January 2027

Istanbul Basaksehir 2-1 Trabzonspor

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Not the start to 2027 that I had wanted. December was tough on the legs and that was quite evident here as I felt that we were very sluggish in our player, particularly those fast counters that we are renowned for. However, I felt that we did enough to secure the point but going into the break two down was a killer for morale. Enis Destan scored late on but we didn’t have enough in the locker to form a full fightback.

I also had some even worse news to end the week:

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I knew it was coming and, to be fair, had braced for the sheer disappointment of losing my best striker for the second time in my career. Sadly, his contractual terms once the release clause was met were way out of my range but, at least his destination was to be RB Leipzig and not the bench in Paris. He will, however, have to replace Musa Barrow or Benjamin Sesko to get first team football at the German side. Last but not least, I then got stung with the clause that I added myself! From a sentimental perspective, I have no issues with the near €9m that Gencler have now received for Melih and, to be fair, have no intentions of splashing huge amounts of cash here at Trabzon anyway, as, initially at least, my style will be all about low valued diamonds in the rough and selling players for profit. If that turns to buying players for a similar amount as this deal and then moving them on for profit in future, then so be it, but don’t expect crazy deals now.

As demonstrated by two free transfers to kick off my recruitment drive which is most unlike me for the January window as I tend to prefer a more settled squad.

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First up is Massa (a reminder that all player profile thumbnails in this post and, to be fair, each one I make, are clickable and take you to their full profile) who has arrived on a free from his native Mali. A decent start to his career at club and international level and a rave review from the scouting team in terms of his potential to improve. He’s likely to spend the remainder of the season with my youth side but, as he’s ineligible for competitive fixtures, will move out on loan abroad next year once I have a better handle on his development plans.

Next in is Seydou Traore from Ivorian side RC Abidjan in an attempt to fill the hole left by Melih Demir. A quick note on that you’ll never see him and Therence Koudou in the same room, as I stole his image from Transfermarket in order to create a NewGAN face with slightly more variance than the normal ethnic African faces. I wanted a quite rounded forward who can improve and he seems to fit that bill, also being good enough to hit the ground running immediately. Whilst not lightning quick, our style involves creating spaces for our attackers to exploit rather than purely running in behind their defence and I think his pretty decent Agility and Movement will be of benefit. I’ve set up a mentoring group in an attempt to get him into a core social group as the option wasn’t available (or I missed it) when he joined: however, it appears that this may not work too well.

In terms of his historical ability, he’s scored at around a goal in three but, as you can see below, has recorded an elite level conversion rate and is scoring at nearly one in two. His shots, however, are quite low xG – suggesting he’s probably been played a little deeper and further from the goal.

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Obviously, these are from the Ivorian Ligue 1 – a significant step down from our level. However, it’s part and parcel of the risks I take with this level of recruitment as it’s unlikely I’ll be finding an established player in the top league who I can sign under the radar for a small fee.

Genclerbirligi 1-1 Trabzonspor

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I actually created a really strong side.

Erol Bulut plays in a slightly different fashion to how I did, favouring a more possession based high pressing system but it works for the squad I’d assembled. They took the lead as we failed to mark Olawoyin tight enough and Mendy was able to deliver a pinpoint cross to the far post. I tried a few different options in order to peg them back but it was left to substitute Seydou Traore, on for a twelve minute debut to save ourselves as he found some space in the box to slot in from close range. The dream debut as he literally did the exact thing that I wanted him to do when looking for a striker. One move, one shot, one goal. Perfect!

Straight back onto the recruitment drive with the recruitment team tabling and completing a €3.5m bid for Altinordu youngster Kagan Yalcin. Originally, I wanted to think about him in the longer term but, looking at his outputs at this level, I feel that he can perform now.

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It’s one of those really interesting ones that requires a deeper look. No goals and no assists this season however he’s created 2.22 non-Pen xG but that comes from a succession of low xG shots, probably from some distance out. He’s also created a huge 3.24 xA but is clearly playing with forwards who have struggled to found the net and this has, somewhat annoyingly (but not for me) led to a relatively low average rating. Despite this, he absolutely excels at ball progression – either with the ball at his feet (the top dribbler in the league) or through a really high number of progressive passes for a player in the area that he plays in.

In terms of his attributes, you can probably see why he hasn’t scored – his final third and shooting ability probably isn’t where it should be for this level but he’s young, has space to develop and excels with the ball at his feet. My staff have commented on his consistency, ability to fit into the dressing room and his potential ability. I know that this is a substantial sum of money for a Turkish team but there is a really quality player in here.

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A cheaper option with a bid of just under €200k on the table is left sided winger Emir Bars. The PSV youngster spent last season on loan at Antalyaspor in the second tier as in loan in Belgium right now at Cercle Brugge, who are fifteenth in the Jupiler Pro League. Despite playing for two struggling sides, he’s been excellent in both seasons at doing what I want my wide men to do – cross, dribble and create. He’s very similar to Kagan in terms of his Shooting and Final Third ability as well being truly excellent with the ball at his feet as well as quick off the mark and really agile. Another consistent performer too but will need to be carefully integrated into the team.

The youngster has made just one appearance in the top flight – a couple of years back for PSV – but, one he’s comfortable in the midfield strata, could form a formidable pairing with Kagan (Emir on left and Kagan on right). This is the kind of deal that really typifies what I’m trying to achieve in terms of my recruitment – I just hope he has the required quality.

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Searching for a bit of an all-round midfielder brought me to Mevlut, who my team are currently working on a €230k bid for from second tier Antalyaspor. Has spent two years in the second tier but has nearly fifty top flight appearances with the club and, in a team occupying a relegation spot, has been the sides main chance creator and orchestrator. Well rounded, consistent (notice a pattern here?) enjoys big matches and likely to fit nicely into the team – the signing feels like a no-brainer given that he’s already good enough to play at this level.

Trabzonspor 5-1 Qarabag

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Our European drought is finally broken as we move up to 17th in this ridiculous group!

Marko Pjaca scored a great hattrick and his first came from some rarely seen animations as he rounded the keeper before slotting in. He netted again before Oguz Kilic helped himself to two goals – taking his record to five goals in 7(3) appearances for me this season, justifying his chance to replace Enis Bardhi. We, of course, had to make a small mess and this time we conceded a late penalty to stop the chance of a win combined with a clean sheet. Nevertheless, it’s great to see Marko firing again as that now gives me a nice Pjaca – Traore – Emre shaped headache up front and reduces the sadness at losing Melih…

Trabzonspor 3-0 Eyüpspor

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Kagan Yalcin amassed exactly zero assists for Altinordu this year but it took him just twenty seven minutes to rack up two on his debut for us.

