January 12th 2025 was the day that transfer window opens and also the day that Melih’s sale went through, leaving our finances like this:
His profile suggests he’ll play for their first team, which just makes the deal feel even more realistic! We are now financially ‘ok’ but, obviously, will be losing money quite quickly still. Essentially, the €2.8m here papers over a lot of financial cracks but it means that I can restore our scouting package (now set to Turkey – costing a little over €100k for the entire year) and set up some scouting assignments. I must be in the minority that thinks this change is actually really good as it feels realistic to be searching for specific players. However, my first job, given that my scouts had been sitting at home for the last six months, was just to get some players back on our radar, hence the generic-ness of the reporting. What my intention was, was to populate a custom (like you had to guess) screen on the ‘Scouted Players’ page that collates those scouted with over 1000 minutes, sorting by the number of pros and cons that they have. You can’t actually add the analyst info to any other views so decided to edit this one to make it uniform with the rest of the styled panels I’ve made.
I like sorting by pros because, as you’d expect, the more positives they have, largely, the better form they’re in. It’s also interesting that now analysts seem to ‘store’ information, such as this now-unattached player, who did well last year. But, January, for me, is all about players who can come in ready, not needing a pre-season to get them up to speed and match fitness. Therefore, the minutes filter stuck.
In terms of places for immediate recruitment, after deciding that I’d replace Melih internally with Sodje and Omercan, my thoughts turned to centre back, where I only have three players and Metehan Mert is currently wanted by a handful of Dutch teams. The three lads I have are quite strong but I feel that, overall, I’m lacking a defender who can really play out from the back, given that Ogungbo’s stats have slightly been skewed by spending 50% of his time playing as a full back – a naturally more progressive role.
So you can imagine my delight when Ali Keten, of İskenderunspor, popped up in the filter, appearing for 1,699 minutes so far this season.
You can click on his thumbnail above to see his full profile. For the wider context, his club are second from bottom of the same league that we are in, scoring just 1.0 goal/90 and conceded 1.75. They appear to be doing a far amount of defending and, with their manager’s want for a direct game, often look to move the ball long and wide to their wingers. Not exactly an ideal place to be looking for a cultured centre back and, well, you’d be right because I haven’t found one. Well, not one that is showing that right now, anyway. Looking at my newest editing venture, combining positional polygons and statistical analysis from the Big 5 Leagues (not conducted by me and also, I know that this is maybe a bit of comparing oranges with apples as we’re not there yet – but still, a good measure is a good measure if used correctly), you can see that there is an awful lot to like about Ali.
Despite the sheer amount of last-ditch defending his club have done, Ali stands proud as the intelligent defender who can step in and pick the interception, committing far less fouls and needing to make as many tackles or clearances as he otherwise might be. What’s more, in a team where hoof-ball is employed, he progresses the ball, finding his team mate, a good number of times. Pair that with the fact that his best role is considered to be a ball-playing defender and his Ball Control is better than what we currently have, and this seems like a dream deal.
The other recruitment feature I’ve not got my teeth into yet is the use of the DoF to sign players. There was no hesitation in adding him as a transfer target (in future, I’ll try and add multiple to make this even more realistic), stipulating the max amount (€100k), max wage (€2k p/w) and intended squad status (Squad Player) before leaving it in the hands of my staff to do the rest. Yes, I’ll miss out on things like release clauses, wage rises, overall wage demands but I just feel that this is the most realistic step for me – as that self-proclaimed Head of Coaching and Development.
In the end, a €94k deal was sorted and signed – just 3% of the Melih money spent and Ali Keten on board! This reminds me just how much I love this area of the game but the next step will be then applying these measures to youngsters and then adding the development phase to it all.
Genclerbirligi 3-0 Ümraniyespor
The January schedule isn’t very kind to us! We spent the three weeks following our win in late December on holiday, but came back with no time to play any football and build fitness. The only plus from this is that we are alike with the other sides in this and that if we’ve got five unfit players, it’s likely they have too.
