield. Yanal lets his opponents play with the ball and allows them to move their defense towards the midfield before pressing. Unlike classic counter-attacking games, Yanal chooses to intercept the ball in the midfield rather than blocking the passing routes. This means that he needs a very dynamic midfield trio with at least one of them having good playmaking skills. This season it seems like he is going to use Max Kruse as a number 10 to do the playmaking, with Tolgay Arslan and Ozan Tufan being more defensive. This plans seems fine for the time being, but its efficiency will be determined by Yanal's ability to build the connection between these three. On the other hand, the biggest issue for now is defense. Yanal is forced to use Jailson in the center since the other center backs do not have sufficient passing skills. This move, however, comes with its own drawbacks, as Jailson is not very talented defensively. Hertha Berlin were able to play deep balls behind Jailson and found two goals that way. Yanal must either find a new center back or a way to improve defensive actions if he wants to concede less than two goals per game. But he should not sacrifice passing skills in favor of defensive talent, as almost all teams learn how to press their opponent in the final third, making defensive buildups crucial.
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