There was some beautiful interplay between Kagan and Mostovoy to score the first goal before he was at it again with a mazey run and low cross that was turned in by Seydou Traore, who, again, found space to tuck it away. The third was a carbon copy of the second but Mezzala Koba delivered the ball. Very pleasing performance where Emir Bars and Mevlut Han Ekelik were also given debuts.

Napoli 1-0 Trabzonspor

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Beaten comfortably by a much stronger team than ours. However, we absolutely held our own and stopped them creating too much of real danger. I believe that we have now qualified for an additional two games to see whether we qualify for the knockout stages or not – in essentially a pre-knockout knockout round…

Sivasspor 0-1 Trabzonspor

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A pretty terrible performance to end the month but three points is important. I know what they say too about getting three points when you’re not playing well…

I have also added two new signings, who will come in the summer on free transfers…

 

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I’m delighted at picking up a player, for free, who is excelling out on loan and also opening up a new recruitment category – those not playing right now but who could do so out on loan. Felix belongs to Wolfsburg but has played ten times in four years and that would normally rule him out but he’s a player who has an attribute spread, traits and a personality that I like – consistent, adaptable and enjoys big matches so to watch him get minutes, even at a lower level, really validates him as a player. In terms of his metrics – like Kagan before him, he’s created a huge amount of xA – 5.21 to be precise – yet his team mates have failed to find the net with any of these passes and it’s really no surprise that they’re in the drop zone of the 2.Bundesliga. I think he could be a good player for us as either a wide man or a creative forward.

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Now a full Angolan international, Angel Gomes is a man who I’ve read a lot about as he broke into the Man Utd team, breaking all kinds of records but then seemingly disappearing off the radar and moving to France with Lille. I must say that I’m not knowledgeable enough to know whether this was a Ravel Morrison kind of thing or he just wanted first team football but the lad is back in England, in his third Championship season with Stoke. He is yet another player that my scouting team believe to be consistent, adaptable and enjoys big matches and his statistical output is strong this year for a Stoke side chasing the playoffs. Dribbles, key passes and assists have been strong for him and he’s hugely underperforming his xG, meaning that, with some hopefully clever managerial work, he can begin to find the net a bit more, too.

That leaves my squad looking something like this for June onwards…

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Whilst I pretty much completely ignore the star ratings, they’re a decent barometer of the overall quality we have in the squad. The recruitment focuses will now shift to a left footed centre back, a goalkeeper and two holding midfielders, which will then allow the more attacking minded Gomes to flourish ahead of him. The summer window will allow me to oversee the sales of Ronnow (expiring contract), Pedro Henrique (expiring contract), Pedro Ganchas, Mateus Uribe (expiring contract), Marko Pjaca (maybe – depending on how he fares this season) and Koba – hopefully raising a bit of money to recruit wisely.

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January is a tough old month!

Six competitive games plus, given my relatively recent takeover, quite a frantic transfer market means this update is again nearing three thousand words and I’ve spent a lot of time in front of FM over the past few days. However, the league is really turning into a five-horse race with Gala back to the top after they overcame Gencler a couple of match weeks back. However, I can’t write of Fener or Istanbul as the latter has beaten me with month. Poor old Besiktas have fallen off and sit on just a bit more than half the points the leaders have in what is a huge fall from grace for them.

February looks like it’ll be chaotic too as these five fixtures will be added to by the Europa League Knockout Playoff Round – whatever that means! It appears that it’ll be drawn at random from these teams so I could be facing anyone from Monaco to Lazio and Sevilla right down to the likes of Dnipro-1, who I want revenge against, or Legia – although there’ll be no easy ties at all.

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February 2027

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I can’t say that I’m too happy with this as I was only following rules that the UEFA sets out! If the previous manager hadn’t decided to omit a lot of the best players, I’d have not needed to use all the spaces on re-adding them back in! However, our draw is in:

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The thumbnail will take you to the full draw. Tough but every opponent at this level will be.

Trabzonspor 3-0 Fenerbahce

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Lessons learnt and game plans executed to perfection as we progress in the Turkiye Kupasi Sixth Round. Last time out, Daniel Podence caused us all kinds of problems – so I sacrificed the offensive prowess of Kagan Yalcin and went for a DW(s) and full back Carles Soria ahead of a IWB(d) behind him. I then set about closing some passing lanes, noticing that the build up is largely between the left centre back, DM and Podence out on the left wing. Traore had the ball in the net after just three minutes but was adjusted offside although made up for it just seven minutes later as a Mostovoy cross fell nicely to him. Henrique nodded in from a Mostovoy corner in the second half before Seydou added his second thanks to a delightful through ball from Mevlut, making his debut a a late substitute.

Considering the form that Fener are in, this is a great win.

Trabzonspor 1-2 Galatasaray

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Just three days between fixtures and I think the performance and effort we put in took its toll as we faded to defeat, handing the advantage back to Gala in the title chase. With Pjaca injured – again – I was forced to field Traore and he opened the scoring inside nine minutes with a lovely low drive, but that was, to be fair, against the run of play as we had started really sluggishly and I worried about our ability to perform at all in the game. Things were looking ok – our chances were fewer and farer between than Gala’s but, overall, higher quality as we carved them open whereas the tended to shoot from further out, not attempting to bypass our defence as much. We kept the ball better – something that I’d instructed given the fatigue and how that wouldn’t be beneficial for too much off the ball work, but, as we entered the last quarter, we faded badly allowing Jonathan Rodriguez in twice to score.

Trabzonspor 1-1 Marseille

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A great performance in the first leg of the Knockout Round Playoff and a draw snatched at the death but I am pessimistic for the return leg as a trip to France on already tired legs will be tough.

Seydou scored late on and could have had a hatful as we produced some really strong chances. The reaction to their early goal was great as we set ourselves and immediately got back into the game. For some reason, I’m not getting pass maps for any games, so all of my work is either guess work, watching previous games myself or waiting until half time (or earlier if I see I can see it clearly) to act upon things. This time, I got it right. In a 5-1-2-2 shape, their midfield triangle of Gerson, Dahoud and Boubakary Soumare was hungry for possession but quite easy to contain, even if it stopped us utilising the full extent of our midfield’s attacking prowess. A goal at the death gives us hope but it’ll be a tough task.

