Genclerbirligi 5-0 Kasimpasa
Back with a bang to start 2026 against a team that I’d envisaged we’d be battling it out with.
Tai Sodje started 2026 the way he left 2025 with a hat trick and Ismailia Coulibaly, fast becoming one of my favourite players to watch added two himself. I’m finding now that more and more teams are allowing us a little bit more of the ball and, this time, we absolutely made the most of it – registering a season high twenty-six key passes. We were, despite the extra attacking intent, able to restrict Kasimpasa to just eighty-seven completed passes in our half, hence the ninety minutes of domination.
With us finishing the first round of fixtures, I think that I can reflect a little on the four players that have driven the club to a position that was completely unexpected of them prior to the season’s kick off. All statistical analysis compares players in the Spor Toto Super Lig with over 1000 minutes playing in the same position – wingers, central midfielders or strikers.
Ismaila has ran riot in the midfield this year – combining two roles of runner and passer into one very well balanced player. Nobody in this league creates more key passes from open play and he’s also inside the top ten percent for those that turn into chances and those that are converted. His trait of Comes Deep For Ball allows him to initiate dribbles between the lines. Unfortunately, there is no measurable metric for progressive passes attempted, but, if there was, I’m sure he’d feature towards the top end – let down by a relatively poor pass completion of 83%, largely due to the high risk nature of these passes he is attempting.
The other half of the midfield duo who plays really similarly – as you’d expect as they swap roles between a CM(a) and Mez(a) as the game progresses. However, Cem has taken to the top flight like a duck to water, and would be the best key passer in the league if it were not for him team mate, above. Cem is, however, dribbling more, progressing the ball more, creating more key passes, chances and assists than last season against much more difficult opposition. I’d like to see him scoring as much as Coulibaly but, in a two, this pairing offers everything I could want going forward, and more.
Probably entering the twilight of his time here, Sidibe has 18 months left on his deal, no interest in renewing and suitors from Germany to Belgium yet the ex-Atalanta academy graduate boasts some hugely impressive stats compared to other wingers. He dribbles really well but also progresses the ball incredibly well – partially due to the fact he’s in a supporting role, holding his width, and picks the ball up much deeper than a conventional winger. I’m sure that, should we fetch a good fee for him, I’ll be able to reinvest in a multitude of players that can progress the club further: the exact archetype of player that I want to have at the club.
Tai has surely played himself into Nigeria contention, although sits behind Osimhen, Iheanacho and Awoniyi in the pecking order. An absolutely incredible eason where he’s been involved in over one goal a game – elite for a top club, let alone a club that have been promoted the season before. His shot xG is insanely good and that is a testament to the positions he gets in and our ability, as an attacking unit, to create spaces and opportunities for him in good positions. However, everything he touches is still turning to goal – scoring nearly once in every four shots he takes.
In transfer news, Mazeed Ogungbo has really annoyed me all season by refusing to entertain any new talks. He has then, for less wages that I’d offered, accepted a move to Nigeria to play for Remo Stars. I’m disappointed he’s chosen to make the move and become a Fringe Player, considering the minutes he was getting with us. However, using my scouting team, I’ve been able to snap up Ibrahima Soumaré (click on the image for a screenshot before he signed) for a fee of €20k from Diambars.
What I do kind of like is that the data that I’ve been able to collect on his is a little flaky – but, to be fair, you’d expect that for the Senegalese division (would they really have analysts that collate how many clearances per 90 he makes?!). His scout report looks good and I was able to go back and view parts of a Senegal B fixture that he took part in to justify this very small outlay. He’s raw – and that’s fine – and my focus will be to develop his ball playing ability (BPD-D schedule and Passing Additional Focus) intertwined with further extra work on his Defensive Positioning (through an additional focus) that will rotate every three months or so. It’s set up in his notes so that I can monitor the impact of these.
I’ve also managed to adjust the budgets in order to allow me another month of scouting the world. Whilst the Chief Scout – Ilgiz Cinar – is in charge of the recruitment focuses, I’ve decided to add three of my own as we try and prepare to increase the quality of players in the summer, with our place in this league all but confirmed for another season. I wanted to really try and utilise the new criteria to try and reduce the list size even before I start to filter out some players. Here are the three players I want to upgrade on and the criteria I’ve given my scouting team:
- Left footed centre back to replace Mert – with experience.