Nevertheless, I prepared as best as I could for the tie against a strong team. Even though the analyst report predicted a tight fought contest, this was anything but that. A game we pretty much dominated from start to finish, with Sidibe and Sodje and then Sidibe and Cem linking nicely for the first two goals with Cem all but adding a third after a keeping blunder that went down as an own goal Whilst I’m waxing lyrical about Ali Ketan, he also made his debut – playing an assured twenty-nine minutes off the bench.
Ankara Keçiörengücü 1-1 Genclerbirligi
A game of few chances and two goalkeeping errors. We gifted Ankara a couple of really big chances, which could and probably should have seen us punished. However, we held on for the draw which takes our unbeaten run to twenty games now.
Adanaspor have hit a rough patch whilst Eyupspor continue their purple one, leaving us somewhere in the middle. As the team with both the best offensive and defensive record, I feel that we’re right where we should be but I am wary of threats from below. We’ve still thirteen games to play but things are looking good for us. As I’ve repeatedly said, I’m nervous about the prospect of promotion coming ‘too soon’ as we simply do not have the desired background work done to in order to prepare this club for what would come next. However, I will never throw a promotion and will approach each and every fixture with an utmost level of professionalism, attempting to get the best result possible. If that leads to promotion then so be it – I just know that I’ve got a lot of hard yards to put in over the coming months. Deal like Ali Keten are a show of intent from me in terms of recruitment and I hope there will be many more to come, given that we absolutely need that!
I think it provides us a really clear target in terms of what we need to do to become profitable. I’ve created some really basic stuff off the back of our €1.275m wage bill per annum. I we just win three games next year and don’t increase the wages, prize money from these fixtures alone, will offset my spending (remember, there is zero prize money at this level) but nearly €500k. If we win ten games and maintain the wage budget, we’ll actually create a profit of over €350k. Our current wage bill looks like this compared to Super Lig clubs:
- Genclerbirligi – €1.27m p/a
- Altinordu – €2.49m p/a
- İstanbulspor – €3.17m p/a
- Goztepe – €6.05m p/a
If we double our wages and and finish with the same record as the team finishing 17th last year did, we’ll have made a wage:prize money loss over just over €250k, which isn’t much when you then add in increased merchandise sales, tickets, any TV revenue or the like. I have no accessible data for this because we’ve never experienced it before but immediately, from the rules page, I can see that 17th last year got €210k for staying in the league, which would almost offset that overspend on wages. Then you consider our stature as a small club with limited resources, so we’ll naturally be recruiting cheap, probably free agent talent and hoping to get the best out of them.
Whilst I was initially sceptical about the realism behind winning promotion eighteen months after being bottom of the league, I feel that we’re playing well enough to do so, I am still early into my challenge and it’ll be right up my alley to recruit cheaply and smartly to mix it with the big boys!
Genclerbirligi 3-0 Manisa
Tai is turning into an absolute monster in front of goal as he netted another hattrick, creating a strong offensive and defensive performance against Manisa. It was a game I played in a little bit of a rush and it’s clear to see where I made all five changes in one go – minute sixty-four – as we then invited some rare pressure against us. That being said, conceding nearly 1.0xG in just half an hour isn’t a positive stat to see but, at least, I have a reason for it.
Bodrumspor 0-2 Genclerbirligi
Another absolutely dominating performance from start to finish. Bodrumspor had little control over the game but it look us much longer than I wanted to get the goal. Sodje opened the scoring before his replacement, Omercan Tekin, netted his first of the season late on.
Genclerbirligi 4-2 Bandirmaspor
I was reading about something on Twitter and wanted to put it into motion. It worked..