Adana Demirspor 0-2 Trabzonspor

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Very sloppy performance but one that brought us three points.

We opened the scoring after a Tamrak shot was blocked but, as the keeper had already committed to the dive, Mevlut Hun was left with a simple tap in to take his February to 1G+1A – a sign return as he finds his feet at this level. The second was made by Kagar Yalcin, whose tally of three assists in his time here has really impressed me laid on Ahmet Tamrak for his fifth of the season – another player who has come on leaps and bounds under my stewardship. From there, it was all about attempting to rest tired legs see the game out with minimal disruption – but what actually happened was quite a poor defensive display, littered with unnecessary turnovers at the back, something that we’re usually pretty good at avoiding.

Marseille 2-0 Trabzonspor

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Marseille beat us tactically here!

They switched from what I felt was an AP-CM ish combo to almost certainly a double Mez behind two really creative strikers and we just couldn’t deal with it. There is no shame in losing to a team of their quality and we did have our chances although were comfortably second best on the night. The European run is over but there are more pressing issues to resolve at home…

Trabzonspor 3-0 Alanyaspor

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Back to winning ways thanks three new players: Emir Bars, Mevlut Han Ekelik and Massa Outtara, scoring after coming on for his debut. Alanyaspor had been in great form but we controlled the match and left them with just a couple of low xG shots to show for all of their possession.

I’ve also looked at ways to combat the DM issue ready for the summer.

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Pape joins on trial after leaving Spurs at the start of the month. He’s barely had a kick for them but fits the mould as an all-round midfielder. I will take a look at him during the trial and see if he’s the kind of player that could kick on alter in his career given the lack of chance to do so earlier on, following his big money move from France. Also being scouted is a Turkish international, Ozan Tufan.

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Tufan is playing at Hull in the Championship right now and fits the bill as a more tenacious defensive midfielder. His contract is expiring but I envisage some issue in terms of the demands he’ll want, especially for a man nearing the end of his career. I will continue to monitor, observe and watch though.

Trabzonspor 2-0 Gaziantep

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Seydou Traore, taking his tally to nine in nine, opened the scoring before Matheus Uribe doubled our lead from the softest penalty I think I have ever seen VAR not overturn. Gaziantep had little to say as we kept the momentum high going into March.

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The league has really opened up again – with Istanbul hitting a tough spell and Alanyaspor now not winning in three, stopping it becoming a top 6. Gala have pulled away a little and Gencler have dropped back a little even though they’ve stayed unbeaten. It’s going to be a superb run in over the next ten games and whoever wins the league will have truly deserved it…

Our next few fixtures are quite kind as I look to progress in the cup and take on three mid-table sides, meeting Slaven Bilic again as he hopes we don’t come away with another 6-0 win.

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March 2027

Ankara 0-1 Trabzonspor

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Our youth made really hard work on a cup tie against second tier opposition but we made it, eventually. A very young squad was selected as it was a lose/lose really for us – a win would see at least another two games in this hectic schedule and a defeat would surely upset a board who are not being too forthcoming with anything – rejecting advances for more coaches and improved youth facilities.

Seydou Traore scored early in the second period of extra time in a game that was, essentially, one way traffic.

I thought it’d be a good time to quickly revisit the five January signings and think about my plans for what needs to be done in the summer:

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It’s telling that the top three on that list, sorted by Average Rating, are also the top three when sorting the whole squad by Average Rating, such is the instant success they have had. I don’t want to be a one man team but it certainly feels that this shape really gives opportunities for my striker to flourish: Demir, Sodje, Karamoko, Demir again and now Seydou have all been the most consistent scorers and it’s great to see. Seydou doesn’t really contribute a lot else but that is fine – he’s the goalscorer in this shape and has started fantastically. @GIMN‘s pick, Mevlut Han, has shown I was right to put my faith into him in a more advanced position, creating  over a chance a game and contributing to a total of four goals since his arrival. Kagan and Emir have been great on the wing too – their stats for dribbles and progressive passes would put them at the top of the league if they’d played enough minutes to be included. There is evidence that @Sonic Youth was spot on about their Decision making, but if I can develop that in them and get them fully used to the tactical approach, then I think that making a good decision 60/70% of the time will suffice, given the number of opportunities they’re being presented. Ouattara has made little impact but that’s fine as it was never going to be a short term deal – I think he’ll find some loan football next year and I will re-assess.

That leaves a relatively short list for what I want, with the luxury of already completing two of them.

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Gomes and Nmecha will provide some good depth to this team and I look forward to seeing how they adapt after moving up from the second tier of their countries. I would like to add two defensive midfielders and I think Sarr and Ozan, both previously detailed, could be good there although their wage demands (have since asked Sarr as he’s on trial and it’s around €14k p/w) will be towards the top end of my squad. I desperately need a new keeper and I also need a Turkish keeper so moving for someone like Mustafa would hit both of those – it’s just negotiating a sensible price for a young and quite raw keeper. Lastly, I want to go big with someone like Bright Arrey-Mbi, who’s currently topping the 2.Bundesliga with Hannover. He’s a top ball playing defender and, should we qualify for the Champions League next year, could provide that extra quality we’ll need.

My intention is to make this as realistic as I can by proposing a list, sorted in order of preference, to my DoF, who will the conduct the transfer and contract negotiations. I may not get my man, but I’ll get one of a few that I’ve identified and I can easily see that, if we’re down to negotiating with fourth of fifth choice, then the parameters need to change.

Samsunspor 1-1 Trabzonspor

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Could the last kick of the game, Samsunspor’s first shot on target, be the one that costs us the title?

We were in control and doing everything right – bar score more goals – but a lapse of concentration and, just like that, they’re back in it. A combination of tired legs from a tough season and, given our absolute control of the game, an unwillingness to slow the game down and go defensive has caught us out here. Seydou Traore moves to eleven in eleven with another goal but could, and probably should have had a hatful.

