August 2027

Trabzonspor 4-0 Rapid Wien

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My football content consumption over the past couple of days has been around Roberto de Zerbi, with this video being really interesting to me. I obviously favour counter attacking football and that thought of the ‘De Zerbi-ism’ of baiting the press seems really interesting to me and one that I don’t think I’ve ever really considered. Of course, if we can commit players towards the ball and have players comfortable enough to evade that press, we’ll have wide open space to attack. The formative ideas centred around defenders with two particular traits: Stops Play and Tries Long Range Passes. However, there are a select few players that my scouts had knowledge of that fit that criteria and, as you can see, none of them are in my price bracket.

The matchup against Rapid was a tough one as, given it’s the first game of the season, little analytical data exists for them (as I don’t have their league loaded) and I could only predict their line up and style based around their playing squad and manager, Ferdinand Feldhofer. I couldn’t really tell if they are the kind of team that will take the bait but I want to watch what happened in these transitions before I jumped into any changes of style or player. Firstly, for context, I don’t use a traditional double pivot – instead I like to use this Pep inspired false fullbacks with the width coming from wide men, which, given the positioning of my central player, makes kind of an offset triple pivot. You can see what that looks like here. All of these players have defensive duties but are quite creative and their job is to progress the ball wide or through the middle, but, this can be made more effective if my centre backs can bait a press and give them more space to work with. It turned out that Rapid did not press much, and that left situations like this. Gonzalez has the ball but is quite quick to move it on; granted, his pass into Sarr does open up some good passing lanes and what turns into a really numerical overload on our right hand side, but he could have brought two, or maybe even three or four players onto him if he’d have held it for a little longer. Here, it worked. Sarr’s movement towards the ball prompted their striker to attempt to close Gonzalez, who was then able to find Ahmet Tamrak in acres of space to pick a pass.

This is what then happens if I can get it to any of that pivot in space. The 2-3-5 shape is there and Dorukhan has the eye to pick the pass through the channel, which is finished well. Late in the second half, I went one further and saw this – a literal 3-3-4-1 shape but, sadly, Ronnow retreated as soon as he passed the ball on. I saw a Twitter thread a year or so back about a second tier German keeper who was literally used in the transition but can’t find it now to explain how amazing it would be to replicate.

Goals from Traore, Emre Mor, Ahmet and Nmecha make my Champions League debut a dream.

Rapid Wien 0-3 Trabzonspor

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The art of the counter attack is that we are likely to create less chances than the opposition, but that must come on the provisor that the quality of chances are better than that of the opposition. We did just that. Wien’s 0.06xG/shot pales into comparison of our 0.097xG/shot as we created good opportunities each time we broke. This counter-attack was slick and Seydou Traore put us ahead on nine minutes. Goals for Mostovoy and Enis Destan sealed an emphatic two-legged win.

Following on the the previous post, I’ve had my scouts out looking for players who also have the Stops Play trait to see whether this is a sensible route to try and take. So far, we’ve found twoplayers:

Ravil was on my list in the summer and I’ve just made a cheeky bid to see if they’ll accept a move at the end of this season, as to not disrupt the already assembled squad. Nothing is set in stone and I haven’t heard back from Istanbul yet..

Fenerbahce 0-0 Trabzonspor

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I desperately did not want to lose the opening fixture of the season and, using a slightly more cautious setup, achieved that. A game that, in my experience here and through my extra immersion with this club, I know is hugely important to the fans and to the player turned into a game of chess: we let them have the ball, largely in their half, but didn’t allow them to make the move that unlocked our defence. They slipped through once and Daniel Podence really should have scored early in the second half, but we held our nerve. Seydou was unusually poor up top, missing our best chance of the game from a sweeping counter but we start the season with a point, which is better than Fener’s rivals, Besiktas:

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What worries me most is Gala looked amazing, yet Gencler rolled them over in the Super Cup to win another piece of silverware. It’s going to be a really good battle again!

Trabzonspor 3-1 Charleroi

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Back to Champions League action and goals from Mevlut, Seydou Traore and a wonder striker from 16-year old Umit Demir, starting for the first time, saw us roar into a half time lead. I was slightly disappointed with our showing in the second half but the need for early changes given the manic start to the season, which has eaten in to pre-season, has brought about a number of unfit players that couldn’t last the ninety.

Trabzonspor 5-0 İstanbul Başakşehir

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A resounding victory where we absolutely battered them from start to finish. We were able to find pockets of space for my creative men and created havoc going forward. As the tie went on, I altered some opposition instructions, attempting to make the most of their tired and booked players.

I took a little bit of time, given the scoreline, to see how a slightly different shape would work. I moved to this shape to create a slightly different pattern of numbers. With a double IWB, our shape, when attacking, morphs into a 2-3-4-1, which is great in terms of providing tha triple pivot to transition through. However, the two defenders that are left can be overran when facing two attackers, something which I envisage may happen more when playing continental football. The new shape, whilst still lining up in a 4-1-4-1 defensively, there is a very different shape – a 3-2-4-1 that is created offensively: with width coming from the left wing back and a False Centre Back in Boudjemaa. In this instance, Nmecha’s ball was poor – a lofted pass to Erin – but there is definitely scope for him to utilise the wider players here, who have much more space and are largely unmarked. Our style of play remains but I need to, and want to, find variants that will give me the upper hand against certain opposition.

Emre Mor has been a revelation but I knew that. Since signing, I have watched him on the right wing create chances and score goals like he’s been here forever. I decided to quickly see how he stacked up – knowing that so early in the season the data I collected would be somewhat skewed due to lack of minutes: however, it’s still stupidly good! Only Alejandro Pozo comes close to his ability to progress the ball. Long may this output continue…

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Charleroi 0-4 Trabzonspor (Trabzonspor win 7-1 on aggregate)

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Really, really good football in Belgium as we qualify for the group stages in some style. Progress made to the group/league/whatever it now is phase, where we face some really difficult ties…

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We are joined by Genclerbirligi, who have a tough set of fixtures, too.

Obviously, the biggest thing for us is eight full houses and whatever competition money I can get my hands on. With my team pretty well set at the moment, it’s just a case of collecting it and, with that money, I intend to invest in the youth side, particularly for very young prospects. Unfortunately, it’s not an area I’ve had real success in – here are the stats:

  • 782 Turkish players aged 16 or under
  • 69% of those are ‘interested’ in joining
  • Just four have been scouted

Lots to do!

Ankara Keçiörengücü 0-6 Trabzonspor

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Let the newly promoted team know we mean business…

…proceeds to be three nil up inside four minutes!

This was really good and really professional. A Traore hattrick, Mevlut, Emir and a hugely deflected first club goal from Pape Matar Sarr gave us the victory as, once again, tactically I was spot on – really dominating their more one-footed players and stopping their creativity, which came from their defensive midfielder – who Seydou often drops in and marks.

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Nothing to show here, really, except a strong start! Some winnable games in September but we start with a tough tie!

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September 2027

Galatasaray 1-1 Trabzonspor

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The month started with a draw as we decided to leave an unmarked attacker and then had to chase the game from inside the first ten minutes. Fortunately, we hit back immediately through Traore and then went on to create five or six pretty decent chances that we could, and should have, scored from. Gala will see it as a point gained on the road but hopefully, come May, we don’t see this as two dropped at home!