- Right inverted wing back – experienced to replace Cisse in longer term.
- All-round DM to give competition to Gokhan Gul/Emirhan – young and profitable.
In addition to that, I’ve utilised some specific match scouting for the African Championship of Nations. For those unaware, ‘B’ teams contest this tournament and players are only eligible if they play in their domestic leagues: a perfect opportunity to continue my drive of finding talent from the source. I’ve tried to select fixtures in which teams are playing that would provide me reasonable quality players (Uganda B have not actual players so I’ll scout a Burkina Faso game when they play real opposition) as well as manually attending (and by that, I really mean having access to some more data) the game in which new signing Soumaré should be featuring in.
As well as this, I can quickly check through the player statistics to see if anyone is standing out. I’m normally against signing players based on competition performances but this data will be more accurate than the leagues which aren’t modelled in the game and, given the reputation of the competition, players will not be leaving here with hugely inflated values as they may do after a World Cup, for example.
Genclerbirligi 3-1 Gaziantep
Another solid win in which we were, probably, quite lucky not to go in just 3-2 ahead with a missed penalty from the visitors just before the break. I specifically focused on attacking early on, knowing that they started games poorly and had the worst defence going as well as focusing on Yigit Celtik – their creative force – even if his one sole assist is not matched by his 3.39xA. In the end, he completed just sixty-two passes with minimal input in our half.
Besiktas 1-0 Genclerbirligi
Sometimes, when you set out with a more cautious game plan, it can look like you’ve performed terribly. However, that’s not really the case here – yes, they had more shots, but I’d argue that it was pretty similar in terms of shots from dangerous areas and their passes were hardly passes made as they ran us ragged in and around our area. We bow out of the cup against a team that will likely be challenging to win it: no complaints there.
Sivasspor 1-3 Genclerbirligi
Another really strong victory, consigning Sivasspor to their fifth straight defeat, rounding off a month – in the league – where we’ve picked up nine points against out-of-form sides. Massive amount of credit must go to Tai Sodje, whose rocketed to forty-two goals in his first forty-four career games:
Not bad for a player who started last season as second fiddle striker! So much credit must go to Colin Kazim Richards, my scout at the time, who, using his English knowledge, recommended him to me when I was looking for youngsters with expiring contracts.
Our xG total has, however, exposed a little bit of a bug, if my real life xG knowledge is anything to go by. Arial Mendy missed a penalty early in the second half but then knocked in a rebound. However, it appears that both shots have been counted on the xG here, giving that move a total of 1.75xG – when, as far as I’m aware, you collate a total move xG, which is, of course, a maximum of one goal. To put it simply, we’ve created 1.75xG from that move but can’t score any more than one time from it!
As the month comes to an end, I’ve had another look at the scouting I set out in Africa and have been impressed by the fact I’m picking up reports on some good youngsters.
Julius Adeshina looks the standout here even though his last match against South Africa B was not a great one. I decided to make the ‘short’ trip to Cote d’Ivoire to watch/get full analysis of his performance but, again, was greeted by a poor performance. It’s players like this, who could move for minimal amounts and provide me with sellable opportunities that I want to continue to explore. He probably won’t be a world beater, unlike Souleymane Ballo, who I just missed out on, but is all part of that really closely monitored and fine-tuned development plan that I like to create for each player.
We’re still in a really strong position, even if we are looking somewhat like a one-man team! Our January run coincided nicely with teams that aren’t in form but February brings Trabzonspor, Besiktas and a rejuvenated Konyaspor, now under the tutelage of Slaven Bilic.
Financially, we’re doing much better now and you can see a steady increase given the fact that we’ve earned over €1m alone in prize money for won games! I’m also expecting quite a windfall when I inevitably end up selling Sidibe in the summer as he’ll begin to decline in value as he goes through the last 12 months of his deal and I back myself to replace him rather than allowing it to run down and keep him for another year.
Genclerbirligi 1-2 Trabzonspor
A pretty realistic picture of where we are right now. There are plenty of teams, for example a few that we played in January, who we can outplay, keep the ball and dominate, but we’re not quite there in terms of quality and game management to successfully do this against the bigger sides. We’re, as we have been all season, good at restricting the opposition, forming a nearly-impenetrable wall near the halfway line but, as is the case with these good sides, they always will find a chance. Twice Trabzonspor took us apart, but that was it and they are a good team that do this kind of thing for fun! Cem Bilgin got us back into the game but they went on and recorded a win in a game that, probably, didn’t really deserve one.