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Mehmet Gencerler has fired our U19 team to a fantastic spot in the Turkish Elite youth league as I look to build a club culture and, for however long I’m in Trabzon, develop and give pathways to young players. But there is more than that and I’m taken a really keen, forensic eye on the youth players this season in order to develop my understanding of how attributes grow in the youth team through training. Currently, the schedule I am running can be seen below. I encourage all of the youngsters to train together but also spend a little bit of time getting them tactically familiar with my style so that they can come into the first team when possible. I won’t bore you with the numbers, but I’ve compared attributes at the point of my takeover and the in-game date and looked at where the biggest areas of growth have been. Here are the top five:

  • Agility
  • Strength
  • Off the Ball
  • Decisions
  • Stamina

What is clear is that physical attributes are growing very quickly and, to be fair, that’s to be expected. But, maybe more concerningly is the lack of any technical attributes on the list. Whilst I really only favour First Touch and Technique as part of my ‘DNA’ – I need to address this and will look to make changes to how this schedule runs next season, probably removing some of the Match Prep and the Physical session.

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I also tracked the players too to see who had progressed and was amazed to see the progressions of both Ali Inal and Batuhan Kaya. The former, whilst not being at the same level as some of the other players, has grown massively across all areas and the latter is of real interest to me. I am contemplating move Batuhan to a left back role: too weak to be a destroyer in the DM role but not quite speedy and agile enough to play as an attacking minded centre mid. I think that rounding out his Positioning skills will be easier than increasing his Physicality and who doesn’t love an overly technical, two-footed false full back?! Lastly, Alpaslan Kaya has come on so much that the staff actually think he’s good enough to be in the squad now, not even just getting the odd minute here and there. An absolute credit to the work he’s put in this season.

Why the focus on youth players? Because this just happened…

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Wow!

Click the image to see the full intake and then take a peak at three truly elite talents: Umit Demir, probably the first man I’ve ever had through an intake in the top flight who could walk into the first team squad and Rasit Kopuz and Efekan Leblebici, two young forwards who fit my style down to a tee! I’m going to use the WP(a) schedule for Umit in order to try and increase his on-the-ball stuff, knowing that he already has a huge amount of pace and, judging by the numbers from this season, they will increase naturally without too much extra effort. I’ll also work on his Crossing through an additional focus and I expect he’ll get some minutes very soon, maybe even this season. Efekan is a little weaker than Rasit in terms of technical ability so will use the DLF(s) schedule whilst Rasit will use the PF(a) in order to hit some key mental attributes. The only negative is the lack of a goalkeeper with any type of quality as we currently don’t have one at the club. I will ensure that I spend a little bit of time trying to recruit a youngster over the summer, if for nothing else but to secure better performances and, as such, better development for the youngsters.

The optimist in me could see a first team consisting of the following academy graduates in a matter of years:

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I haven’t looked around yet but I would put money on saying that I have the best Turkish players born in both 2010 and 2011 right here in that screenshot in Umit Demir and Batuhan Kaya. This is not bad for a club that hasn’t – to my knowledge – put much into developing their youth team players. The intention is to work around the model that Altinordu have (not with just Turks) and reduce the average age of the squads. Below you can see the comparative ages of the squads and I hope to be able to reduce our average age considerably over the coming years, creating a brand of football that fits with the ideology of younger, well recruited and developed players.

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Konyaspor 1-3 Trabzonspor

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A beautifully placed free kick to open the scoring and a wonderful show of his full range of vision set Mevlut Han Ekelik up to earn his second PoTM in Trabzon colours. Our second goal came through a penalty and, just a matter of minutes after coming on, I decided to let Batuahan Kaya take it, thus becoming our youngest ever goalscorer. I envisage that another record will be broken in the next game as Umit Demir only missed out on this squad due to a really low condition following a youth game. We were beaten by a ball over the top as Konya looked to try and mount a comeback but, in the end they didn’t have enough and Oguz Kilic prodded home with the outside of his boot from a really tight angle late on to cement the victory.

Trabzonspor 3-1 Altınordu

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This time, Umit Demir was able to become the youngest debutant and, if my figures are correct, the thirty-ninth player to play for us this season as we recovered from a shock half time scoreline to take the points against Altinordu. We went behind as we failed to clear and they poked in a really soft goal – one of those where I found it really hard to see anything I actually liked in that phase of play. From there, they literally shut up shop and made it hard for us – which they did pretty well. You can see the xG story going up in small steps, such was the quality of our shots. However, three second half goals: Tamrak nodding in as Seydou Traore turned creator before both centre backs, Gonzalez and Henrique, got in the act from corners to make the scoreline go somewhere near a reflection of our dominance.

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It’s all hotting up but we travel to the northern side, the Asian side, of the Bosphorus in just ten days to take on our massive rivals, Fenerbahce, in what will likely determine the team that finishes second. If we win, we are at an advantage as we can then afford to lose later in the season as our head to head record will be equal and our GD will be superior. A cup tie against Gencler comes just before a tough tie against Besiktas who surely cannot continue as badly as they have been in future years.

Looking at the player stats makes me happy to see that a) Melih was so good that he still remains there after just half a season and b) that there are two prominent Gencler players, Emre and Karamoko, present.

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In some further reading for those interested – I have been looking into a few things related to Trabzonspor. I came across this image which seems to be quantify what I’d previously read about my own team, Aston Villa, and their relationship with Trabzonspor as this is Steve Stride, a once Managing Director, holding a Trabzonspor shirt, with the number 61 on. I looked further at the number 61, and, when registering the shirt number of Umit Demir, saw that it was actually retired in honour of Gökdeniz Karadeniz, who played over 200 games for the club and it also appears that this number is pretty synonymous with players who have moved on from the club and hold it in high regards.

I will also spend a bit of time watching this documentary on their title winning season that I found on YouTube!

April 2027

Fenerbahce 0-0 Trabzonspor

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A really strange game for us and we end our season with a draw and defeat against, arguably, our biggest rivals. I watched the documentary that I linked above and now I feel that rivalry, losing the 2010/11 title on GD but then having Fener found guilty by UEFA of match fixing but not the Turkish FA, leaving them still being able to celebrate a league win and continue the Istanbul dominance. The performance can only be described as stuttering as the first half ended with a few good chances and then a period of time where we let them just keep the ball in their defensive midfield areas, knocking it around. Unlike teams that actively press, this doesn’t actually tire us out and I have no issues with my players allowing this. The second half came to life a little when Fener started strongly but that was followed by some really low xG chances for us. In the end, it’s probably the fairest result but doesn’t do much for either of us in the chase of Galatasaray.