I firstly looked, like I always do, at the analyst report but this time paid more focus on their passing map, identifying Fatih Kurucuk as a man who’d be involved with a lot of the ball. They’d had a little shuffle between games but I set the opposition instructions up as so, pressing their left back as that was the way that progressed the ball last game. I also like some hard tackling on those lacking match fitness and that became even more prominent when an early change allowed me to add more individualised pressure. Again, this has come from observing passing patterns and build up play through their last match and using in-game analysis (great tip from @FMStagon Twitter for this) to restrict their defensive midfielders to just 51 passes in the entire first half. Tai Sodje‘s second hattrick in a month was as influential as the fact that we stopped their 24 goal, leading scorer, Papis Dembele to eleven touches and a 6.1 Rating before he was hauled off.
Two goals, against the run of play, put a real damper on the performance but it’s another three points and another performance that takes us closer to where we want to be.
İskenderunspor 0-5 Gençlerbirliği
We end the month with the most complete performance I’ve witnessed and an xG total higher than I think I’ve ever achieved in a league game. The analyst report told me that they were a poor team but also a team who were not performing as well as they should be. Some clever marking and pressing around passing lanes restricted them to just sixty-four touches in our half in the first forty-five minutes. Sodje netted twice, taking his total to nine for the month, winning him Player of the Month as well as a penalty from Cisse, a header from Metehan and a nice finish from Dunyacan.
We were superb for the entire ninety minutes, recoring a perfect month.
Two goals a game scored, half a game conceded. Our ascent to the top of the league has been monumental. Three academy graduates no longer needed by their club, a seventeen year old from the tier below ours and a player taken from the team currently occupying the bottom position in this league – the only on-field changes but, overall, it’s been quite the change in 477 days since I found myself accepting a job with the club in a mess. However, the next game will determine an awful lot in the outcome of our season…
Despite them flirting with relegation, a week after the Eyupsor tie we go across the city to face rivals Ankaragucu in another huge tie.
Nine cup finals to go!
Genclerbirligi 3-0 Eyüpspor
- Performing around where expected.
- Haven’t really faced a strong test on their defence, yet.
- Low-ish block. Don’t appear to press much high up the pitch.
- A fair few higher risk passes in the middle third, but a few more in the opposition half than against recent opponents
- Lots of passes (third in the league for average possession with 57%) but, when adding to the post above and looking at their pass map, I can see a lot of that build up comes through centre back Lucas Claro and wing backs. Centre back passes completed (137 in total) backs this up in last game.
- Lots of crosses despite appearing to use inverted wingers – potentially an out-to-in styled run.
- In their last game, striker Emeka Eze, seemed to be the target of lots of direct passes, receiving the ball 45 times
- Star wing back Jordan Amavi (as a Villa fan, I like to see that he’s still going) is suspended, as is Joseph Attamah. It’ll then be interesting to see if Amavi’s replacement plays like he does (average positions from last game with Amavi #3)
Plan of Action:
- Normal traps to show players onto weaker foot remains with a trigger press on Claro. Sodje will press a little more (without moving to a PF) to try and assist with this work.
- Both wingers are marking their full backs – this often is used away from home but will help stop the passing build up, I hope.
- Out of possession, we’re going to try to stop the ball getting to 6’1″ Eze up top by restricting crossing opportunities.
- In possession, at a guess from the full backs selected, they will mirror their shape without Amavi, so I will use the Mez and overload down the left rather than the right, initially.
It’s a soft penalty – a push on Ali Keten – but it’s a penalty nevertheless. I asked Sodje to take, given his immense record of late. He netted his eighteenth of the season. The first half concluded at that, with Eyupspor making just 183 passes and registering five touches in our box. The biggest combination was 11 passes between left back and centre back in an area where I’d not be worried by. Playmaker and assist leader Thill has been restricted to just ten passes, too. Overall, a really strong half for us as we lead at the break.
The third man run! Safa plays the ball in Omercan Tekin, whose movement draws out the defenders in order to allow Serkan to run through. Tekin’s lay off is fed through and he finishes perfectly, lobbing it over the keeper.
17 year old Enescan Ozu nets as we hit Eyupspor with a deadly break, overloading down the left through Safa, Dunyacan and Omercan before a low cross is turned in by the substitute.
