How can big Istanbul teams recover?

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published 01.11.2019 15:13

Crazy season in the Turkish Super League is going on with full force. Right now, the point gap between Super League leaders Alanyaspor and sixth-place holder Başakşehir is only three, and there is not a single team that has a secure place on the table. Although this is good news for the weaker Anatolian teams and for Turkish football in general, the big guns from Istanbul - Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş - are the ones who have lost their age-old hegemony. The developments in the strategic and tactical fields have finally impacted Turkish football, and there is certainly no going back. Losing both financial and strategic superiority, big Istanbul teams have to come up with a new plan to recover from this crisis.

Although there are various different reasons why the big guns have fallen, the main reason is the same for all three of them: there is no longer enough money to sustain a "Los Galacticos" model in Turkish football. For decades these clubs ruled Turkish football via their financial superiority which they derived from their huge fan base, tax exemptions and strong connections. Because their opponents were not aware of the new collective approaches to football strategy, it was all about having the best players in the squad.

However, their problem is now twofold: first, they are in a huge financial crisis; it is almost impossible to bring superstars by spending great amounts of money. Secondly, the Anatolian teams are now aware of the power of collective action, meaning that they have learned how to balance individual talent scarcity with sophisticated organizations. That is why Turkish football has changed in favor of Anatolian teams, who followed the latest developments in football much better than their stronger opponents.

This means that the first phase of recovery for Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş should be the acknowledgment of the problem: the way they administrate football has expired. This acknowledgment should lead to humbler financial aspirations, which would relieve the crisis and give these teams a chance to repair the damage. Furthermore, lowering spending on new transfers and expensive contracts would increase the freedom of managers, who can barely focus on long-term projects amidst huge expectations.

The second phase, strategic and tactical, can be easily implemented after a certain degree of freedom is given to the managers. When there is no unrealistic expectations to fulfill, managers can invest in more sophisticated, modern types of strategies and tactics, which can bring more success in the future. When these reforms take place, the big guns can finally start to recover and return to Turkish football stronger. But first, they need to learn some lessons from their humble opponents: only then they can be better than them.

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