Genclerbirligi 1-1 Trabzonspor

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An even first leg of the cup tie where Emre Mor netted an early penalty and Tim Iroegbuman was sent off early into the second half for the hosts. We played well, perhaps a little leggy from the league game a few days prior but, again, allowing them to have the ball maintained a bit more freshness within the legs. Gencler visit the Black Sea at the end of the month and we have to be considered favourites…

Trabzonspor 3-0 Besiktas

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On the day that our U19 team won the league, our first team also tasted success with one of the most resounding victories – against a supposed Istanbul giant – that we’ve ever had. Kagan Yalcin’s first goal was a positional thing of beauty as he holds his run until the last minute before glancing in. Gonzalo Gonzalez also scored another 25-yard screamer, taking his tally of these to two for this season as we stifled any creativity and was barely threatened by their shooting ability.

Hatayspor 0-3 Trabzonspor

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A clinical show of counter attacking football is enough to beat Hatayspor as we are buoyed by the news that Gencler have done us a favour by beating Fener, meaning we now sit third in the league, level on points with the Ankara side above us. With the busy schedule, I was able to play a few more youngsters, using all five in one go off the bench; Mehmet Gencerler being the pick of them as his two goals, his first senior strikes for the club, added to Seydou Traore’s thunderbolt in the first half.

Trabzonspor 8-0 Kasımpaşa

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This was coming.

There are times when we dominate and don’t quite take all of our chances but today, everything we touched turned to gold. A hatrick for a centre back – a headed goal from a corner, a tap in following a corner being worked out wide and put into the box again and then, for good measure, a penalty – really capped off the great performance. Uribe netted our first penalty of the day (see how it then makes our overall xG to goals tally even more impressive!) before Traore (x2), Mevlut and Ahmet netted to record our biggest ever margin of victory in the league.

Trabzonspor 3-1 Gençlerbirliği

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We grew into the game and just about did enough, although another thirty minutes in the legs wasn’t advantageous to either side. Traore put us ahead before Destan’s penalty, only his third of the season, gave us the league in Extra Time and substitute Oguz Kilic sent us through to the final. We won this competition back in 2025 but will face holders Gala in the final in what will be an extremely heated affair!

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This is insane! Three teams on seventy points with just three games to go. With the sorting criteria being 1) Results between teams 2) Goal Difference and 3) Goals scored, my own victory – as Gencler manager – over Trabzonspor, could be the thing that costs us second or first place:

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However, I cannot fathom why we are behind Gala when we have one won and lost one, but have a positive goal difference (3 scored, 2 conceded). If then this is evened out, then we are ahead on both GD and GS so I cannot explain why we are behind, unless there is some alphabetical rule or FM cleverly interprets the old Istanbul-rule rule into the game as I witnessed on the documentary (have I said – in tat 40 minutes, I’ve essentially become a fan! Even the ex-director was wearing a Trabzon shirt with an Aston Villa jacket on top!)

All that is left to do is the absolute best we can. Arguably though, we have the hardest run in:

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Gala are in the worst form with two losses in a row but Altinordu, in 12th and Hatayspor in 11th have nothing to play for. Kasimpasa, fresh from their drubbing to us will want to stay up but that all may have changed if Gencler can beat them in the game week before. Gencler themselves end away at bottom side Caykur, who will surely be relegated by then – leaving our last game, against fifth placed Istanbul Baseksehir, as the pivotal game and, by far, the hardest. We don’t have the best head-to-head against them and, in fact, lost away to them earlier in the season.

Then, if that wasn’t enough fun, we have this…

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Sunday 2nd May 2027 (Gameweek 32)

  • Çaykur Rizespor 0-3 Trabzonspor
  • Hatayspor 1-3 Gençlerbirliği 
  • Altınordu 2-0 Galatasaray 

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May starts with an absolute shocker for reigning champions Gala, as they give the advantage to ourselves and Gencler.

After 46 minutes, we were one up – thanks to the first of two goals by Mevlut Han Ekelik, who is excelling in the Mez role – but Gala had just fallen behind and Gencler had clawed themselves back level thanks to a Cem Bilgin strike. We went on to add another two with Seydou Traore netting late on, but so did my old side as they cruised to victory but there was no comeback from Galatasaray and there wasn’t much attempt to, even though they kept Altinordu quiet for a good period of the match, until Oleg Reabciuk, a Moldovan left back, was sent off on the hour mark. A shock result to start the month off, leaving the table like this:

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I still cannot believe that the 23rd August 2026 could be the absolute pivotal moment of this season. We need to better Gencler’s two results to stop this fairytale and undo the work done by myself.

Two more cup finals for us all to play (before an actual cup final…)

Sunday 16th May 2027 (Gameweek 33)

Before I get to the fixtures, I’ve used the two week break to really refine my plans for recruiting in one area: the centre of defence. Pedro Henrique, now 34, has played well and improved over time, but I’d already made the decision to allow him to return to his native Brazil in the summer so am left with Gonzalo Gonzalez as my only top centre back. The scouting team have been working really hard across many areas but haven’t had much luck in Africa, a great hunting ground for me so far, and any of the really cheap markets. But that is ok – I need quality here and I still have the money from Melih Demir in the bank with, hopefully, extra income from Champions League fixtures to come next season.

Here is the list that I’ve whittled it down to:

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All thumbnails are clickable links to full player profiles.

Arrey-Mbi is playing for 2.Bundesliga side Hannover, who are about to get promoted to the top tier of German football. He’s played well across the season but his high Clearances/90 stat, to me, suggests that he does spend more time removing the ball from dangerous areas, as opposed to trying to build up play. That, in combination with his Weak right foot and a trait that could see us end in trouble – Runs with ball down the left – means that he’s probably more suited to being in a back three. I also think that his price tag and contract demands will increase as following the promotion but do feel that his physical nature will be of huge benefit to us as would his ability to settle in Turkey and Consistency of performance. Ravil is a regular at Istanbul Basaksehir, who are a strong side. He’s not particularly versatile or consistent but but his stronger right foot and trait of Tries to play way out of trouble would probably put him as more suited than Bright, before him. Like a few players on this list, this signing would also weaken a rival in this division but would, inevitably, mean I’d have to pay more than I’d want for him – however, that could be offset by any future sales should he improve to reach his full potential. Senesi is a player who I was shocked move to Bournemouth in real life and then even more shocked at he has barely played for them as they have yo-yoed between divisions, which is a massive red flag as it is. At €8.4m, he’d likely be the most expensive and his wage demands, even after taking a pay cut, would make him our top earner and, at 29, with 14 appearances (and no notable injuries) in the past two years, I must be cautious. Yet he’s obviously insanely gifted and would be a huge improvement in quality. Emrecan is another who’d weaken a rival and is a consistent and composed player with a very well rounded set of attributes. I particularly like that he’s classed as Intelligent but this isn’t a mask for a deficiency elsewhere. He’s performed well this season but would likely take a fair chunk to move on from Besiktas. Lastly, Mert is an experienced, consistent player with a great personality who’d add some experience on a free transfer. Once of Roma and Verona, who paid €8m for him, he’s played just 11 times in three years, which – like Senesi – is a red flag for me.