That is how the game finished. 16 shots to 7, with 6 on target to 1 and 2.14 Non-PenxG to 0.31xG. More progressive passes, final third passes, sprints – this was just a game where we absolutely bossed, from start to finish. All of the preparation and analysis has paid off – the two centre backs managed just 67% of the total passes they made against Kocaelispor the week before, Emeka Eze touched the ball twice in our area and they completed just 8% of their crosses – apparently an area of strength for them.
Five points ahead with eight to play. Twenty points ahead of the eighth placed team, meaning we need a matter of points to cement a playoff spot and ten points ahead of third place. Our fate is in our hands.
Ankaragücü 0-0 Gençlerbirliği
We might share a stadium but Ankara is black and red!
A couple of big chances for the hosts but we are dominant pretty much throughout, with Metehan scoring from two set pieces and Omercan Tekin netting again in the absence of Tai Sodje, who missed out with an injury. It’s an indication of just how far we’ve come, beating a (troubled) but recently relegated Super Lig side so comfortably. Five points ahead with seven to play. Twenty three points ahead of the eighth placed team, meaning we have qualified for the playoffs and ten points ahead of third place. Our fate is still in our hands.
WIth these six points and the continuation of our meteoric rise to the summit of the table, I’ve been thinking about next season, trying to build a player base that could potentially assist us in the top flight. I’ve set out some feelers, trying to line up some replacements, of which I’ll dig into statistically. It’s early stages but I’m already building a shortlist, with players identified for the ML slot and two that could play in the DM slot:
Between games, the youth intake arrived and, sadly, I wasn’t too impressed. The players will be signed and will join the academy setup we have here for the coming years.
Genclerbirligi 1-0 Çaykur Rizespor
Caykur were the next visitors to the capital and we disposed of them relatively easily thanks to another Sodje strike. Their 4-3-3 is a slightly different outcome to the 4-2-3-1 ‘deep’ that I’ve faced a lot of times this season but we managed to get the best of them, restricting chances and cutting out some of their bigger threats in transition and build up. Not as glamorous as the preceding fixtures but just as important.
Kayserispor 1-5 Genclerbirligi
And, once again, we are back at out swashbuckling best. I sometimes have to question where these performances come from – we’re not any better on paper and I’m certainly not using tactics that exploit the match engine. I am, however, engaging with their threats and creating a game plan that goes into the minutia of possibilities in terms of opportunities for ourselves. Tai Sodje was clinical – four goals blitzes the record for us and takes him past twenty this season, which is remarkable when you consider that he was merely a backup until January. For me – the mindset has now very much changed as I’m almost certain that we will now get promoted.
A matter of a few points between us and the top tier of Turkish football. It’s all come so quick but it all feels so sweet and I’m going to enjoy it whilst it lasts – as I don’t think we’ll be doing this in the top flight, week in, week out!
Genclerbirligi 3-0 Adanaspor
A comprehensive win to seal promotion to the top flight, at least 12 months earlier than I had initially planned. Two goals from Tai Sodje and a late goal from Omercan Tekin sealed the win as we dominated from the off. Interestingly, our U19 team celebrated promotion on this day too, with a scintillating goalscoring record. The current is bright and it would also appear that the future is too.
Eskişehirspor 0-1 Gençlerbirliği
A calf strain for Tai Sodje ruled him out for the rest of the season so it was left to Omercan Tekin to lead the line. Away at a side desperately trying to avoid relegation, I’d have expected some kind of attacking threat, but they sat back – the deepest and least engaged block I think I’ve faced yet – and did nothing. However, we couldn’t break it down. I rotated through the different styles that I have – overload left, overload right and the a double Mez shape to overload both sides simultaneously but our play was disjointed. It was a late goal from Tekin, though, who sealed the victory for us.
Genclerbirligi 5-1 Somaspor
Title secured, in the most emphatic way possible!
