Title dreams shattered, should Bilic be sacked?

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Updated: May 14, 2015

With our title aspirations gone, our dreams of a 14th championship title shattered for atleast another season. Many fans are calling for Besiktas’ Croatian boss Slaven Bilic’ head.

But is it all just emotional banter? Are our fans looking at things to plainly? Should he be granted more time?

A GROWING TEAM AND A GROWING COACH

When Slaven Bilic was first appointed as head coach of Besiktas JK, he came in off a season in Russia where he coudln’t quite convince that he was a big team coach. He was successful at international coaching level for the Croatian national team, but at club level he was still struggeling to find himself, to find his style.

Bilic is a young coach and therefore he still makes plenty of mistakes on occassion, however despite being a young coach he has shown in the past; both at Croatia and at Besiktas that he has the potential to be a very good coach.

When he came in at Besiktas, he took over a side which had scored 63 goals but also conceded a wopping 49 goals in 34 league games and finished 3rd behind Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray with 58 points.

In his first season Slaven Bilic was initially tasked with fixing the defensive flaws, the amount of goals conceded in the prior season was a huge problem for the squad and it was the first big working point for the Croatian coach to fix. Despite a lot of injuries to several key defenders, most noteably Tomas Sivok, Slaven Bilic managed to improve the Besiktas defense drastically, despite having to work with a player like Dany Nounkeu who was doing more harm than good in the Besiktas defense. In fact, Dany singlehandedly helped Galatasaray to the second place in 2013-2014 while on Besiktas’ payroll. I know from a very credible source, in fact one of our players, I won’t name any names but I can reveal this now; Dany Nounkeu, the day before Galatasaray – Besiktas, went to then Galatasaray president Ünal Aysal to “talk”, in the following match: Besiktas lost 1-0, due to a ridiculous penalty gifted to Galatasaray by Dany Nounkeu after a silly tackle on Veysel Sari in the second half. I’m not priveleged to know what was spoken about between Aysal and Dany, you can fill in the gaps yourself, but I know this meeting took place the day before the game. It was told to me in confidence over a year ago, I was told only recently (with Dany now gone) that I was allowed to make this information public. Of course, I will not mention the name of the player who Dany told this to. But after this, Dany was shunned by the entire dressing room. Bilic made a big mistake in thrusting Dany Nounkeu, a player who was property of Galatasaray, this was a big mistake on his part. But, regardless of that, the only reason Besiktas lost out on that second place in the 2013-2014 season is because of Dany’s sabotage. Bilic drastically improved the team’s organization compared to the prior season under Samet Aybaba.

Besiktas ended the 2013-2014 season in third place once again, on 62 points with 53 goals scored and 33 goals conceded. Four points more than they managed to prior season under Samet Aybaba, despite playing the entire season at the Atatürk Olimpiyat stadium due to the BJK Inönü stadium’s demolishment in May 2013 (in order to construct a brand new stadium, constuction is still on going to this day).

Bilic improved the team in several area’s, the team got 4 points more and conceded 17 goals less. That went at a cost however as the team also scored 10 goals less than the season prior.

But for those of you who remember the 2012-2013 season, while Besiktas did score more goals, that was probably down to the fact that the team played very offensively in most games. Outside of the derby matches where Samet Aybaba opted for a much more defensive style of play. The attacking mindset of Aybaba in those games also saw to it that 49 goals were conceded. In his first season Bilic managed to improve considerably on this defensive record despite a plethora of injuries throughout the season which for longer stretches of time really put him in a tight spot as to match selections.

With 31 games gone now in the 2014-2015 season, Besiktas are on 66 points in the league with 53 goals scored and 28 goals conceded. Granted 3 more games need to be played but it’s already safe to say that Bilic again managed to improve his side as opposed to the previous season. With already acquiring 4 points more than in the 2013-2014 season and 8 points more as opposed to Samet Aybaba’s 2012-2013 side.

Of course it needs to be said that several big additions were made tot he squad this season, most notably Demba Ba and José Ernesto Sosa. But that does not take away of the fact that Bilic once again managed to improve his side in pretty much all aspects.

Besiktas also went pretty far in Europe, even knocking out Liverpool in the round of 32 of the UEFA Europa League, bowing out against Belgium’s Club Brugge in the round of 16 (2-5 on aggregate).

With a relatively tight squad and still very notable injury woes this season’s Besiktas side played the most games of any Turkish first division club and still managed to battle for the Championship till the final four weeks of the season. the last time that happend, we need to go back several years.

With good performances in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages against Feyenoord Rotterdam (5-2 win on aggregate) and Arsenal (0-1 defeat on aggregate) and a win and a draw against Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Europa League group stages and ultimately knocking out Liverpool FC on penalties after a 1-1 aggregate socreline over two games. Bilic and his team accomplished something noteworthy and gave fans a memorable European campaign.

ALWAYS SECOND BEST WHEN IT TRUELY MATTERS

Despite those good performances in Europe and even the Spor Toto Süper Lig, there is one major gripe which the Besiktas fans have towards Slaven Bilic: Besiktas always seem to finish second best when it truely matters.