Remember when I named this thread Age of Empires? Planning to delve into the history, or at least, footballing history, of the clubs I manage. Well, here is another Twitter-inspired section…

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This tweet (follow this man if you have Twitter as some of the tactical stuff he posts is great and he works for TIFO, too) about the crossover between the inverted wing back/everted centre midfielder really made me think. Linked to that tweet was this article about Rico Lewis, a man who I’ve watched a fair bit of lately. That was then followed up by this tweet of a Pep video around the positioning of wide defenders and midfielders. It all got me thinking…

My youth team play in exactly the same style as the first team but I have some very different player types that I’m trying to create. So why don’t they do something slightly different, meaning that I can put faith in them to develop in this style for when/if they break through into the first team. Enter this shape:

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It builds around five key, promising youngsters:

  • Batuhan Kaya is one of the two real stars of this show. The midfielder-cum-full back is a creative pivot from deep but his stature and defensive understanding make him a really great player to have in the backline too. My plan is to see him step forward and invert, before picking a pass.
  • Ali Inal, whilst not quite at the level of Batuhan, has developed immensely well over the year I’ve been here. He’s becoming a really solid ball playing defender. Whilst there is no option to teach him to stop play, I am in the process of getting him to be able to switch the ball in a way to start our counter attacks.
  • Alpaslan Kaya – The winger-cum-full back will be allowed to make the most of his technique and ball playing ability without needing the top end pace that a true winger would have, whilst his defensive attributes develop. His work rate will help him get up and down, too.
  • Umit Demir will be instructed to swap between the two wings, allowing him to be  inverted, leading to less issue around crossing ability – meaning that I can work on finishing and turn him into an all-round midfielder.
  • Efekan Leblebici becomes a potential goalscoring midfielder as I can utilise his pace to get up and support Mehment Gencerler.

The match I chose to debut this system in wasn’t a competitive one but the only one that was in my schedule for the next month or so that I could attend. We did quite well…

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In transition, we started with a nice 3-3-4 shape, intended to turn to a 3-2-5. The movement was good and Batuhan was able to get into some really nice pockets of space. I don’t think that Alpaslan was as advanced as he possibly could have been, but there is plenty of scope to develop this style and allow these players to flourish, develop and grow into the first team whilst playing it.

This is the first time that I’ve taken to getting a different approach (same underlying style and ethos in a different shape) for my youth side and it’s quite exciting!

Maribor 0-2 Trabzonspor

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I spoke about the tactical shift for the youth side and, in the very next game – our Champions League League Stage debut – it is needed for the first team. I decided on the alternate shape to face their 3-4-2-1 – giving myself a three man backline to always ensure that I have the extra man against their two strikers as well as a False Nine against their three centre backs in a very Pep style of attacking.

Slovenia isn’t an easy place to come to and we did really well, controlling the low chance match, even without having the ball, which is, in my eyes, one of the most difficult concepts to master. Our intelligent pressing: forcing their wing backs inside, pulling Sarr back to mark the AMLC area (even though there isn’t a player necessarily there) and pulling Gomes to mark the DMRC space – where their most creative player really limited them to – literally – hundreds of passes between their three centre backs, completely devoid of options ahead of them. Goals from Angel Gomes and Cenk Ozkacar at the end sealed a strong victory on the road and a nice cheque for just over €2m!

İstanbulspor 0-2 Trabzonspor

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Back to league action and a nice victory over another weaker side in this league. Once again, the possession – or lack of – element is still there, relying on counters to create strong chances. However,  as you can see from the xG story – we are creating more than I’d expect for a team that counters and those chances have less quality than I’d probably expect them to. Two set piece goals – from Traore and Emrecan – allayed the fears though.

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Another visit to the youth side saw me take in a really good 6-0 win over Maribor, as both sides played the exact same styles as their senior counterparts. For me, there was three bits of highlights that I picked out: the 3-4-3 shape that we made at the start of our transition, watching Alpaslan holding his width in advanced areas and then getting to the byline to deliver his crosses. I’m really excited about what it might bring and, therefore, need to plan for opportunities to get them first team minutes.

First up are my two wingers – Umit and Omay. Neither are particularly close to the first team yet although Umit has two years on his in terms of developmental ages. For their roles, they are both elite in terms of their speed – Omay with his speed off the mark and Umit for his top speed but they are both lacking in their crossing ability – which may mean I need to look at different ways to get the ball into the box.

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However, they have age on their side and with Mor and Mostovoy both entering the later stages of their careers, they might have a shot…

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Batuhan is a really promising left back and is already on a par with my backup options and has the added ability of actually being left footed. His key attributes relate to his deep lying playmaker role but, to be fair, the everted role that he’ll play with use those and he’s superb for his age in almost all of those key areas. His progress into the first team should be the easiest of the lot here but, at such a tender age, I don’t want to rush him.

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Mehmet has made some really good development of late and now sits as the fourth choice striker (if you include Mostovoy who can play there) for us, ahead of Enis Destan who occupies a first team slot. This should allow some relatively easy progression into the first team – he just has to perform!

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Ali is also stronger than current first team players but, given his exceptional development in the youth team, I’m loathed to change anything whilst he’s still developing his ball playing abilities.

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When you consider that Alpaslan is already listed as good enough for the top flight at a position that he isn’t even accomplished in, it shows the ability that he has. Really nicely rounded with some great attributes in key areas for me – he could well see both Kerem and Carles Soria moved out of the club.

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Trabzonspor 2- 0 Adana Demirspor

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Really really good work here as we make light work of Adana in the league with goals from Mostovoy and a lovely strike from Emre Mor, cutting inside and bending a left footed shot into the far corner.

 

Wolfsburg 1-0 Trabzonspor

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Defeat in Germany as the Nmecha brothers face off against each other.

We can hold our heads high – Wolfsburg are a top, top team and we matched the blow for blow, that was, until they scored a goalmouth scramble with just fifteen to go as our legs tired.

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Early days but things are looking pretty good! Gencler have fallen apart, much to my sadness but we’re in the right place to catch early leaders Altinordu.

October feels a bit calmer but, as you know, things can change!

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October 2027

Apologies for the lack of Turkish updates, I’ve been engrossed in creating the perfect skin, despite knowing that – quite obviously – does not exist. I’ve made some good progress, as you can see here, but I’m going to try to take a break from skinning and back to playing. However, given my current obsession for Trabzon – I’m really starting to think that a move to Greece is certainly out of the picture and that the title, Age of Empires, is maybe just relating to an empire I build here, given my slower than ever play time. I’d still like to get that magical move to Serie A and, as I’ve thought more and more about this as I’ve been looking at my manager profile, I’d not be against a trip back home to end my career in Argentina for a year or so – maybe at the club that Barreto came through at in FM22, River Plate.

Anyway, back to playing…

Kasimpasa 1-4 Trabzonspor

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I’d played this before the big break but hadn’t written it up, so, as you’d expect, have completely forgotten what happened! Goals from Angel Gomes, two for Oguz Kilic and the fourth from Mostovoy gave us the simplest of victories.

Trabzonspor 5-1 Sivasspor

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As always when I’ve been away, my first want is to really get myself into the game again, and that, for me, means a whole host of extensive/full match highlights and lots of pre-match prep, trying out things I have often read or watched about in the week.