If you remove their very dodgy penalty xG, we’ve once against trebled the xG of our opponents, blowing them away. Third choice striker Tekin is now getting into the goals, taking himself to more than 1.20 per/90 right now but it was Sidibe who took home the player of the match, netting a wonderful curling strike after laying on three goals in a performance that really demonstrated the power of the supporting wide-men in my tactics; having strong ball players progress the ball from wide and deep provides us with so many opportunities.
A slightly lighter writing month for me (although all of the changes and tactical tweaks happened in the games still) but that has allowed me to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labours and polish off a few things on my skin. I think that, for me, this is the most successful I’ve been in turning around a club since I started the journeyman style three games ago. The summer is going to be one of the most difficult, but exciting, times I’ve faced but the journey to get here has been outstanding! I truly appreciate every comment along the way.
Recruitment is a little sketchy at the moment given that we have to wait for the seasons to roll over to really see who is truly interested in joining, which makes pre-planning much harder. I will, however, roll forwards and backwards between a few saves to ensure that I still have access to data from this season even when I get into the next one. I do have my eyes on four – pretty realistic – targets, of which I’ll go into more detail about in the off-season:
Sakaryaspor 1-2 Genclerbirligi
It was party time as the league was already won but we remained professional against Sakaryaspor and should have scored many more than the two that we did as Tekin and Serkan Odabasoglu scored in quick succession early in the second half. Their reply was quite clearly offside but it counted anyway and did little to begin a comeback for them.
Genclerbirligi 4-0 Kocaelispor
We wrapped up what will – hopefully anyway – be my last game in this division with a resounding win over relegated Kocaelispor, thanks to a hattrick from Omercan Tekin – showing that, apparently, whichever striker I use in my system will get me goals.
A a team that has walked the league – these kind of round ups are quite hard to do, because they just become a list of things that we’re good at, with little necessity to focus on where we’re lacking as it’ll be completely different next year. We’re statistical outliers in terms of our goal outputs and that comes from a combination of the second best conversion rate and the most shots per game. If I start to look at the weaker areas, I’m immediately drawn to our tackling statistics. I don’t like tackles; it means that we’ve missed the opportunity to cut off a passing lane and probably have been, at least, half beaten so I’m happy to see that we don’t make many of them, however, it does look a bit worrying when we aren’t completing many of the ones we do attempt. I am absolutely fine with our passing outputs and, to be fair, where we lose possession – as that, in a counter attacking shape, is where our midfielders sit and move the ball forward from.
All in all, it’s a complete season and one where we’ve blown away the opposition. However, perfection does not exist, either statistically or in game events and I want to dig a little deeper into where I could improve this squad ready for next year. I’ve been able to capture data for three seasons now and that’ll help form my judgements basing it on three things: a) performance compared to the players in same positions b) performance compared to the league and c) performance compared to previous seasons.
Ubeyd has been really good and has improved on several key metrics from last year – reducing his goals conceded/90 by 0.51, recording 0.65 more progressive passes and completing 19% more passes. For a goalkeeper in my setup, it’s the completion of these progressive passes, now aimed at the wingers or full backs in wide positions, that can kick start my counter attacks and to see such marked improvements is fantastic. I would like to recruit a backup keeper – ideally a non-foreign, elder statesman – who can contribute if needed but also be of benefit to the squad as a whole, but this isn’t a priority.
Metehan Mert leads the way for centre backs, improving on last year’s total for clearances by 0.13 per 90 as well as being ahead of the league average by over one clearance a game. Ali Ketan has proved a shrewd addition in the Ball-Playing Defender role with a strong return when progressing and keeping the ball. I’ve been rocked by the wage demands for Mazeed Ogungbo, who, with twelve months left on his deal, wants a new wage amounting to around 800% of his currently monthly salary, which may lead to to some questions being raised over the summer. Cisse is the standout full back although Ufuk Ozdemir has performed quite well (comparably to Alberk Koc, anyway) on the left hand side. Ufuk is still only seventeen and Oguz Ceylan will be leaving so it’s likely that two new full backs – one a starter and one a backup – could enter my thinking over the summer.