Adana Demirspor 1-0 Gençlerbirliği
This is very unlike us for this season. We were lethargic and allowed Adana to have the ball and cause problems with it. They fielded two inverted wingers and attacking wing backs and, whilst we successfully tracked back, we allowed them far too much joy cutting inside, despite my instructions to push them wide. A rare off day punished, as expected, and a bit of a wake up call for us going forward.
Deadline day arrived and, as you’d expect with the meticulous nature of my playing, there was no surprises. Enescan Ozu needs to kick on so a move to promotion chasing Kayserispor is ideal. Soumaré’s deal was already concluded but I pushed ahead and made a move for Julius Adeshina, on a free from Nigerian side Kano Pillars. Clicking the thumbnail below will take you to his profile.
Whilst I was largely unimpressed with his performance at the African Championship of Nations, his media comparison of the next Daniel Amokachi (a man who I remember from his time at Everton and, actually, a successful career in this league too for Besiktas) and a deeper dive of his stats, made me reconsider my initial judgement. Whilst a free transfer and a wage that amounts to around €350 a week is barely a drip in the financial ocean, he’s not quite the well rounded player I have previously recruited and very much needs a lot of individual work. Whilst I love the physicality he brings – I’d like a little bit speed off the mark. Pace, I can deal with, but Acceleration needs some work so that he can find spaces in tight areas and move quickly, combining that with Agility and Balance, both of which are also just a little lower than I think they could be. I play an Advanced Forward, so they’re very much not in the team to be a creator, but I do want a little more in the way of Passing and Vision, so that he can create, if necessary. He’s going to make great Decisions but maybe isn’t going to be as Composed as he possibly could be, so I’ll need to address that, too.
My skin completely takes away the ability to line up a training schedule with the attributes it develops, so I need to think a little more laterally. What kind of player is quick off the mark, quite creative and requires good composure? There are two answers in my mind – a Trequartista and a False Nine. I don’t know whether it makes a difference at all but one is only available as an attacking duty and one is only available as a supporting duty and I want him to be a good attacker. Therefore, I’ve gone with TQ(a) and an additional focus of passing, which I will review – and likely to change to Shooting or Speed – every three months.
Statistically, I was concerned about his outputs and that wasn’t made much better when watching him on international duty for Nigeria B. However, when comparing with Sodje, it’s easy to find the areas and easy to speculate on ways I can approach that. He’s been reported as somewhat inconsistent, so that’ll need addressing through careful squad selection but, at a glance, it would appear that his time at Kano Pillars was poor. I don’t have the league loaded so there is an element of (in game) speculation about this but it appears that he’s just short on confidence in a poor team (26% win ratio) and, is therefore, fluffing his chances. He takes around the same amount of shots as Tai Sodje, and creates a not too dissimilar non-Pen xG, with those shots being roughly of equal quality but his big issue is that conversion rate. Whilst Sodje is converted one in four-ish, Julius is converting one in fourteen.
If only it was as easy as get some confidence and increase his consistency and then I’d have a great player. However, for eighteen, this lad is really promising and could either perform for us in this league or create some profit. This is exactly what I want my recruitment drives to look like, when looking for younger players who, perhaps, haven’t got the full breadth of statistics available to them.
Genclerbirligi 3-0 Besiktas
Back in league action in style!
I spoke about not quite having the game plan and quality of players to beat the big sides and, whilst the last one remains, our game plan was spot on here. We set up in the standard way, man marking their attacking full backs, engaging low but holding a high line but also wanted to overload them centrally, playing a CM(a) combo instead of a CM(a)-Mez(a) duo. I then also instructed us to be ultra attacking out of the blocks to try and get a goal ahead knowing that we’re quite good sitting on a lead. Arial Mendy netted from the spot after a coming together – harsh maybe but just the inroad we needed after a slightly nervy start. From there, it caused Besiktas to push more and more men forward in search of the equaliser and we capitalised, with goals from Olayowin and Coulibaly putting us three up before half time. I purposely went cautious in the second half, knowing that 3-1 would be dangerous if we left too much space. We allowed them a few low quality shots and saw our own striker – Sodje – more invested in defending than scoring but it held and we successfully saw the game out thanks to a series of subs and time wasting.