The reason for this is not entirely Bilic’s fault however, it honestly really seems to be a case of details deciding these big time games:

  • After drawing 0-0 at home against ARSENAL FC in the final knock-out round of the UEFA Champions League, Besiktas went and lost at the Emirates stadium in London despite a solid performance. However, this could have very easily ended differently. Referee Proença could have easily pointed to the spot on two sepperate occasions in the first half prior to Arsenal’s first half stoppage time goal. Ramon Motta and Mustafa Pektemek were both on two sepperate occassions brought down in the box, replays showed that both positions were very clear penalties. However the experienced Portuguese referee conveniently missed both these positions in favour of the “bigger” club.
  • In the first derby of this season between Besiktas and Fenerbahçe, Besiktas started off on the backfoot. Bilic made several odd decisions in his lineup. most noteably chosing to put Necip Uysal at rightback, this immediatly cost the Black Eagles as Caner Erkin easily passed Uysal anda ssisted the 0-1 only 3 minutes in to the match. After this Necip continued making a lot of positional errors and forced Olcay Sahan to make a foul midway through the first half to stop Caner Erkin from setting up a dangerous attack. Olcay was booked and only several minutes later was booked again and sent off, again due to a positional mistake by Necip which forced Olcay to foul Emre Belözoglu. Up till this point, pretty much anything which had gone wrong in the match was due to Bilic’s choice to post Necip at rightback. However, it has to be said that referee Bülent Yildirim was very eager to send Olcay Sahan off with a second yellow and judging by how he usually officiates games (today for example against Akhisar) he is usually much more lenient for players when making a foul around the halfway line. But fine, it was a bookable offence, the problem starts a few minutes later after Raul Meireiles grabbed Veli Kavlak by his throat and Emre Belözoglu started swearing at Slaven Bilic. Referee Yildirim did nothing, he allowed Meireiles to very clearly, in front of the fourth official and everyone to just grab Kavlak by his throat. While he had shown to be very strict toward Olcay only minutes earlier, he now showed incredible leniency toward Raul Meireiles. In the second half Bilic immediatly took off Necip and the team actually started playing much better despite going down to 10-men. Fenerbahçe leaned on the counter while BJK tried to attack. 15 minutes before halftime on a Besiktas corner, Demba Ba was clearly wrestled to the ground by Mehmet Topal: a clearer penalty could not exist. But the 5th official who was looking straight at it and Yildirim himself saw no penalty, in fact they gave the foul against Demba Ba! Fenerbahçe ended up scoring a second on the counter but important details definitely decided the result of this game: Olcay getting sent off, Meireiles & Emre not getting sent off and Demba Ba not getting a 100% penalty. While Bilic made very clear tactical mistakes and definitely carries partial blame for the defeat, it is certain that referee Bülent Yildirim played a large part in the defeat aswell as he showed to be extremely uncapable of calling the game down the middle.
  • In the following derby of the season, Besiktas again came up short “at home” against Galatasaray. In a quite evenly matched game where neither team played a very good game. Referee Cüneyt Cakir made several big decisions which ended up impacting the final score. In the first half Felipe Melo clearly and deliberately elbowed Veli Kavlak viciously in his face. This by all means should have been a red card, there is absolutely no discussion about it. Howewer the referee didn’t see it apparantly and didn’t even call for a foul. At halftime it was 0-0 and wouldn’t you know it, five minutes in the second half and that same Felipe Melo scores the 0-1 on a corner kick. Veli Kavlak later went on to receive a red card after making a slapping motion toward Wesley Sneijder after a foul, while Veli was swarmed by 3 Galatasaray plaeyrs who were supposedly “holding him back” (while grabbing him by his collars in a very aggresive manner), referee Cakir again did not intervene, he was standing right next to Kavlak and the players crowding him but instead of stepping in between just stood there, untill Sneijder ran up to Veli.. said something to him which provoked Veli to try and slap him in the face. Of course Cakir then decided to step in and send Kavlak off. Deep in to added time Burak Yilmaz scored the 0-2 on a counter after Besiktas’ final attack of the match, but again this was pretty much a moot point, the game was decided due to several important details: Melo not being sent off in the first half, Cakir not stepping in earlier and not taking responsibility when players were clearly crowding Kavlak and then sending him off. While Cakir by no means sabotaged the game in the way that Yildirim sabotaged the earlier game, he definitely made two major decisions which decided this derby. Again, Besiktas by no means put forward an impressive display even before Kavlak’s sending off or Melo’s goal and Besiktas really should be able to bring more in a home match (even though it’s not really a home game) in front of nearly 80,000 people. But still, Bilic made mistakes but the game was ultimately still decided by referee decisions.
  • You might say that knocking out Liverpool definitely isn’t “ending second best” and I am very inclined to agree with you. But let’s take a step back and look at this in the propper context: when drawing Liverpool in the round of 32 of the Europa League. Nobody expected Besiktas to actually knock the Reds out of the tournament, let’s be honest. The most optimistic Besiktas fan will of course have favoured our chances after solid performances against both Arsenal & Tottenham, but still realistically speaking; had we been knocked out, nobody would have cried about it. But, with very little pressure and no real expectations, Besiktas managed to knock out Liverpool. Showing in both legs that this team and this coach can think of and execute tactics quite well and as long as they aren’t under too much pressure from fan expectations can actually accomplish thigns. However in the following round, when Besiktas drawed an opponent which was realistically considered to be an inferior team in Club Brugge…. Besiktas croked, and not just in one game but in both games. Besiktas took the lead in both games, first away at Brugge and then at home. But in both games, after taking the lead, they failed to score a second despite having chances. They failed to live up to the expectations and honestly looked like a deer caught in the headlights especially in the second leg game in Istanbul in front of 67,000 fans.
  • Most recently the derby game away at Fenerbahçe, again referee decisions impacted this match. Emenike not being sent off, not even receiving a yellow card for taking off his jersey, running off the pitch without permission from the ref and running back on without permission. These were 3 yellow cards in a single phase, yet he received none. And again, Emre Belözoglu was very clearly swearing at Slavne Bilic but again did not receive a red card. These again were decisions made by the referee which ultimately cost the team. However, despite those referee decisions Besiktas had 3 great opportunities in the second half at a 0-0 scoreline and missed them. In fact, despite that Besiktas didn’t play all that great, Fenerbahçe played a bad game and didn’t have a single goalscoring chance in the second half untill the final minute when Sow scored out of the blue. But honestly, Besiktas should have put that game away way before Sow could ever score that late winner; Ba, Oguzhan and Sosa all missed great opporutnities. But despite the fact that Fenerbahçe looked like a wounded animal and was ripe for the slaughter in the second, Bilic did not chose to go all for the win and still seemed satisfied with a draw. While a red card in the first half for Emre B. or Emenike would have definitely given Besiktas a major advantage in the second half… Bilic and the team ultimately still failed to seal the deal on their own merrit.
  • Most recently against Gaziantepspor (1-1) and tonight against Akhisar Belediyespor (1-1), in the final 5 games of the season, Besiktas needed only 5 more wins to secure the Championship but in the most two recent games the team simply croked. The team simply did not manage to play their regular football, Bilic himself that the team was too nervous and that he takes responsbility for this. With all due respect to either side, but these are two teams which Besiktas should always be beating when they’re playing for the Championship, but in both games the team just came up short. Against Gaziantepspor there were plenty of chances in the second half but in the final 20 minutes the team simply did not develop the amount of pressure required to force a winner, the same thing tonight against Akhisar Belediyespor. A serious title contender simply should be doing better in games such as this.