Heading into the game, I felt we had the upper hand based on the fact that Sivasspor’s form was poor and that we could mitigate their threats by pretty much playing our normal game – as they’d look to go wide to their wingers before getting it into the box for an Advanced Forward. A double pivot, too, played into my hands with our natural pressing traps but I knew I’d need to watch to look for any specifics in the build up play. I then set my usual opposition instructions, focusing on weaker feet and then the tight marking of the DMs and trigger pressing of the AM, to restrict his space. On paper, it looked like their strongest eleven bar their forward, who’s lack of match sharpness would likely to hugely restrict his game.

In terms of our lineup, I opted to move Ahmet back to a deeper role allowing for the lesser quality that might constitute us facing two a deeper and potentially more resolute defense. That faith was paid off within the first sixteen minutes as twice he found space: firstly playing the ball though for Mevlut to finish and secondly over the top for Traore to poke into the far post: we were well on top. Continuing to watch in depth, I noticed two or three times how Emre Mor receives the ball, with his left-footedness on the right hand side reminding me of this piece by Mikel Arteta about body shape when picking up the ball. Within two seconds, the move looks like this but, for once, Traore fluffs his lines.

At break, it remained 2-0 but, with our 61% ball possession and their zero attempts, there was little to analyse – including their pass combinations, which really gave me no headaches in terms of specific triggers for pressing and tackling.

The second half started perfectly, with Ahmet finishing from inside a yard, with a shot that – somehow – only had an xG of 0.78 but then we switched off, allowing Mayenda to finish smartly from the edge of the box. However, two more goals – the first a lovely curling show from Oguz and the second – a tidy finish from Traore, sealed the win for us in quite emphatic circumstances. Very rarely do we create this much non-Pen xG but it’s just a shame we couldn’t put a few more away! Ahmet Tamrak was amazing but I know he’s simply too lightweight defensively for the bigger games we have but now I can only image the damage a true all-round midfielder could do!

Trabzonspor 1-1 Benfica

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I’m finding a love in the art of preparation at the moment and I spent a good fifteen minutes flicking through Benfica’s previous league win and their other data. I noticed a few things:

I then thought about this a lot with my approach. Here are the key changes:

  • Play out of defence. Risky – but, if we can beat their press, we have enough pace to hit them on the counter. Slowing the tempo down and ensuring that I have ball players there, with an extra man, means we may be able to play around them.
  • Half Back. I wanted a spare man to drop in against their two forwards and, rather than play an auxiliary centre back, want someone who is capable of helping us evade their high press.
  • IWB(d). Their threat comes from two great players – Pulisic and Neres – so I need to mitigate that by being a little more conservative on the flanks. I had toyed with FB(s) but they still attack wide and I feel these inverted movements will match that of their wide men and allow us to follow them easier.

Their line up saw a reshuffle to their forward line with Neres up top and Stengs out wide and my opposition instructions were set, intending to stop Weigl the opportunity to dribble and make sure that my two attack-minded centre mids were able to stay close to theirs. Early in the game, the evasion of the press was evident as we played out nicely into space for Mevlut, although I’d have prefered Ahmet to have dropped in to, but, in a matter of seconds, he was free and able to thread through a ball for Traore. It’s high risk transition but, with Benfica’s relatively steady full backs, it’s probably the best way to get through. We also created a nice couple of chances from us – with this one coming from that right sided overload but Ahmet couldn’t finish. Things were looking pretty good at the break.

Within ninety seconds of the restart we are one up as Emre forces a foul on the byline and Mostovoy converts the penalty. I increased time wasting and reduced passing length in an attempt to kill the game for ten minutes after our goal but it brought about another strong chance, again for Traore, who, again, couldn’t finish. On the hour mark I brought on Boudjemaa for Sarr – simply because of his ball winning ability as I could see Benfica’s transition getting more and more aggressive. With just under twenty to go, Angel Gomes wa brought on, with me hoping that his flair and vision could help pick out a key pass, although I was concerned that his lack of work rate and overall discipline may leave us more open to an equaliser. In the eighty-sixth minute, our defences were breached in, actually, quite an annoying way as we allowed Yankov to drive at the defence before crossing for Andre Silva to tap in.

The shop was then very much shut up for the last few minutes.

Benfica are, clearly, a stronger team than us. Kepa earns over 50% of our total weekly wage alone and Pulisic, Neres, Stengs et al put our attacking talent to shame but we are tough! A good result for us in the end.

Konyaspor 0-3 Trabzonspor

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Back to more familiar foe with a trip to Konya to face Slaven Bilic’s side. They are interesting, tactically, with a Segundo Volante, Advanced Playmaker wide left and a wing back flanking him but, fortunately, my squad are better and we coped with the slightly different style – more through quality than actually tactical changes, as I discussed above. After a goalless first half, Angel Gomes opened up the scoring before a Felix Nmecha penalty and a late goal for Enis Destan sealed a really strong second forty-five.

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So far, so good. Altinordu have just suffered their first defeat – a 3-1 loss against Besiktas  but we can’t shake our rivals from Istanbul, who are hot on our tail, although we’re outscoring them considerably. Gencler have had a mixed start but, given that they’ve recruited quite heavily and lost first choice keeper, Martin Turk, to Liverpool, they are probably not going to retain the league title. Everything I’m seeing from the first team is promising so far although I am conscious of the fact that we’re still in a gateway league and – given the interest across the squad – will likely need to rebuild a good part of the squad over the summer, therefore it’s imperative that we both move quickly and develop our new tactical style before then. The good news is that the U19 team, who are my guinea-pig for the style, are doing pretty well: having scored forty-two goals scored in seven U19 Elite League matches also topping the UEFA Youth League with a 100% record from their first three games. Mehmet Gencerler, for example, has twenty-one goals in his last nine games whilst Umit Demir has laid of thirty-six assists in a total of 18(3) games at this level this season, including friendlies.

The next set of fixtures are tough. We should beat Midtjylland but the domestic fixtures are tough and a trip to London will not be easy!

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November 2027

Arsenal 2-0 Trabzonspor

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Simply beaten by the much stronger team! We tried our hardest to keep them out, but, as you’d expect from chasing the game for a full seventy minutes, we tired and their class shone through. Nothing to be too disheartened about though as Arsenal are a really strong side at the moment under Luis Enrique (this is while Arteta is currently managing Stoke after guiding Swansea back to the Championship a year after he relegated them!)

Genclerbirligi 0-4 Trabzonspor

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GOALSCORERS: Seydou Traore, Mevlut Han Ekelik, Ahmet Tamrak, Omay Carkaci.

Back to winning ways against my old club, who find themselves in a little bit of bother after losing keeper Martin Turk and then strengthening areas where I, personally, didn’t anticipate that they would need to – leaving Cem Bilgin as a mere backup despite his twelve goals from midfield last term and Ismaila Coulibaly as a deep lying forward, despite, again, his successes deeper in my shape. The game was finished by celebrating Omay Carkaci’s first goal since progressing through the academy. Despite limited minutes so far, his statistical outputs – 8.34 dribbles and 9.54 progressive passes per 90 – are simply sublime! Faith in youth very much paying off.

Trabzonspor 4-0 FC Midtjylland

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GOALSCORERS: Oguz Kilic, Enis Destan x3.

When your third choice striker can net a Champions League hattrick, you know things are going well! A pretty straightforward tie for us as we are comfortable against the Danes.

Trabzonspor 2-0 Besiktas

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GOALSCORERS: Emre Mor, Seydou Traore.

strong showing over the third Istanbul club with another youngster really performing well. Alpaslan Kaya – again, with limited minutes – showing that he is ready for the first team: 10.83 interceptions, 7.08 progressive passes, 2.92 open play key passes, 3.33 dribbles and 21.25 sprints in a little over 200 minutes is some way to introduce yourself to the first team, giving real promise that the newer shape (which was tested here due to Besiktas’ 4-4-2) could work for him and for us.