A fantastic victory!
Fatih Karagümrük 1-1 Gençlerbirliği
An excellent move is the reward for knocking on the door of the opponents even though we were not anywhere near our best. Our ability to get the ball to players between the vertical and horizontal lines is a fantastic strength and Sodje finished magically, even if I absolutely do not agree in the xG that the shot was given! We’re starting to run out of steam a little, as you’d expect with a small, young and inexperienced squad but we’re still doing just about enough to hang on to the European spot race we have found ourselves in.
I’ve continued my little recruitment drive with the signing of a young Burkinabe, Abou Cissé. You can see a screenshot of him by clicking the thumbnail below.
A €15k fee was enough to prize him away from ASFA-Yennenga and he’ll move to Turkey with nearly one hundred games of top flight experience. Whereas the Nigerian league was modelled but not loaded, the Burkinabe top flight is neither so I have access to even less statistical stuff. However, Abou appears to be a strong tackler, who breaks up play really well. I was fortunate enough to watch back footage of every game at the African Championship of Nations and have seen this first hand. Whilst his passing for his club team has left a lot to be desired, internationally, he recorded pass completion figures of 93%, 91%, 85% and 82% – getting better as the tournament went on and the pressure increased. With not enough detail to check progressive passing and, to be fair, a huge difference in how we use our DM to how they do, these metrics will be developed over time with us. I want a little more from the Speed and Endurance side of him, making him a bit more all action but he’s pretty well rounded.
That leaves our squad depth chart looking like this:
Whilst I don’t believe, necessarily, in the (previously) star ratings, it’s interesting to see just where we need to be strengthened and where we are looking good at the moment. The three projects of Cisse, Soumare and Adeshina will get minutes – but that is also because, as non-Turks, they can’t play in the youth leagues and academy graduates Ufuk, Resit, Cem, Dunyacan, Sirat and Omercan are all important rotational options and we have the experience of Metehan and Olayowin to boot, too. Still, there are some areas that need looking at and I am continuing the recruitment focuses on these areas, namely and in order of need:
- Right Back
- Left footed Centre Back
- Left Back
Genclerbirligi 0-1 Konyaspor
A bit of a disappointing end to the season as we are officially in bad form. As always, I set up trying to control their playing style and create pressing traps, particularly for Zymer Btyqi, their left winger – however, as has been the case in of late, we couldn’t live with him. Bilic has Konyaspor playing some effective football and, with eight wins in thirteen now, they’ve certainly turned their season around.
Locked in this race with Trabzonspor, Istanbul and Gaziantep for the last European place but I feel that we’ve lost a little bit of momentum. However, I would have bitten your hand off to take eighth place if that was offered at the start of the season.
March sees the chance for maybe four points from three games – hoping for a point on the road to Alanyaspor and a home win over Eyupspor, who, like us, haven’t been troubled by the threat of the drop since promotion – something Adanaspor cannot say.
Alanyaspor 0-2 Genclerbirligi
A nice victory to kick the month off with Tai Sodje finding his scoring boots again and reaching twenty league goals this season, leaving him four ahead of the chasing pack. Emre Belözoğlu want for a possession based system combined with the fact that Alanyaspor aren’t of the quality of the bigger teams meant that I was able to keep them at bay for long periods of time and be threatening on the counter, too.
Another set of youngsters arrived at the club. You can see the full intake by clicking the image below.
Abdulsamet, Rahmi Uzunget, Goksel Karaca and Muzaffer Kalayci are the elite talents from this and, to be fair, look good. They will be monitored closely and join a really strong youth squad, which is definitely showing signs of improvement since I took over. From that squad, I genuinely feel that there are five players who could make the first team at Gencler:
These players will be afforded first team action where possible and will be put on specific, data driven training schedules to improve attributes, personality and in-game ability.
I also have a group of first-team players who I am watching intently.
My plan has always been to use P/R/D and foci that develop the player not practice the role that they play in, hence some quite odd roles above. I wanted Soumaré to improve his work in possession so have set up as a Volante as well as working on his passing. The two greener arrows in Possession training show – to me – that this is being successful so far and his pass completion numbers are greater than what he achieved in Senegal before moving. I have used the notes function for each of these players, as documented previously, to watch attributes as they rise and plateau, moving them around to ensure optimal development.