With that in mind, I’ve made a top priority list for my DoF to work with:

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I’ve sorted these based on my overall rating, as well as set some parameters for Mehment Aurelio to work with. Hopefully we can end up with the top target, Besiktas’ Emrecan but, if not, that’s just part and parcel of football! The same method will be applied to all other positions that need strengthening.

  • Trabzonspor 3-0 Kayserispor
  • Genclerbirligi 3-0 Kasımpaşa
  • Galatasaray 1-1 Hatayspor

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And then there was two!

Goals from Mevlut, Ahmet and Seydou Traore propelled us to a comprehensive victory but it was all in vein as Gencler, thanks to a double from Cem Bilgin – the man who I developed and game a debut to – and Mamadou Karamoko – the man I signed after bumbling his way around Scandinavia – kept them ahead of us. There are so many little side stories to this title race and possibly none more important than the fact that Tim Iroegbunam, their best player, is suspended for their last game. But again, as I player I sourced, there feels a real personal connection to this game and this team and how this title race has unfolded. Hatayspor ruined Gala’s chances with a stubborn display but Fener failed to capitalise, drawing at relegated Eyupspor, which would have put immense pressure on the title holders to even finish in the top three!

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We’re absolutely not favourites for this. Istanbul are a much tougher opponent than Caykur, although they have not been relegated and would need to win to stand any chance of staying up.

One more (unofficial) cup final to go!

Sunday 23rd May 2027 (Gameweek 34)

  • Trabzonspor 3-0 Istanbul Basaksehir
  • Caykur Rizespor 1-3 Genclerbirligi

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For 26 minutes, we were in dreamland!

Caykur toop the league in the nineteenth minute and, by the thirty-eighth, we were three up thanks to a brace from Seydou Traore and a lovely strike from Ahmet Tamrak. Heartbreak for us came when Ibrahima Soumare and two for Emre Mor put Gencler ahead in a position that they kept, keeping the ball really well for long periods of time at the end of the game. What will absolutely be forgotten though is the quality of our performance, our six game winning run, the fact that we haven’t conceded in the league for 67 days and lost a game in the league for 110 days.

I am not sour in any way shape or form. The news below suggests that it should all be doom and gloom, just fallen at the final hurdle, typical Trabzon – bottling it as has happened across their history – but no.

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I am proud of what I’ve achieved but absolutely delighted for Gencler and Erol Bulut, who, despite inheriting my strong squad, has still had to win over 70% of his games in charge to get them to here. More than that, as a self-confessed new fan, I’ve grown to realise that if we can’t win ourselves, having a non-Istanbul team win is the next best thing!

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Gala will be back next year! A torrid end of year period ruined their chances but they’re simply too strong to stay down forever, even if their cards fell badly in terms of xG and xPts. The next job, for me, is to put a further dent in them by battering them in the cup to end my first season on the Black Sea with some silverware!

May 2027

Galatasaray 1-1 Trabzonspor (Galatasaray win 4-3 on penalties)

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Penalty heartbreak.

We ran Gala really, really close and another Traore goal put us ahead before we were pegged back pretty quickly. We had our moments but, to be frank, they had more and this was probably the fairest result as we miss our chance to lift the cup. What it does say, for me, is that Gala are still there: still a huge threat. Obviously, having a week to prepare a game plan helped them get out of the little rut they fell into in the league, which allowed us and Gencler to overtake them but it’s one of those where we would be stupid to write them off. It really excites for me to the coming years in Turkey.

The season is over and, given that it wasn’t a full season, I often find that the team metrics are somewhat skewed given the fact that I play a very different style to my predecessor. However, just looking at three metrics tells you that we are very much one of three teams who have done really, really well this season:

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Whilst each team will have their own specific style – the end goal of football is to defend well, concede few and attack well, score many. The middle scatter graph shows that ourselves, Gala and Gencler have consistently managed to do that this season with us scoring really well, too. The thing that catches my eye is that Gala have created a relatively similar amount of xG/90 but have scored less. I will have to keep my eyes out on their summer work as well as, generally, how they might change setup or keep players fitter. Defensively, Fener have been strong and it’ll be telling to see how they improve going forward but again, that Gala stat – their opponents are converting around 11% of their chances, compared to just over 6% for us. If they get that sorted, they surely won’t concede thirty goals next term.

Goalkeepers

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I’ve rotated quite heavily between my two goalkeepers this year, with Sarkic playing the cup ties and Ronnow in the league. There will be a change, and that is because each squad must contain a Turkish keeper and I’ve been forced to name a grey player on each team sheet in the league, wasting a sub spot. Whilst Ronnow is entering the twilight of his career, I can’t ignore a man who has recorded twenty-one clean sheets this year and concedes, on average, around a goal every other game. He’s better with his hands than Sarkic and isn’t too bad at distributing the ball, although far weaker than Martin Turk, for example, who I signed last summer for Gencler. I have the option to extend Ronnow’s deal, which expires next month, for another year and, based on this analysis, I may chose to do so whilst bringing in a younger, Turkish, second choice who could take over next summer.

Defenders

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In terms of defenders – I am already losing Henrique, Ganchas and Kravets so will focus less on those and more on who will remain…

Gonzalez has been an inspired signing so credit must go to the previous manager – with great all round stats, in particular for his interceptions, showing that he’s clever enough to make good decisions to come out and win the ball before being drawn into a situation where he needs to tackle. At full backs, Eren has done really well, with little in terms of backup to rest him, and Dorukhan has been pretty decent but knows that both Soria and Kerem are hot on his tail to replace him if he’s not doing well enough. Whilst Soria is arguably weaker that the other two right backs, his progressive passes and crosses show that he’s actually a really viable option if I need to use full backs that don’t sit centrally. His xA/90 is the joint highest of my defenders and I think that, given that he can play on both sides (and Kerem is learning to, also) it justifies keeping three right footed full backs in the squad for the time being.