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We are back atop the table as we head into December and things are looking really good here in Trabzon. I am completely in love with the club and the players here and, as of right now, have no desire to move on. December is going to be tough with the fixtures below, and Altinordu (A), Amed SK (H) in the cup and Samsunspor (A) all to play, there will be some enforced rotation and, hopefully, some good performances as I look to keep a competitive squad.

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December 2027

Trabzonspor 2-1 Fenerbahce

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Goalscorers: Andrey Mostovoy, Eren Elmali.

The continued rise of ‘Barreto-ball’ sees us comfortably beat Fenerbahce in an affair that was, surprisingly, easy.

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Their deep 4-2-3-1 seems to play into our strengths as we are able to tight mark their DMs and trigger press their AM as well as any of the identified passing lanes through the defence. Elmali deputised at right back instead of his normal left back and I was rewarded with a beautiful curling strike from the edge of the area as he opened his body up.

Fatih Karagümrük 0-5 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorers: Mevlut Han Ekelik, Oguz Kilic, Ahmet Suphi Canturk, Oguz Kilic, Enis Destan.

A really strong start, which, as you’d expect me to say, was by design! I saw that they don’t do well when conceding first and that the start of the game is a weak spot for them so went to Very Attacking and was immediately delighted at being three nil up inside the first fifteen. From then on, we controlled the game nicely, limiting Fatih to a one decent chance, which Ronnow saved well and then a couple of half chances here and there.

Trabzonspor 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk

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Goalscorers: Seydou Traore, Seydou Traore.

A great performance but even that was shadowed by our youngsters’ performance, as they secured qualification from their group stages. With Shakhtar’s 4-4-2 shape, I employed the variant that the youth side play – one IWB and one CWB – with the Half Back creating a nice three-at-the-back build up. We kept them at arm’s length for the entirety of the match and this kind of performance shows just how far we’ve come as a club in the past twelve months.

Trabzonspor 3-0 Kayserispor

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Goalscorers: Mehmet Gencerler, o.g., Omay Carkaci.

A slightly rotated team as the games are coming thick and fast but an equally promising victory as our youngsters did me proud. What is scary at the moment is, when you look at the entire club playing staff, sorted by current ability, judged by a strong member of staff, that the top four are all Trabzon academy graduates and two of them were not even earmarked to play much this season. Omay has made an immense start to the season and to see Umit Demir on this list too makes me really excited for what is to come.

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Trabzonspor 5-1 Alanyaspor

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Goalscorers: Ahmet Tamrak, Felix Nmecha, Felix Nmecha, Felix Nmecha, Felix Nmecha.

Genuinely – Felix Nmecha and Omay Carkaci must be best friends. This was, despite the relatively low xG, a wide open game. We sat so patiently, waiting for the ball, before drawing them in, launching a high risk counter and, often, losing the ball, leaving a good fifty, sixty yards between our lines. However, the game kicked into life in the eighty-fifth minute when late sub Omay Carkaci played in other late sub Felix Nmecha to make it 2-1. From then on, he repeated the same story a further three times as the two subs ran absolute riot wirth the tired legs of Alanyaspor.

To me, this is the purest form of high risk football: press resistant defensive players and high risk, pacey attacking players creating absolute havoc!

However, all is not too well…

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Eren, or should I say Eren’s agent, has demanded a new deal. Fine. He’s a top player. Yet, the agent is demanding ridiculous money that would see him become the top earner, earning some €30k more per week than the next top earner. Ridiculous! This then triggered some specific unhappiness and a few players showing their Support for him and, infuriatingly, a Team Meeting. I attending it and clicked the “We’re doing really well” button but, no, that clearly was the wrong thing to say in this situation and left the whole squad unhappy. Eren will serve his time in the U19 squad as punishment for his outbursts, which, given our strong position in the league, could really be costly. If, at any point, he does decide to make a u-turn, sacking his agent or getting him to agree much lower terms, he’ll be welcome back into the squad.

My job is now to manage the impact that this has had…

Altınordu 0-2 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorers: Seydou Traore, Seydou Traore.

With morale a little low from the unsettling of Eren, I opted for a slightly different 4-4-2 shape, still following the same core principles, but just as a method to get my two in form players – Nmecha and Traore – on the pitch at the same time, in their favoured positions. It worked. Altinordu’s fairytale start has somewhat fallen off the rails but they’re still a good team built on strong principles and we took them apart. Granted, the interplay didn’t quite fit what I wanted – I’ve built my squad around inverted full backs with supporting wide men and this shape goes pretty much the opposite of that but there is certainly scope to invert the attacking movement – instead of an offensive central midfielder making positive runs, I can utilise a negative forward, dropping deep to collect the ball.

Trabzonspor 3-0 Amed SK

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Goalscorers: Felix Nmecha, Omay Carkaci, Felix Nmecha.

We made hard work of it at times but make safe progress to the next round of the cup. We created a lot of chances and, for a change, had a lot of the ball. Going forward, we do need to find a way that allows us to play against teams that are more likely to defend with two banks of four as, going forward, I envisage that some Super Lig teams will also attempt to do this. But it was, once again, the Omay-Nmecha show as the combined to be involved in all three goals.

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The continued emergence of Omay Carkaci (full screenshot is behind the clickable thumbnail for him and the other wingers) has put a real cat among the pigeons in my thoughts about where my strengths lie on the wings. My ideal arrangement would be five wingers, all of whom are able to play on both sides – meaning that traits such as Cuts Inside aren’t ideal here – but, inversely, Hugs Line would be ok. Below are my options:

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Kagan Yalcin’s lack of development plus his actual statistical outputs are really putting his place in this side under threat at the moment. Mostovoy is top quality and is performing to that level too and then it’s a toss up between Emir, Emre and Omay for the other winger slot really. Emre is now thirty and, with one weak foot and traits that would favour an inverted winger, is a different option but one who cannot be ignored and certainly has the pedigree for this level – as shown by his outputs for the AI managed Gencler last year.

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Then there is young Umit to consider! A natural replacement for Mostovoy given his left-footedness but is already better than Emir Bars in terms of attributes.

It’s this level of competition that is keeping our outputs so high!

Samsunspor 1-4 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorers: Seydou Traore, Dorukhan Tokoz, Felix Nmecha, Felix Nmecha.

We end the year on a high with a nice derby victory in Samsun. Once again, the late show of counter attacking brilliance with Felix Nmecha makes this a much emphatic scoreline that it could have been, although we missed many good chances throughout and conceded to a silly long ball that we just watched sail over our heads, allowing their striker in. What has been great for me to watch this season is the timing of our German forwards goals, as seen below:

Nmecha’s goal timings 2027/28: 68,76,79,80,83,85,90,90,92,93,94.

A median goal time of 85 minutes and, given that he’s averaging just over thirty minutes per game, means he’s not taking too much time after coming on to find his scoring boots. This is kind of a pattern that I don’t want to break but I’m envisaging a situation in which Seydou Traore leaves us next month – the vultures from Germany and England are circling – and, as such, I’ll need Felix to step into his shoes.