Genclerbirligi 1-0 Eyupspor
For this one, I decided that an altered shape combined with some specific opposition instructions would help us focus on the potential weakness of their new, 18 year old, centre back, who hasn’t started his career too well. Taking a leaf from @GIMN‘s book, I went with this style for short periods of time, in an attempt to get the upper hand. Cem scored what turned out to be the winner after the positioning created a numerical overload and he slotted it away. From here, I moved back and forwards between the altered shape and the usual shape, in an attempt to confuse the opposition into ‘protecting’ the centre back and sacrificing another player or leaving him a bit more open and vulnerable. Whilst we didn’t manage to score again, we had a fair we good chances to increase our lead.
Whilst I know that my time at Gencler will not last forever, I, at least, want to approach the squad building in a way that leaves the club in a strong and stable position for the long term. We are currently not blessed with the riches that Gala and Fener have, so have to be really quite clever in the recruitment market, as well as making the most of the youngsters at the club, like you can see I am trying to do, above. To further explain my thoughts here, I’ve done a little bit of digging and Excel work to create some things that help justify my points. Firstly, I have looked at all players in the Spor Toto Super Lig – splitting them into either Turkish or non-Turkish.
You can see that, like many underdeveloped leagues, foreign players are ‘more valuable’ and, probably higher in quality. When you look at the likes of the Premier League, Serie A or La Liga, that isn’t the case – but it appears to be so here. Domestic talent makes up the bulk of the squad and the foreign imports are paid more and, largely, are more important, experienced or better. That’s not the case with our squad – our top earner, Olawoyin, is Nigerian, but there are five players between him and the next highest paid player, at some €5k p/m less than this wage. This, for Gencler, obviously comes with reputation, scouting networks and clever recruitment. It’s concerning that the median transfer value for a Turkish player starts at nearly double our transfer budget and the the average wage for a non-Turk in this league is nearly four times that of our highest earner. We have to be so smart when recruiting this summer.
To help assist with this, I’ve done something that I’ve seen on these boards before and tried to create a hierarchy of importance of roles – with green being most important to the side and red, least.
- Sweeper Keeper – I need a player who can not only stop shots but also assist in the transitional play with long throws or accurate kicks as well as coming out to sweep up, given our high line.
- Ball Playing Defender – A player who can either progress the ball with his feet or through a vertical pass is essential but this role must also be capable defensively, winning aerial duels as well as intercepting, blocking and tackling.
- Holding Midfielder – This role really sets us up defensively and offensively and will largely be given pockets of space where he will need to create things from but must be just as good recovering the ball as the man ‘in between’ the quite tight defensive banks.
- Attacking Midfielder – A player who can receive the ball a bit deeper than the other midfielder and drive, or pass, his way through into the dangerous Zone 14 and beyond. He must also have an eye for goal.
- Forward – A player who can work just as hard off the ball as he does on it. Pretty much the only attacker who presses hard but also must be able to move off the ball to create space and overloads as well as being able to get in behind and finish as well as win chances from crosses.
You can see that, essentially, these players are essential for multiple areas of our play.
- Inverted Wing Backs – Players that progress the ball forwards either through passes and dribbles as well as being part of the structured defence.
- Central Defender – A player that progress the ball forwards through passes but is mainly in the team to be part of the structured defence, winning headers and tackles as well as intercepting and making blocks.
- Attacking Central Winger – The Mezzala is in charge of creating overloads and giving a hand in the creating and scoring of goals.
These players have one more defined area but are also needed to assist in others.
- Wide Midfielders – Players who hold their width and are tasked with creating progressive passes into central areas.
These players are pretty much given one task to complete in the team.
To then further my thoughts on whether these players need to come from cheaper Turkish markets or more expensive foreign markets, I dove into some data for some players. Below is the attribute analysis of 78 players across Turkish main, U21, U20, U19 and U18 squads, listing the top five attributes, on average, for each area.