Midfielders

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Mevlut has been an inspired signing, with thirteen goal contributions in just half a season, justifying his move to a more advanced position and the risk of bringing in a second tier player. Overall, there are good contributions from all of the midfielders here, bar, probably Koba – who is off to France in the summer for a loss on what was paid for him just twelve months ago. I’m really happy with how Alpaslan (more on him later though) and Oguz have settled into the first team, too. Kagan and Emir will go on to be good players the club, I’m sure of it, and the additions of Nmecha (who can play on the wing) and Angel Gomes will only make this area stronger.

Forwards

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Traore has been insane – so much so that Pjaca has actually agreed a move away given the lack of football he’s had. Seydou has 23 goal contributions (20G+3A) in half a season here and has developed really well in that time, too. Pretty much the perfect kind of player for this style and, given the competition now in Nmecha’s signing, I think he’ll only get better.

Youth

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With such a tight schedule, I’ve been somewhat forced to play plenty of youngsters in the first team, but, when I have, they have done really well as both Alpaslan Kaya and Oguz Kilic have moved themselves to the first team. However, the former will now drop back into the youth side whilst I train him to play in a new role. I have a pretty specific idea of what I want from my wide men and Omay Carkaci sums that up – pace, agility and dribbling but Alpaslan has none of those things. My thoughts are then to turn him into a full back, with a lot less development needed to make him average (there’ll be a ceiling here, for sure) in his defensive attributes whilst maintaining good ball playing ability. My idea is that, whilst essentially playing a triple pivot (two IWB and a DM), that the central man (now Pape Mate Sarr) will be the ball winner, whilst the other two will be the ball players and he can definitely do that. It’s a risky call but one that could end up really positives for us, given that Batuhan Kaya is also training to be the left sided full back.

June lends itself to squad planning and a little bit of respite!

June 2027

Not much to do in June other than organise a few transfers, with the following already taking place:

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Some good money brought in for players who last year proved that they were not good enough and this is backed up by the destinations that they have chosen to go to. Pjaca was inconsistent, at best, in front of goal and Koba and Ganchas found game time hard to come by and did not impress when it was offered.

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Just the two deals to come in on the opening day of the transfer window, with both images below clickable to view their full profile.

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Emrecan, in my opinion, is an absolute steal and I think that setting the priority for my DoF with him being top was a great move. I could have ended with any of the centre backs that I profiled in one of the May updates but the transfer committee (as I don’t actually have a DoF in place) were able to negotiate a €3.2m deal with €15.5k p/w wages, further weakening a beleaguered Besiktas squad. Emrecan’s statistical output last year – when compared with central defenders – was outstanding, with him inside the ninetieth percentile for chances created, assists, possession won and interceptions. I think that he will fit in really well with what I have at the club and go on to be a really strong signing in the peak of his career.

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Pape has had a really successful trial at the club and joins four months after leaving Tottenham, where he barely played in a four year spell. I’m really excited to see what the Senegalese lad can bring to our first team as his industrious nature as well as ball playing ability could be key within the squad. The bonus of him being a free agent means that he has already spent the time on trial on the club, where he was able to appear in non-competitive fixtures, of which I watched several of. Despite the opposition not being up to the highest of standards, I saw a really good player in there and I’m happy to have him on board.

With Sarr’s arrival, I at least have one player who can play there but I also have my eye on two further players, of which one will almost certainly be signed. Both screenshots are linked to a full profile, also:

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Mehdi will be available on a free in a matter of weeks when his Hatayspor contract expires. In five years in this league, the Algerian international has performed well and is fluent in Turkish. Statistically speaking he’s done really well last year, although his football came whilst playing as a 6 in a more advanced, central midfield, role.

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The other player that my scouts recommended is Ivorian Paul Akouokou, who will be leaving Ligue 1 Montpellier at the end of the month. Whilst playing in a stronger league than Mehdi, he has managed to achieve pretty similar stats from his DM role in what looks to be a very counter-attacking Montpellier side. As you’d expect, with no time spent in Turkey, the man has no grasp of the language.

When I look at their reports, I am able to get the following information.

Boudjema:

  • Good player at this level
  • Resolute character
  • Consistent performer
  • Good marker
  • Natural in a couple of positions
  • Enjoys big matches
  • Committed player
  • Inconsistent finisher

Akouokou:

  • Leading player at this level
  • Consistent performer
  • Anticipates well
  • Natural in a couple of positions
  • Balanced and normal personality
  • Strength and stamina make him a decent athlete
  • Fairly susceptible to injuries
  • Wayward with passing
  • Competitive streak

I must say that Boudjema is probably ahead here. I like that he knows the league and can speak the language and that he also looks to play in more of a 6/8 combo rather than a full on defensive minded role, which will be useful for us – particularly with his passing ability not being a listed weakness. Paul though is clearly a top player and has many minutes in a league with more quality than ours does. My concern though is that this will lead to higher wage demands, too. With Pape Matar Sarr already in the door, the player I want will have to accept a rotational contract and not be be earning +/- €5k p/w of Sarr’s €10k salary. They’ll both go onto the DoF list with these stipulations and I’ll see who he can get.

Work then has to be done on finding a Turkish goalkeeper and a right footed centre back who is backup for Gonzalez. Obviously, if anything else good comes up, I’ll look to strengthen elsewhere, too…

July 2027

Pre-arranged deals:

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I feel that I need to mention it each time but every image in this post is a hyperlink to the profile of the player in question. Two players who I detailed in previous posts through the door – both making step ups from second tier sides but both of the style that I want for this side to progress. Not players who’ll, realistically, help us compete in the Champions League but the right starting point to build from. I’m happy to have them both here.

New Signings:

I feel really happy with the signing of Boudjemaa and that is because it feels super realistic in how the process was complete. Once he and Paul Akouokou were highlighted as potential signings, I handed over to the recruitment team to get one of them sorted. I had initially put Paul as the higher of the two simply based on his ability and that kind of offset his poorer passing, given that he was – from some scouting and statistical analysis – playing in a different role and different style to what I’d have. However, Paul’s demands were over €30k and my stipulation for a maximum of €5k over what I was paying Pape Matar Sarr – simply due to the parity in game time that I intend to maintain – meant that we were unable to agree terms with him- not allowing a 29-year old rotational player to become, comfortably, my top earner. Because of this, the team then turned their attentions to Mehdi and sealed his deal. Second choice but how often does a team not get their first choice target? Earning just €3k more than Sarr and happy to rotate with him, I’m really happy with this in principal.