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Things are looking really, really good right now. We are absolutely flying in the league and, whilst Gala are keeping pace, I feel that our goalscoring record and just general style of play, is by far the most exciting and efficient that this league has seen for some time. Whilst it may be brash, I do fully anticipate that we will go on to win the league, given the strength across the first round of fixtures.

January though, could be a month of transition as several of my players are wanted and, following the elections, the new board have a rather strange request: that I spend all of the transfer budget. With potentially €15m coming in for Seydou, it’s highly unlikely that I will spend over €50m this window and, probably, forever in my time here. It’ll be interesting to see how that approach goes down with him but my ethos is very much about finding those diamonds in the rough…

January does not look too friendly but, following that Hatayspor match, we do get a short holiday to rest and recoup.

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January 2028

Trabzonspor 3-1 Hatayspor

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Goalscorers: Gonzalo Gonzalez, Andrey Mostovoy, Felix Nmecha

A fairly straightforward last game before the winter break. Gonzalez from a corner, Mostovoy from the spot and super sub Nmecha slotted away after a swift counter attack. Disappointed to concede from a long ball over the top though.

I used the off-season break to set about solving a couple of issues we will face in the summer: keeper Ronnow approaching retirement and centre back Cenk Ozkacar agreeing a contract elsewhere.

Move one:

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Quite the statement of intent here!

Whilst Dominik (full screenshot from clicking on his thumbnail) hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that he may have started the game with and maybe does in real life – the man has accrued over €50m worth of transfer fees and has spent ive years in the top divisions of Europe, winning silverware as backup to Donnarumma at PSG and then moving on to become first choice in his own right. The main intention of the deal is to bring in an experienced head who can oversee the development of the incredibly promising youngsters I have here at Trabzon and I don’t feel that there is any better way of doing that than with a Model Citizen and a man with nearly eighty international caps for a top team.

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Whilst his statistics over three previous seasons aren’t hugely drawing me to him – the fact that Everton are among the poorer teams in the league – sitting sixteenth under Ruben Baraja at the moment – tells a big tale around his performances compared to the quality of the squad he is in. Moving there from West Ham was somewhat of a shock; The Hammers are currently sitting third after a seventh placed finish last year so, presumably, the draw back to continental football was too much for him. I am fully aware that the Expected Save % is hugely broken but I can unpick that he is really a great passer and, whilst playing around six or seven less passes – on average – than Ronnow, completes more.

In comparison with Ronnow, you’ll see that the backroom team really like him and he’s an upgrade on a player that we have, even if he’s not quite the longest term option. However, I’d be silly to turn down a free transfer for a man currently valued at nearly €20m…

Wage wise – he’s accepted an offer that is quite a significant pay cut for him – €35k p/w, putting him on a par with my top earner, Mostovoy. The exact kind of signing that will, probably, cement ourselves as the best team at this level, now with an even better piece in our defensive puzzle.

Next up is the ‘arrangement’ to make a move for a player in the summer…

Warmed Omari (again, a full profile can be found through clicking on the thumbnail below) feels a bit more a statistical buy. Currently at Estoril, a mid-table Portuguese top tier side, he’s combining two things that I’m really interested in: great statistical output for a player at a club of that size, and a trait that I’m interested in which could allow us to bait the press at the back – Stops Play.

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I need to ensure that I’m not drawn into those overall statistic ratings because, at first glance, his ball progression and other more offensively minded stats appear to be quite poor, but that is compared to all positions and, when I look at just centre backs, he’s excelling. Very nicely rouned and, with the ability to move the play vertically once drawing opposition attackers in, I think he could be really powerfully technically for us to have at the club. It does give me three right footed centre backs and does, potentially, block some development time for Ali Inal but a deal that costs less than €8m for a man who, seemingly, fits our style so well could be great. I respect Estoril’s demand to not sell mid-season (and I also have Cenk here for a further six months anyway) but, unless anything silly happens, I’ll be returning to this one in the summer.

Ajax 1-2 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorers: Mevlut Han Ekelik, Oguz Kilic.

We managed to keep a forward line of Mateus Cunha, Kingsley Coman and Lucas Ocampos pretty much much quiet for the entire ninety minutes and, that, in itself, is a huge statement for us in what the media wrongly called surviving to claim a priceless victory. What it was, however, was clever pressing traps, seeing that an RPM and BBM would likely be in places where they’re not always supposed to be and, whilst Bentancur is a great ball winner, knowing that he can’t mark three men. We went behind to a screamer but pulled one back pretty quickly thanks to a Mevlut goal, following Seydou Traore’s wonderful pass. Oguz gave us the three points after a pretty dull spell of positional football, netting from a Nmecha cross, who was dangerous, as he so often has been, from the bench.

Istanbul Basaksehir 1-1 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorer: Mevlut Han Ekelik

Everytime I look at the youth squad, there is another player who has significantly improved and, whilst they are not the holy grail, shown that their star rating is good enough to be in the first team. So I’ve just decided to bite the bullet – all of the are now within the first team, discussing new contracts to extend past the next eighteen months and will largely to be playing league football as the busy Champions League schedule is tiring for a small squad. It also means that Destan can be sold for a profit before I lose him on a free and Kagan Yalcin can get some minutes elsewhere as I look to recoup some of the €3.5m I splashed on him. It does, however, mean that moving all of these players from the youth side makes them far less competitive and I’m sure you can spot the date that I promoted them…

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But this time, the plan didn’t work and our fourteen match (!!!) winning streak is over.

All but Gencerler started the game but Demir did not finish it as a second yellow early in the second half saw us change formation and, essentially, shut up shop a lot earlier than intended. We had some good chances to win the game but weren’t quite at the races, which is annoying given that most of the team had actually played together all year for the youth side.

Trabzonspor 1-2 Barcelona

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Goalscorer: Seydou Traore.

This is the kind of opposition I want to be facing week in, week out.

A valiant effort but the quality of the Catalan side paid off in the end as they came out in the second half an almost unrecognisable side to the one that we had kept under wraps in the first.

Beşiktaş 0-2 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorers: Felix Nmecha, Seydou Traore.

Still comfortably the weakest of the three Istanbul giants, we set about them with the tweaked IWB/CWB combo to offset against their 4-4-2 shape and made light work of their quite shockingly poor defence.

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Things are looking very good as we enter the second half of the season, still unbeaten and with an incredible scoring and defending record. The race for second seems to be favouring Gala but Gencler are in form and deserve more than they appear to be getting. It’ll be interesting to see how long Altinordu stick around and whether Istanbul can make up the ground after a poor first half with Hatayspor (the feel good story of the season before Altinordu and Genclerbirligi) just below them. Ankara are virtually gone, leaving just one side from the capital again for next year as Ankaragucu aren’t up to much in the second tier. Menemenspor sit eighth in the third tier, one place below my feeder – 1461 Trabzon FK in a league headed by the fallen giant Bursaspor, wirth our next opponents – Boluspor – in the chasing pack.

Following that tie, we have  a couple of relatively straightforward league ties an a double header against Philippe Clement’s Monaco: whose 4-4-2 shape and mix of older players (Embolo, Lazzari, Minamino, Luke Shaw and Sabitzer to name but a few) sees them sit in fourth in Ligue 1, nine behind surprise second place Rennes and fourteen behind juggernauts PSG. I fully expect a tough tie but, if I can prepare right, do fancy ourselves to cause them some problems on the break.

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February 2028

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Trabzonspor 3-0 Boluspor

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Goalscorers: Oguz Kilic, Ali Inal, Felix Nmecha.