Alassane Sidibe’s general performance – minus goal output – has been fantastic this season and he’s adapted to Turkey and my style amazingly well, playing 21 times on the right and nine of the left of the midfield four. What I like most about him is that even though he’s a winger by trade, his progressive passing is really good and that’s largely why he’s recorded, on average, an assist every other game. My most creative outlet, however, is Dunyacan Copur, who’s has a great breakout season, recording eleven goal contributions. Cem Bilgin has fifteen goal contributions – 0.63 per 90, which is a big jump from the 0.38 he recorded last year. Whilst they are both young and would hugely benefit from some competition, these pair are very much the future of Gencler. The change in Gokhan Gul’s role has been evident – with less presses, ball recoveries, blocks, tackles and clearances this year compared to last but more chances created, goals and assists as he has become – from his DM(d) role – a creative outlet. 0.15 goal contributions per ninety is better than his competitor, Tunc, who recorded no goals or assist sin his limited minutes so that is something I may look at adding – some more mettle in the middle, but also some creative mettle as well as at least two wingers to support Sidibe.
Just looking at the overall growth of Omercan Tekin is wonderful – better in pretty much every metric, especially all of those important to his role, from last year as he’s filled in nicely at the end of the season for Tai Sodje. Whilst I’d like them to be a little better aerially, their scoring record speaks for itself. I will note that both are hugely overperforming xG and that’s not an easy task to repeat year on year and, ideally, I’d have three forwards competing for one role, which means I will probably be searching for some kind of additional experience.
With expiring contracts and youngsters moved back to their more appropriate place for next season, I believe that this is the core of the squad I’ll be taking into the top flight.
Some areas of real strength but also some areas where we do need to make changes in order to stand a chance next year. Firstly, it’s important that I familiarise myself with the squad registration rules, as to not go mad with my recruiting. I will have little issues with the foreigner rule at this point given the fact that I’m currently limited to just the foreign players that are within Turkey and a handful of (unrealistic) agent offers from Argentinians on free transfers. I will also be able to meet the developed at club and nation rules given my prior work at giving chances to youngsters this season.
Therefore, I’m able to build a simple shopping list – in order of priority:
- Left winger
- Defensive midfielder
- Central midfielder
- Right back
- Left Back
My early scouting has identified four possible players (was five, but the last one agreed a new deal whilst I was writing), who I believe are realistic given our scouting parameters, finances and reputation. I really like how these players have been identified using these short term foci and also must say I do like how I can get their profile from the pop-up panel of my skin in order to showcase them like this…
Thumbnails are clickable for a full view of their profile.
Olayowin’s Ankara finished fourteenth in the league under Umit Ozat, a man who favours long ball football. It is, therefore, great to see that he completes more dribbles than the league average for wingers and progresses the ball more than them, too. Despite not being at his best in terms of goal contributions – his expected assists is on a par with the very best in the league, showing that he’s been able to put them on a plate for the attacker but hasn’t seen them finished! Comparing his sprint outputs to the elite level shows that he’s not where I wanted him to be but his Natural Fitness and average Stamina may be a reason for that, alongside his tactical instructions and that’ll be a key metric for me to see whether will grow if I make this deal. He’s available on a free but will want some quite hefty wages, which may provide a stumbling block. Salifu Diarrassouba has just been relegated with Istanbulspor, meaning his release clause of €275k is active. Again, his wage demands are high (but whose aren’t when joining a newly promoted team) but his statistical output for dribbles and progressive passes are good – especially when playing largely in the AM role, a notoriously congested area of the pitch already quite far forward. A goal contribution every four games (0.26 per 90) isn’t bad for a team who score just 0.97 per 90 is pretty good, in my opinion and, attribute wise, he looks to be really interesting with a combination of Pace and Technique paired with a love of big games and good consistency. Marlon is currently unhappy at city rivals Ankaragucu and, as you’d guess, wants a lot to move to us but comes with an unparallelled output at full back – recording really strong percentile measures for Interceptions, Progressive Passes and Pressures as well as a huge number of assists – albeit from set pieces. Fourteen goal contributions (0.45 per 90) is insane for a full back and, in my eyes, is stereotypically Brazilian and I think I’d love to work with that! Emirhan would be available quite cheaply and, despite looking like a playmaker, actually performs like a very well rounded midfielder, playing as a DM for Sakaryaspor, who finished fifteenth in our league. A goal contribution every four games is 0.1 better than Gokhan Gul and he also attempts over two more pressures a game, attempting and completing more tackles, interceptions and blocks than the average in the league.