What I’m seeing here are goalkeepers that are more likely to be shot stoppers than distributors, defenders who are pretty one-dimension, very technical midfield players – albeit lacking a little in terms of end product – and fast, nippy strikers who can get in behind, even if they aren’t quite confident with what to do once they are there. Whilst there are, obviously, exceptions to these rules, I think that – if nothing else – allows me greater clarity in my expectations for finding certain types of players in Turkey. I doubt, for example, that there’ll be a ready made ball playing defender knocking about that can come in, for my budget, and start games as well sa getting good enough to sell for enormous profit. But there might be somewhere abroad. The same can be said for a true Sweeper Keeper and an all-round Defensive Midfielder. However, pacey wingers and tough centre backs could be a little easier to locate and source, using statistical analysis, locally.
I know I have a long way to go until I reach the likes of Altinordu – whose top players are all young and are all academy players but, if I can get the recruitment right – at experienced and youth level, as well as developing the players, monitoring them closely, I think I can continue to overachieve here.
Fenerbahce 2-1 Genclerbirligi
Fener get their revenge.
There is something so wonderful to see what we can do with our (lack of) possession, especially when you compare the possession stats to the rest of the league. The correlation between amount of the ball and success is quite clear here but I’m so happy that we’re bucking that trend. Granted, this one didn’t work but we were more dangerous than Fener throughout and had some really good chances. Furthermore, when we pulled it back to 2-1, they had no answer to our counter-attacking player and we really should have levelled the game late on.
Ismailia Coulibaly netted his tenth goal of an incredibly successful debut season so I wanted to dive into his stats a bit more. Below is the combined goals and assists, as well as expected goals and assists, sorted by percentile value across every player in this league with over 1,000 minutes.
Tai, as top scorer, is obviously but has also created three goals too this season, cementing his place right at the top of this league. It’s then great to see that I have three great creators in Coulibaly, Cem and Sidibe but, what makes that even better is that the Malian is also a fantastic scorer, too. Just looking at this raw data would (rightly) suggest that Ibrahim Olawoyin is underperforming, when compared to the lad that players on the other wing, Sidibe. A bit of recruitment that I probably got wrong – especially affording him the highest wage in the team…
I truly think that Ismaila is an inspired signing so decided to dig a little deeper and look at players who appear in the top 10% of both goals per game and assists per game in the Turkish top flight.
He sits in a very elite place with only Kevin Varga and Ozgur Demir for company. In fact, if I was to look at the Big 5 leagues, plus Portugal and Turkey, he’s not far off joining an even more elite group. Looking back, this is how I framed the justification of his signing:
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.
Looking back at a small number of games, really digging in to identify his style but looking at more than just outright G/A – he’d scored eleven times in 102 games prior to this season, not recording a single assist but, as I noted, was good at dribbling and progressing the ball. I think that this must go down as my finest, ever, statistical driven purchase and one that really sets the tone for being able to distinguish between signings that are in the first team and playing thousands of minutes a year and those that are not, as I’ve always struggled with the second option.
Six points from nine is more than the four I’d predicted and keeps us well in the fight, with Besiktas falling apart at the moment. It is also wonderful to see that Hatayspor, predicted no more than a mid-table team, still holding firm, although Fener have just overtaken them as they have hit a bit of a rich vein of form.
The coming five games, three of which are in April, are tough. I’d like to take six points from the first two and then it’s just about hoping to get something from the last three…
When you look at the number of players that have made the grade from the academy, below, you can see it’s still considerably lower than that of Altinordu, whose model we are very much trying to replicate.
Whilst I won’t be here in ten years time, I want the philosophy of the importance of the academy to be completed embedded and remain production of top quality young talents. Even the way that the youth leagues are set up:
Makes development of talent (and not just a place for match fitness for returning players or a hoard for foreign youth) really important and I hope we see the impact of that down the line.
Ever since Christmas, I’ve been dealing with a pretty horrific bud – one that seems to be going round everywhere at the moment – so this update is very short as I currently lack the concentration skills to dig a little deeper into writing and explaining.
Altinordu 0-3 Genclerbirligi
Despite an injured goalkeeper, we absolutely battered Altinordu, with goals from Tai Sodje, Ali Keten and an own goal from their centre back.
Genclerbirligi 3-0 Adanaspor
We all but relegated Adanaspor thanks to another concise victory, this time with goals coming from Soumaré – his first for the club, Olawoyin and Tai Sodje, again.
Between fixtures, I have been working to get the best young coaches possible at the club, knowing that the impact good personalities and like minded individuals can have on the early development of players. My job is to now ensure that they work hard to achieve their coaching qualifications and reach their potential as coaches, with any spots opening up at the senior level being run past them, first.