A cup tie to start the month was, for me, an ideal opportunity to field an incredibly young side, showcasing the talent that we have coming through at present.  With only Ronnow and Emre not born in the country and then only Ahmet Suphi not coming through the academy, it’s an embodiment of just what my plan has been here.

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It was a relatively straightforward victory with only Alpaslan Kaya’s injury a blot on the copy book.

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Whilst there has been no immediate investment within the first team, I’ve utilised my scouting knowledge and the recruitment team (by turning off making signings for the youth team myself as well as creating a Transfer Target list for them to work from, position dependent) in order to flesh out the youth squad, which had been left bereft of numbers given the accelerated progress many of them made. Whilst these twelve signings, all made across this season, so far, represent a payout of around €5m, there should be the ability to develop and recoup some of that money as well as giving first team opportunities to some, too. Denizhan Açıkalın is a promising centre back with that magical trait I was looking for (n.b. Is this quite common for centre backs because I can’t unsee it now I’ve set about finding players with it?), Kaan Öztürk is a silky playmaker and Serhan Sarp is a good finisher with plenty of first team experience under his belt, at third tier Altay. They will see me through the period until my youth intake comes in and ensure that we don’t make a mess of the strong start we’ve made in the Elite league…

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Monaco 1-1 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorer: Seydou Traore.

A tough tie in France but we held our own and probably should have left with a bit more than we actually did. We pulled ahead early thanks to a Traore strike, getting in behind and finishing like he has done time and time again this season but were pulled back thanks to a Marcel Sabitzer screamer as we entered the last ten minutes following a prolonged spell of pressure from the Monegasque side. Still, an away goal (not sure these even count, but hey) and a good performance to bring back to the Black Sea.

Trabzonspor 4-1 İstanbulspor

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Goalscorers:o.g., Oguz Kilic, Felix Nmecha, Mehmet Gencerler.

Really straightforward performance where we dominated throughout.

Trabzonspor 2-1 Monaco

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Goalscorer: Andrey Mostovoy

So close but so much to learn from this. I watched Villa vs Arsenal yesterday (as a Villa fan) and was somewhat taken aback by Emery’s post match presser. As a Villa fan, I’m used to fans calling these games free hits and (especially under Gerrard and definitely Bruce before him) that ‘we played well’ and ‘should be proud’ but I’m not. That shows just how far I’ve come, tactically. I spent a lot of time dissecting this tactical thread and it’s opened me up to a whole new ideology of chasing a game. In the past – one goal down – I’d be upping the mentality and maybe pushing wingers and full backs further forward, changing their duties and roles. That’s what I did this time but it didn’t work. Their second came as Ronnow misplaced his pass – which, when you think about, was bound to happen. As a SK(a) with a team playing on Ultra Attacking, he’s programmed to take just about every risk he can and, as an average passer, was bound to be drawn into things he’s just not capable of. Instead of this, I really should have looked to create an extra man somewhere or doubled up on a weaker/fatigued defensive player in the Monaco side. It’s all about the reaction and, as a vanilla tactician in my past life, would just stick as many strikers on as I can and go as offensive as I can. That cost us here..

However…

There was nearly a ‘Jimmy Glass’ moment (read here and watch here if you don’t know that reference) in the dying minutes as I changed the set pieces for Ronnow to go up and watched his header crash on the bar. The rebound was put away but it was deemed offside. Never have I actually done that and had it come off. Again, there is a thinly veiled reference to Unai Emery as Emi Martinez decided to venture forward only to leave his net empty for Martinelli to score for the away side.

Out of Europe and much to think about but we’ve enjoyed the ride…

Adana Demirspor 1-2 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorers: Ahmet Tamrak, Angel Gomes.

A really open and, to be fair, poor, first half. Adana opened the scoring just seventeen seconds in with us not having touched the football. We came back and enjoyed a much stronger second half but tired legs and a bit of overconfidence was somewhat disappointing.

Trabzonspor 3-0 Kasımpaşa

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Goalscorers: Mehmet Gencerler, Felix Nmecha, Mehmet Gencerler.

Back to a much stronger performance to end the month as we dominated Kasimpasa from the first minute until the last. Two goals from youngster Mehmet as he is rewarded with a start after a month of solid training performances.

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think that the league is probably wrapped up here! Gala need to score ten points more than us – given our goal difference – out of just thirty six available to them. Gencler’s comeback is strong and they deserve more but they are being chased by another form side – Fener. My own signing, Karamoko, is leading the scoring charts but, given the rotation between my forwards, the metric, for me, that shows domination is the expected assists – even if Adam Ounas, my ex-player, leads it!

March is ok. Gencler are on a hot streak but – even if I don’t take full points from them – should have taken nine league points from nine before that.

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With the league how it is and my own playing time how it is, I have spent a lot time considering the ‘what next?’ Looking at the available jobs doesn’t tell me much but, I think, to continue the upward trajectory of my career, I need to find one in the summer. Whilst I love Turkey and I’ve fallen in love with this club, the ceiling isn’t too far away, as shown by our European performances and the restrictive way in which I can develop my talent. I don’t really have an Italian team – mainly because I spent my formative years watching Football Italia and then playing as most sides over the course of CM/FM and like teams based on certain players but I do have teams I won’t manage. As a Roma fan (Totti, Batigol, Montella, Cafu, De Rossi) and an Inter fan (Ronaldo, Vieiri, Zamorano, Recoba, Zanetti) I cannot bring myself to manage Lazio or Milan. I also do not want to commit myself to signing a pre-contract with a team like Lecce as a move from Turkish champions to Serie B feels like too much of a step down, so that rules Pisa out and Empoli, too, given how tight the bottom of Serie A is. Clubs like Fiorentina – 11th in Serie A – and Sassuolo – 9th – do interest me and I think that I can take a few years there, starting at a level not to dissimilar from where I am now, and taking them as far as I can before ending the career back in Argentina.

March 2028

Much shorter updates this time around but don’t be fooled into thinking I’m not loving this still. I’ve done a bit more skinning work (see here) and have also just sat back and enjoyed the fruits of my labour. There is a difference between winning easily and winning through tactically being better and I think that I’m almost certainly in the latter here – just am going through the process of it rather than writing down all of my thoughts. With my time here probably drawing to an end, it’s been nice to watch the games in a bit more detail and not feel like I want to write down every thought. That will, of course, return!

İstanbulspor 0-5 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorers: Seydou Traore x4, Emrecan Uzunhan.

Pretty straightforward progress in the cup with a nicely rotated team.

Sivasspor 1-2 Trabzonspor

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Goalscorers: Ali Inal x2.

And I think this is why the move is needed. Our worst performance, probably, under my tenure but two set piece goals, both in injury time, rescue a victory from the jaws of defeat. Yes – I tweaked the corner routines in order to try to just get more men up field as we chased the game late on, but we are just better than these teams without really having to try and, to be fair, that showed even in a stuttering performance.

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İlhami Kaldirim | Hasan Ali Serdar | Rasimcan Bosnak.

Another cracking intake (with full intake available by clicking on the above thumbnail) that’ll provide, at least, three players who’ll serve this club well over the coming years. Hasan Ali looks like the pick of the bunch to me – a two footed defensive midfielder who could cover a variety of roles.

Trabzonspor 4-1 Konyaspor

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Goalscorers: Ahmet Tamrak x2, Seydou Traore x2.

Back to league action and back to more domination – although I was most upset to concede almost immediately after going two up as I witnessed a rare defensive mix-up allowing a simple goal or the visitors.