In order to sign these in the way I want – I need a Director of Football to complete my transfer committee – made up of my scouts and analysts, me, and him. Veysel Besik was the man I chose for the job, simply due to having really strong negotiating skills, which will be necessary to get the best deals for these players. I can then set the parameters for the transfer target, like so:
In future, I’ll be setting groups for him to target and sign the most suitable, but, for now, I’m a bit thin on the ground for that. I’m hoping that, when the league rolls over, I can get a better idea of who’d want to come and return to these previous saves to access their full statistical packs.
The easiest of months, in reality. The players are on holiday and, given that the negotiations are handled by the new Director of Football, it’s actually just a lot of clicking and searching for me. There was two bits of initial bad news as Bristol City, of the Championship, announced interest in Tai Sodje and Cambuur usurped us to sign Marlon on a pre-contract. We did, however, seal the double signing of Ibrahim Olawoyin and Emirhan Aydogan, offsetting their wage demands with the end of contracts of some fringe players:
I’ve given up on the pursuit of Salifu Diassarouba, as he is now demanding over €50k p/m, which is around triple the amount of my top earner, so will be turning my attentions elsewhere. However, we are massively playing catch up as, essentially, our scouting pool is empty and we’re starting again now we’ve been promoted. I’m under no illusions of how difficult July will be!
I’ve also used this time to put some work in (by putting out adverts) to get some staff in. Here is where I now sit with my coaching team:
Not perfect by any means but we now have specialists in for keepers and for fitness and have increased the quality of the coaching staff as well as employing Mehmet Aurelio – a nationalised Brazilian who spent time at Trabzonspor and Fenerbache as a player, who’ll give me some important scouting knowledge. Additionally, I have made a coup (so much so, I thought it was a bug) with signing of current, real life, Denmark manager, Kasper Hjumland as a scout, on a tiny wage. He’s obviously very good at what he does and there is now a pathway for him to move into my coaching team but he also brings extra scouting knowledge, too.
Following the excellent advice of @danielgear in regards to pre-season, I’ve been toying with how my pre-season is set up. Last year, we started the league under-prepared and not match fit, which cost us. Given that, this season, points could be harder to come by, I can’t afford to throw opportunities away by not being ready. Here you can see that ‘6 day week’ for the start of next month with them playing in up to two games and training in the other four, with one day of complete rest in between. I still need to fine tune what I want them to be doing on those days that they are at the training ground but it does appear, already, that fitness is growing pretty quickly. This is in contrast to the ‘two-game week’ that we did last time, which limited players to just 45 minute spells (hugely increasing complacency when the appeared) and at least two more days off the training pitch.
I also need to work through the opponents we face – Konyaspor (fourth tier), Ankara (third tier), Nevsehir (fourth tier) and Samsunspor (second tier) aren’t the opposition that we need to be facing – really – but I think that we have to wait until our finances allow us to face off against better opposition as that, obviously, costs more money.
To ensure the most realism that I could – three players I’d identified joined the club on trial in mid July, with the idea that contracts would be offered after/if they’d impressed me sufficiently but wouldn’t be fully agreed until the end of the month, allowing me to fully explore their game and compare it with the statistics that had initially alerted me to them. You can see their full profile by clicking on their thumbnail.