Galatasaray 1-0 Gençlerbirliği
We lost it at the absolute death but, despite giving Gala the title, worked them so incredibly hard for it. I watched on – slightly too ill to process a lot of what has happened – but happy with how far our playing style and squad building has come.
Four games to go and we’re not far off. I worry about Besiktas as, on paper, they’re the strongest side in this little battle for fourth and fifth. I also genuinely hope Hatayspor, our next opponents, can maintain their form and finish third after performing so well all season.
Genclerbirligi 3-0 Hatayspor
Poor Hatayspor – their season is falling apart and we demolished them! Tai Sodje with a hattrick as we restricted them to just two low quality shots from the twenty-seventh minute onwards thanks to a high line and low block giving their winger and master creator Kevin Varga no space to operate. It was another tactical victory for us in that sense.
With Turkey not qualifying for the World Cup, it’s my two African lads who are added to the preliminary squads – both of whom are there on as a reward for their great form this season.
Istanbul Basaksehir 0-0 Gençlerbirliği
In the past 180 minutes, we’ve barely touched the football yet haven’t conceded a goal! We did exactly what I had intended, and what has played out so well across the season – sitting back, pressing through pretty much only Sodje, man marking their marauding full backs, sitting high up the pitch in two banks of four with Gokhan Gul patrolling between. I’m delighted with how we can get results against big teams by doing this – and the next job is to make ourselves a little more clinical when we get the opportunity to go forward.
Nigerian attacking options means that I am not too surprised that Sodje didn’t get the call. However, I now have plans for June and July…
Genclerbirligi 4-1 Gaziantep
Gaziantep are a little frail and, as such, I went out for the kill straight off and was rewarded with a second minute penalty, that Mendy put away. Coulibaly, Omercan and Dunyacan scored the others as we ran riot in a game where we actually had the lion’s share of the ball. I was greeted by a somewhat confusing headline though…
I know nothing about this! Ankaragucu are moving stadium (even though Wiki says it’ll actually hold just 20k) and I presume that means we are moving too? Who knows!
Kasimpasa 0-3 Genclerbirligi
We end the season in fine form with a double from Ismaili and a goal from Cem Bilgin. Kasimpasa had no answer for our swift counter attacking play and we round the season off on a high.
We gave it everything we had but, in the end, came up just short! However, solace my come in that we may actually qualify in the end due to the league place ruling over the cup, but I’m certainly not holding out hope and I am in no way disappointed that we’ve missed out, given the context of our rise through the leagues. We end the season as top scorers and with the best defence, winning 50% of our games – more than the combined total of the other two teams who came up. Our style is completely embedded and we are in a strong position to push on in the future. I expect Besiktas to come back with some kind of vengeance next year but also could see Hatayspor struggle if their one season of success was not built on strong foundations.
Ubeyd has been good, there is no doubt about that. With 50% of his appearances ending in clean sheets, he’s a really good shot stopper and has done pretty much what is expected of him. However, I can’t help but feel that we could upgrade him in terms of his ball playing ability. Whilst he completed three quarters of his passes, only two of them progress the ball a significant way up the pitch, showing that, largely, these passes are just short balls to the centre backs. I want a keeper who can assist in the transition phase of a counter attack by playing long balls – kicked or thrown – into dangerous areas. Judging by the work I did looking at the attribute balance of keepers, I feel that I am unlikely to get my ball-player from Turkey and will have to spread my net further afield to snag an improvement.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the defensive side of my squad, even if they’ve not rated as highly as in previous years. There will be an element of change here as Mert Kula will see out his contract and Taylan Duman will be sold. Overall, the entire area of defenders are lacking a little in their passing ability and I feel that this is something that I need to address; Ali Keten is a ball player but probably not at the required level and Soumaré hasn’t had the best start to his career but I’m sure will grow into the role a little.
Another area that will see some change with Ahmet Tunc not being up to the required level, Serkan Odabasioglu moving at the end of his deal and an enforced sale in Alassane Sidibe. Despite being a top performer, his wage demands are over 4x that of my current highest earner and I simply cannot afford them, nor can I allow him to move on for free as whatever I can raise from this sale will fund any transfer activity over the summer. Coulibaly has absolutely excelled and ends with twenty-two goal contributions this season with Cem Bilgin notching a further twelve in another strong showing for my aggressive central midfielders. Injury hit seasons prevented Dunyacan Copur and Emirhan from properly cementing themselves in the first team whilst I was somewhat disappointed with the output of Olawoyin – my highest paid player. In positive news, youngsters Sirat Keceli looks strong, mainly from the bench, and will surely go on to have a good career with us.