Alanyaspor 0-0 Trabzonspor

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A rare game where a) we didn’t score and b) we reverted to a complete disdain for the football. I’m certainly more intrigued by use of the ball rather than retention of the ball but we were just wasteful on it and that, combined with Alanyaspor’s intent to keep the ball in defensive areas, meant that there was some incredibly boring periods of play. They had one big chance and we had a couple but it wasn’t a game that’ll live long in my memory.

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Batuhan has had an incredibly positive breakout season after moving to left back and fully deserves the accolades he’s getting here.

Trabzonspor 1-0 Gençlerbirliği

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Goalscorer: Seydou Traore.

A game that I had to plan a little more for. Focusing on keeping Adam Ounas quiet and stopping the ball getting to Mamadou Karamoko and we did that really quite well. On paper, this is the second best performing team in the league and we kept them at arms length with relative ease.

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If you look around Europe, you’ll see that we are one of only a few teams who have already secured our qualification to a European competition next year and that’s built on the back of one of the most dominating performances I’ve been able to put together.  With Gala up in gameweek twenty-nine, we are likely to be seven ahead with five to play – meaning a victory would put us two points from securing the title.

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This is really interesting to me. Whilst Serie A looks grim – any team at that level is automatically a step up for me in terms of reputation, size of club and challenge. They’re underperforming and aging and a good clear out could be something that sees them challenge for Europe in a couple of years. Furthermore, moving to Italy doesn’t mean the end goal in Europe and if my stop in Udine is merely for a season or so, then so be it. I would be more tempted if there was a viable club from the south (or Sardinian) but Napoli are too big and the rest are too small, really – with Cagliari being the only other option – so I am happy to be linked with this. I’m going to apply for the job, with the stipulation that the move would be at the end of the season and then use that time to see what the chances are of them getting themselves out of the relegation scrap. A move to Serie B is not on the cards.

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April 2028

Feels somewhat of a shame that the month I’ve been working towards across the six-year career ends up being a fraction of the length that it could have been but, following a laptop crash that removed the entire update (the SI forums keep it sometimes but, in this case, they’d retained the March update instead) and then following a period of time where I’d decided to erase all FM settings, instead of just clearing the cache, my focus has been somewhat elsewhere.

Over the past few days, as has been the case over this FM, I’ve been engrossed my developing my Statman skin. I have posted a lot about it in the Skinning Hideout but am aware that some of the readers of the thread don’t need to venture in there, so I thought I’d detail the massive change I’ve made here. I will use the below player, Diassé Diarra to further explain…

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Firstly, you’ll find his full profile by clicking on the thumbnail and you’ll notice how different it now is to my normal, which, in itself is already way different to the normal. My intention has been to create two different profiles, one for players at the club and one for players not at the club based on the realism factor that I simply would not be able to ascertain details of all thirty-six attributes before he is at my club. Unless I’m doing a Bielsa and camping out outside the training ground, how would I really know exactly how good certain attributes are aside from watching him in a game. Therefore, I’ve opted for some broad archetypes – does he look to be a player who uses his pace or his strength? Does he appear to be creative or more restrained?

Take Diarra, for example. The scout report shows me a player who can use two feet and the combination of his trait and the fact he’s both technical and a good passer (although equally as good at carrying the ball) tell me he could make a good playmaker. I still have more to scout (and more to edit to change that percentage to the FM23 scouting descriptors) which will be able to give me a little bit more info but I’m never going to know the same amount about an 18-year old Malian as a I would about a player at my own club, who now has a slightly altered profile. I can, however, still see all of his stats as I imagine I’d be able to get my recruitment analysts to collate some data on the Malian top flight and I’m also not able to differentiate the level shown between these non-human players – where here I’d get less info than a player from La Liga, for example.

I really think that this will revolutionise the way I look at new signings and provide more realism in the way that not every signing will be perfect

Now, onto the meat and potatoes of the month – the football…

As I said, I lost the update which included the screenshots that I take of each match and, given that the xG story etc are only kept for a finite amount of time, cannot go back and retrieve them. Therefore, there is no match by match breakdown as I revert to the old style of the monthly breakdown:

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We have always done well when it matters the most and April was no different.

A rotated team saw off Kasimpasa, putting us in the strongest possible position before the second leg before we did what we quite often do: make a mockery of a team in this league after several performances where we underperform our xG. These eight goals came from less than 3.0xG as everything we touched turned to gold and we dominated, putting us in the best possible frame of mind before the crunch Gala tie. That tie was a real demonstration of high quality football, showing just how far the Turkish league has come and just how good the quality at the top of the table is. It ebbed and flowed and the draw, despite our comfortable xG victory was probably the correct result but, as we avoided defeat, probably signalled that the title charge was over for the Istanbul giants. Two further league wins, with the first showcasing the exact reason why keeper Ronnow needs replacing – his distribution when trying to play through the press went straight to an unmarked Fatih player who scored with ease – before a pretty torrid second leg full of complacency that we only snatched a draw thanks to an injury time penalty.

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We travelled to Altinordu but found ourselves behind within five minutes thanks to not waking up to defend a corner. We didn’t roar back but our class showed and we went in 3-1 up. The second half was a different story – we controlled every aspect of the game, turning it into somewhat of a procession – a demonstration of the team that have broken almost every Super Lig record going this season. The final whilst blew and my first top flight title had been won.

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It’s been six years since the Black Sea town of Trabzon has tasted league success but this genuinely meant a lot for me in the journey I’ve had here becoming an avid FM player and actually a fan of the team and what it stands for. Watching Andrey Mostovoy lifting the league title, with a matter of weeks before we have a chance to add a cup to this, feels a fitting way to mark the sheer amount of work and learning that has gone into this process.

With Gala unable to catch us, they’re settling for second as Gencler look set to take third a year after their own miracle league win. With two games left to play, it’s unlikely that Traore will win the Golden Boot but our goals have been shared out with five of the fist team reaching double figures across all competitions.

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The month ends on a confusing note though…

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Currently, I have a contract that runs until 2030 and that leaves the compensation fee at around €1.4m, which, clearly, Udinese don’t want to/can’t pay. To make the move to Trabzon, the Gencler board allowed me to cut the compensation, but this time, it was not as successful…

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I, obviously, did not choose the resign now route as my intention would never be to move mid season and, especially not this close to the end of the season. However, it’s probably a blessing in disguise as they now sit three points from safety with just three games to go and – as I’ve said – I have no interest in dropping into Serie B. This does leave me in a bit of a predicament for the summer – do I continue to look for jobs, knowing that a club would have to buy me out of my deal, making me a less attractive proposition, or do I just resign and then hope to land on my feet. It does, actually, feel odd that I’d be looking to take the next step given the success we’ve had but the performances show me that I probably can’t take this club much further within the next season or two and (in non-FM terms) we’re about half way through the FM23 cycle and I’ve still got a lot left to achieve – success in Italy/Europe and then a sensational return home to Argentina. I simply won’t get this in playing at my current speed if I stick around at – essentially – step one for another few years.