Taylan makes quite the step up from the third tier of German football, where he spent last season at Osnabruck. However, he’d just spent one season there after dropping down from second tier Nurnberg. I took a snapshot of his performances last year, which can be seen by clicking on the analysis image. It was quite difficult to capture a proper perspective of a man who appears to have shared his time between the full back and central midfield role. However, he seems capable both in possession and defensively, which is what I’ll be looking for him to do, predominantly as a backup for Cisse or the odd time where I’ll need a more creative outlet in the midfield, although I don’t foresee that happening too much. Inside the ninetieth percentile for assists and progressive passes is a really strong output as is the number of times he engaged in pressure against the opposition. In terms of his attributes, he’s quite well rounded – which is purposely part of my recruitment strategy at the moment although the staff do have questions over his ability to perform at this level. But he’s consistent, a good set piece threat and fits in with the squad pretty well so I see this as a sensible deal right now, especially as he’s one of the lower earners within the squad too.
The only of these three to make four appearances, albeit somewhat restricted in two of them, Taylan has scored twice – a penalty and a well struck free kick into the top corner. His range of passing and composed play look good enough for me to decide that he’d be a valuable asset for the club.
Next through the door is Arial Mendy, from Ligue 2 side Clermont Foot. Arial has appeared for a couple of French clubs since moving from Diambars in his native Senegal eight years ago and has been capped five times by his national team. Whilst he’ll be sitting inside a little more for me, as an Inverted Wing Back, he excelled with his crossing ability and ability to progress the ball last year but also recording a high number of interceptions and maintaining a good record in the tackle – something that I’d noticed that was missing a little last year. Good enough – according to the team – to play at this level, as well as consistent, well-rounded, versatile and good with two feet: I think Arial could be a really strong addition to our side. He’s not played a huge amount for a man of his age, which could work as a blessing or a curse – depending on how well his legs last or how much experience he’s picked up – but he’s a strong addition for us.
Mendy has been really strong at left back, getting a lot of the ball in the two games that he started. He appeared, when paired with Taylan, that he wa slightly less creative than his partner but probably more adept defensively. A delightful free kick against Samsunspor was a real highlight of his time as a trial but his presence appears to be very positive to the defence at the club.
Ismaily Coulibaly is the man I’m most excited about! A €1.9m signing for Championship side Sheffield United from Sarpsborg in Norway, the youngster played 42 times out on loan at Belgian side Beerschot before being a bit part player at the Blades, making thirty-two appearances over three years. He has played a limited number of minutes – just over 300 last year – predominantly from the bench, which would normally rule him out for me. However, upon further dives into his statistical outputs, I’ve seen that he’s excellent in front of goal and excellent at progressing the ball. Digging back to the season before – his 2022-23 statistics – I can see that this is replicated, meaning that it’s more likely to be a real style to his play, rather than just a flash in the pan. Another well rounded player suitable for this level with, apparently, a lot of potential not yet realised – meaning that the €1.5m release clause to clubs in continental competitions could come in handy for us, or the club in future.
Of the three trialists, he’s impressed the most. Rested for the easier tie but a goal contribution in the other three and plenty of xG created. Whilst he completed no dribbles, his movement was wonderful to watch and his link up with Cem and Tai Sodje really looked promising. Truth be told, the deal was accepted before the Turkish Open (yeah, had plenty of creativity when naming it) but I held it out long enough to complete my initial assessment of him.
This leaves my summer shopping list now looking like this:
Left winger Defensive midfielder Central midfielder Right back Left Back
With Coulibaly’s ability to play as a striker and me not worrying about any kind of cup run – and, as such, a cup keeper – I feel like I could be done with the transfer window. I’ve spent €30k in total, recouping bits and recouping some wages and have, hopefully, built a bit of a squad that can have a go at staying up! Obviously – we’re playing for wins in games that are winnable, given that we get €170k per win (an increase on last season since the reputation increase of the league) as well as €85k for a draw, so that’ll be reflective on the players that are chosen somewhat.
Half of August is devoted to more pre-season stuff I’m really looking forward to kicking the season off!