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What I’m less happy with though is – as @GIMN correctly points out – his Decision making ability. When you look at my squad, with a view on key attributes, you’ll see he stands out as being one of only two players with what I’d consider below average attributes for Decisions and, furthermore, he sits about three and a half point below the league average for midfielders. Yet, I feel that my placement of him may mitigate this slightly. The DM role I use is fairly static and, given that it’s between two pretty rigid lines of four means that he’s quite central and static and that there won’t be too many opportunities for him to make those bad decisions, particularly in my quest to bring through more creative inverted wingbacks into a triple pivot when transitioning. On the other hand, a brave man who makes bad decisions doesn’t sound too great and, when you add in the fact that he’s rather aggressive, he could be a card magnet: although only three yellows last year, with seven the year before and four before that does tell a different, more pleasing story.

I can’t ignore the outputs that he’s produced on the pitch though and, despite my own ideology that is underpinned by a decisive squad, I think he could be really solid player if he performs as well as he has over the previous few seasons.

Next through the door was a €450k deal for Bursaspor centre back Ahmet Suphi Canturk. Bursaspor, like Gencler, are a team who pride themselves in developing youth players and, despite hitting hard time and being stranded in the third tier, have produced some gems – including Melih Demir.

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Whilst there is clearly a gamble with bringing a player up two divisions and, as such, his statistical outputs must be considered somewhat less valuable, I think that there is definitely a chance to shape Ahmet into the player I want without putting too much stress on him in the first team. I compared him to all defensive players: full backs, centre backs and defensive midfielders and still his ability to dribble the ball from defence shone through with his trait clearly being utilised by the Bursa manager. Whilst there are no truly stand-out attributes, he’s very well balanced across the board and I hope to be able to dig into his potential to work on a few areas of his game. I’m really happy with the work that my recruitment team did finding him and the deal that they did to bring him in – as, in this case, there was only one player that I’d identified for this role.

I’ve also tasted a little disappointment (although more actually the sense of realism) in the recruitment of a goalkeeper. I earmarked this as an essential deal simply because it meant that I would then be able to actually fill my bench, rather than leaving a slot for a grey player, hoping that I never have to rely on them. I earmarked six Turkish keepers from different places – including a Hertha BSC player, Galatasaray player and both of the Besiktas keepers. I had deals accepted for the first four but none of them would agree to the enforced Backup role with a maximum wage of €15k p/w. Bilal was choice number five and a €2.2m deal was agreed with Austin FC, from the MLS.

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I’m terrible at assessing keeper stats and, with the MLS only a few months though, there isn’t much to dig into but I can see that, for 9th placed Austin, he’s kept more Clean Sheets than average and has a decent Save % of just under 74%, making 3.14 saves per/90 and has a pass completion of just over 50%. Compared to Ronnow, my number one, he’s 14% down on Save %, making around 0.5 saves more per game and completing 27% less passes than the Dane, it’s clear that he’s not here to be number one. But, what he does do, is solve the issue I have and is, in passing terms at least, a step up on Matija Sarkic, who will be allowed to complete a move to Preston now I’ve found a replacement. Not the long term option I want but, if he’s happy, he could quite easily sit on the bench for four or five years and my first team keeper could then get away with not being Turkish, which would open the doors to much stronger players.

Lastly, an unexpected move of which I am quite excited about, where I only moved on one of my wingers…

When I noticed that Gencler were interested in my winger, Adam Ounas, I lodged a very cheeky bid, as seen below. I don’t really like signing players from my old clubs – but that’s more of a realism thing whereby a manager wouldn’t walk into his new club and sign four or five of the players there but I’ve agreed to myself that this is a different scenario. Emre has spent a year at Gencler and they’d be getting a player of similar quality (but not of performance, as you’ll see shortly) in return. I actually think that this is a bit of AI magic here as Emre has a release clause of just €1.6m (which is why I offered that and a player to start with) and I think they feel that, given the fact he’d obviously not wanted to renew, they could get the money and a player in exchange, too. For me – it also frees up another foreign player spot, which I think will be important as time goes on…

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I don’t know where to start when discussing the outputs that Emre recorded last year! Fifteen goals (6 penalties) and thirteen assists was a huge part of the reason why Gencler won the league and, yes, I do feel bad about taking their star performer off them but I feel that the deal isn’t too bad for them either, with Ounas a starter for the second placed team. To be in the top five percent for all of the above metrics is absolutely outstanding and I really think that it shows (albeit not directly through me) the importance that I need to place in my own recruitment as I signed him without him playing much for Fener the season before, and, yet, he was able to do this. My obvious concern is that this is a one season wonder but I have confidence that he’ll fit into my system well.

Even though I initiated this transfer, I left the negotiating to the recruitment team and, as I kind of expected, Emre wanted much money than he was previously on – as you’d expect from a now ‘established’ player, which wasn’t the case before. Nevertheless, he’s not the top earner but will be rewarded with a handsome number of minutes across the course of this season.

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I think I’m just about done with summer moves here – eight new players in, pretty much following a one-in, one-out policy with a net spend just €950k (€6.5m spent and €5.55m recouped). However, for me, the squad is in a much better place: younger, more well rounded and more suited to the roles that I require. This, in addition to the promising youth I have developing in the youth team, means that I think we’re going to do pretty well again this year.

The full squad list can be seen by clicking on the above image.

Author

  • Daniel Gear

    Dan Gear is a vibrant member of the Football Manager (FM) community, renowned for his engaging content and insightful tutorials. He illuminates complex FM concepts on "View From The Touchline" and shares engaging narratives through his unique European Journeyman save reveals. Dan's collaborative spirit shines in partnerships with fellow creators like FM Stag, unraveling new FM features. He's a co-host of the engaging "Grass N Gear" podcast, making the FM experience more enjoyable for many. With a blend of humor, expertise, and a knack for community engagement, Dan Gear's contributions significantly enrich the Football Manager community, making him a cherished figure among enthusiasts.

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