I’m hoping that the Euro ’28 managerial merry-go-round is helpful for me…

May 2028

Trabzonspor vs Samsunspor

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Another one of my new skinning ventures was to create something that I could screenshot to share post game and here it is…

The headline post match was all about us having bragging rights in the Karadeniz derby and we absolutely do after blowing Samsunspor away! Gonzalez got us off to the perfect start, knocking in a rebound from a corner before Oguz Kilic netted his eleventh of the season – moving to seven goal involvements in the last ten – before the clock had even reached eight minutes. Fearing a battering, the away side shut up shop but it was a penalty, converted by about ninth choice taker Batuhan Kaya, as I wanted to share the goals around. Mehmet Gencerler added a fourth before half time but that sandwiched another error from Ronnow, failing to deal with a cross in something that has become far too common of late. Obviously, a replacement of the stature of Livakovic will help solve this issue. Late on Seydou Traore felt that he had to help himself to a goal, scoring a neat volley from a good move.

The stats above highlight how our game has adapted over the past season – much more possession and time in the final third than I’d ever really imagine with this shape and style but playing against teams that sit back and are poor on the ball, opting to hoof it long, means that we end up in this situation. Starting Gencerler gave me a taller option to aim crosses at and opting for three creators – with Ahmet deeper over someone like Boudjemaa or Sarr, meant that I was abie to maintain more of a creative presence, even against two defensive banks.

Hatayspor vs Trabzonspor

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WE ARE INVINCIBLE!!! Forty-seven league games unbeaten as we end 2027/28 without a defeat in the league…

Emrecan nodded us ahead on the half hour before a rifling shot – for his thirty-seventh of the season – from Traore killed the tie. The second half was a procession and the five late subs were able to get on and have some fun. If this is to be the last league game that I manage Trabzonspor for, then it certainly wasn’t the most difficult but it certainly was a show of just how far this team has progressed.

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Not just any season, a sublime season that saw many records tumble and others come close to seeing this crop being the best ever Super Lig team:

  • Joint most wins in a season, level with Besiktas in 1959.
  • One point from the league record set by Fenerbahce in 1989.
  • Joint best league defeats with Galatasaray in 1986.
  • Most assists in a season – Emre Mor: 13.
  • Highest Average Rating – Omay Carkaci: 7.66 (20 apps)

We then set our own records for points, wins, goals, least amount of losses, gate receipts (€512k vs Rapid Vienna), fastest league goal (12 seconds for Seydou Traore), and most games won in a row: 13.

But it was at the bottom that the final day drama really happened. Konyaspor started the day safe and were safe up until the 76th minute when, within the space of a matter of seconds, Sivasspor drew level away at Kasimpasa and Konyaspor conceded to a Steve Mounie strike, switching the order around with a tiny percentage of the league left to play. Final day results also sees two of the big three Istanbul clubs – Fener and Besiktas – without managers as Altinordu and a strong-finishing Gencler leapfrog them.

We end, like last season, with a bittersweet taste for the top scorer. It wasn’t Seydou, who showed he’s not a one season wonder, but Mamadou Karamoko, who I, myself, brought to Turkey. I’m sure that my Ivorian striker would have taken the plaudits had he not shared so many minutes with Felix Nmecha, as they both have scored at over a goal per 90 this season. Carkaci’s breakout season was sublime, as the pacey winger created twelve goals in just his half a season spell in the first team as three of my players appear in the xA top five.

Much credit must go to the whole crop of youngsters who have stepped into the first team across the season:

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Twelve goal contributions from a just-seventeen year old Umit Demir, Batuhan Kaya – also just seventeen – playing over 2,000 minutes and becoming essentially my first choice full back, despite being a defensive midfielder not twelve months ago. Carkaci’s fifteen goal involvements and over 13 progressive actions (dribbles and progressive passes) a game, putting him in the top 1% of all European based wingers and Oguz Kilic, cementing himself as the first choice in my stacked midfield. The essence of what Trabzon stands for.

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Then comes the supporting act. Just €880k was paid out to bring in this set of players, who have performed incredibly well and fitted into the team perfectly. Nmecha has been incredible and would absolutely be first choice in this league if we didn’t have an even more potent striker ahead of him – but to end the season with more than a goal a game when only getting, on average, just over half an hour on the pitch is sublime. Mevlut Han Ekelik cost a mere €220k and has become a strong contender for a call up to the Turkish national team – some rise in just eighteen months from the second tier. Sarr and Boudjemaa have been solid in a really unfashionable role: granted, they didn’t set the world alight and a better player there would see our football become even more expansive, but they’ve done what I asked and expected.

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And how could I forget the key players within the team..

Having a centre back pair as settled as Emrecan/Gonzalez has been a dream come true. I really rate them both and reckon they could both play at the top level in Europe. Eren, Dorukhan and Andrey Mostovoy are all super consistent performers and have shown guile and ability when needed the most – the ideal players to have in the squad. Ahmet has been the standout academy graduate at Trabzonspor and looks set to go on and achieve great things, either here or elsewhere. Last, and certainly not least is Seydou Traore. Following in the line of great strikers after Tai Sodje and Melih Demir, the Ivorian free transfer has set Turkey alight. Whilst his new contract of €30k a week sees him earning 10x what he did on arrival, it should mean that he’s here for the foreseeable and will continue to destroy opposition defences.

However, the season is not over yet. The Turkish FA decided to implement an eighteen day gap between the last league game and the cup final, meaning I’d be without Ronnow, Emre Mor and Ahmet Tamrak, who’d already be with their national squads for Euro ’28. However, it’s a problem for Gala, too, as they are also without first choice keeper Irfan.

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The biggest stage in Turkish football sees the farcical debate of top number twoAlper Aydin vs Joe Wollacott. Our keeper, at just 16, will be making his debut for the club. Quite the fairytale story!

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How annoying is it that match stats don’t work for cup games like they do for league games!

Within five minutes, Mevlut poked home from close range to give us the lead before Seydou forced a great save from Wollacott within seconds of the restart. Within fifteen, we’d doubled our lead as Emrecan finished superbly as we recycled the ball from a corner really well before allowing them back in from a corner of their own just fifteen minutes later – certainly one I’d have backed Ronnow to keep out. Seydou had the ball in the net before half time but was fractionally offside and that was how it stayed until the break. Emrecan netted again with just ten minutes to as a series of substitutions saw us slow down the game and hold on for the win.

We avenged our defeat last and end 2028 as double winners!

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But, that is to be my last hurrah in Trabzon and, if all goes to plan, in Turkey…

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68 games won, 15 drawn and 12 lost for a 71% win percentage with a league and cup double to end my tenure of one year and 235 days. I have fallen in love with a club – ever the underdog – whose principles resonate with and whose fans are everything that I’d want to be as a fan. Daily, weekly, annually getting the short end of the stick when compared with the Istanbul giants but determined to overcome that. And overcome we have. The club have over €60m in the bank and a plethora of young, talented players who can continue to dominate this league and upset the apple cart in Europe. However, that takes time. Time that I don’t really have given the depth I’m playing in and how my career is panning out.

The job market isn’t quite as active yet as it may become later in the summer but there is one thing that catches my eye…

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Remi Garde – the pantomime villain at Aston Villa and a man who I have little time for given what he did for us – could be the saviour here. Dispatched by Lyon, they’ve moved for Gennaro Gattuso, meaning that the seat is available. As you’d expect, I’ve done my homework here and am excited by a front three of Andrea PinamontiGuiliano Simeone and Domenico Berardi, with the classy looking Lucas Martinez Quarta potentially being a key ball playing defender. I will have to think about how I use best player Gedson Fernandes but there are also plenty of player departures meaning that I’ll be able to quite quickly form a team that suits me that can build on their 12th placed finish in Serie A this year.

 

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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