Omercan missed a lot of the season due to injury but it’s been all about Tai Sodje, who has fifty goals in his first fifty-eight appearances, ending with twenty-five league goals this season, topping the charts by seven goals. Sodje has scored goals at an elite rate this season and the interest in him is coming, largely from second tier clubs, giving me hope that I can keep hold of him in future. I didn’t get to see much of new recruit Adeshina but hopefully he’ll grow into some game time next year.
I’ve done a little bit of work on the recruitment side ready for when the window opens part way through June. Here are my initial thoughts:
Transfer Target #1:
I see Emre (click on the image for a full view of his profile) as a real sign of intent – a capped Turkish international in the peak of his career. However, that comes with a provisor. Emre has been frozen out at Fenerbahce and I’ve seen on the news screen that he’s actually missed training seven times this year and comes with just two substitute appearances to his name this season – two huge red flags in the normal recruitment process that I use. However, there is so much talent and that is evident looking at the fourteen appearances he made last season at Fener – in the chart above. Compared to all Super Lig offensive midfielders, he’s ranked really high in chances, key passes and dribbles, setting up a goal on average every five games. Looking back at his statistical output over the past three years is also strong and, probably, explains that he’s been frozen out because he no longer ways to play at Fener, rather than they have outgrown him, as he’s improved year on year.
Here, I have compared his output from the 2024/25 season with Alassane Sidibe’s from this year:
I know that they are a level above us in terms of quality but I really feel that they missed a trick when utilising this tricky winger – playing him far too far forward to utilise his elite Agility and Ball Control skills, limiting the sprints and dribbles he could make.
The most important part of this, though, is the financial impact it will have. With Sidibe’s €56k p/m wage demands, I’ve managed to get Emre to accept a basic wage of a little under €20k p/m – just €5k per week. Over the course of the season, that basic wage amounts to around €240k, just one win and one draw would pay for this and be hugely offset by the money raised from the Sidibe sale and the ~€120k p/a on wages. Whilst that goes against the ethos I underlined earlier in the season in terms of the lowest ability players being my wingers and now will end up having my two top earners (Olawoyin and Emre) as my two top earners, I think it’s part of the process of improving the team. As I said, we are not in a position where we can let Sidibe play out his contract and need that money so I think that this is the best way of reinvesting.
Transfer Target #2:
Amine Adli (again, link to his profile is from clickable image) is a player who I’ve had my eyes on for some time now and he actually played a few games for our youth sides in non-competitive friendlies whilst on a couple of trials at the club. Hailing from the Toulouse academy, he moved to Bayer Leverkusen for €8m and forty-three Bundesliga appearances to his name. He spent the entirety of last season out on loan at second tier Bochum, which produced the above statistical outputs. More than one good chance every other game and an assist every four games would be perfect for us in a midfield comprised of Coulibaly, Cem and Dunyacan. He’s also consistent and would settle in to a new country pretty well so feels quite a low risk deal for us.
Transfer Target #3:
Nothing cemented here but I’ve sent out some scouts and analysts to see what they can find and I’ve added a few interesting players to a shortlist for further investigation:
Transfer Target #4:
Left footed centre back. I’ve got scouts out but not got a lot back, yet…
Building on the financial aspect of the save, I have confirmed two departures: Alassane Sidibe’s €4m move to German side Augsburg and Taylan Duman’s €250k deal to Kayserispor but was able to reject a mammoth €9.25m deal for Tai Sodje thanks to the great rapport we have. Sadly, if he does become unsettled, this is the kind of sum that just couldn’t be turned down. I wasn’t happy with the sale of Sidibe, but, as I’ve said, there was no way of keeping him and the €4m can directly be reinvested, along with new sponsorship deals, into strengthening the squad through transfer budget or wage budget.
I think we’re in a really decent place now but July will tell me whether this club really has ambitions of becoming a quality team or whether this may be the ceiling that I knew I’d reach sometime and next season will be about finding the next step…