I described several big games now, the last two only being “big” due to the circumstances. Honestly, Besiktas isn’t always “croking”, in fact they managed to pull off wins against Feyenoord and Trabzonspor at times where these matches really mattered and wins were needed. But in the end, the team has shown that they come up short a few too many times to really have a serious shot at a prize or true European success.

Now, this needs to be put in the propper context still. Besiktas have very few players who have big match experience. Outside of Demba Ba and Tomas Sivok, honestly nearly nobody on the roster has played for a Championship before. Atiba Hutchinson has, but came up short with his team PSV Eindhoven, so with all due respect to him but he knows what it’s like to be in the race but not to actually win it (he did at Copenhagen, but lets be honest, that’s such a different league and Copenhagen were a dominant side at the itme in that league).

Guys who we’re looking at to drag the team across the finish line like José Sosa for example, he’s never been a player to carry a team on his back that truely competed for the Championship. He carried Metalist Kharkiv for a part, but they never won anything noteworthy, they were a strong mid table side in Ukraine. That’s it.

Gökhan Töre, Veli Kavlak, Olcay Sahan, Ramon Motta, Ersan Gülüm, etc. all these players have no true experience in a title race. As compared to our rivals Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray who have pretty much retained the majority of their squads who won their most recents championships… and that’s showing in this final stretch, atleast for Galatasaray, they haven’t played better than Besiktas have this season. On the contrary, they have had one of hte most horrendous European campaings in their club history, accumilating only 1 point in the Champions League group stages and conceding 19 goals in those 6 games. But despite all that and despite not playing very well the entire season, they still have a lot of players who know what it’s like to win a title. And that’s been showing in these last few months, despite a setback here and there (defeats at the hands of Fenerbahçe and Trabzonspor) they have done what they had to do in the “smaller” mathces and won. Something which Besiktas is failing to do in the most recent two league games. The difference here is very clear, while Galatasaray may not have an experienced coach either. They have an experienced team who can handle the pressur eof a title race. Besiktas have neither a coach nor a squad that apparantly can handle this pressure.

Should we be suprised by this? Should this be a reason to SACK Bilic? Honestly, I don’t believe it is. I don’t think it’s fair to expect a team who has maybe 2-3 players that have actually been in a title race and WON… to immediatly be mature enough to cope with this time of pressure? All that while not even having a propper  home stadium to play their home games at. (Although, honestly, perhaps playing in front of 42,000 fans every home game at this stage might put even more pressure on the players).

Guys like Gökhan Töre, Oguzhan Özyakup and some others have played for youth titles. Sure, but this is a whole different game.

A SQUAD AND COACH WHO ARE BOTH STILL LEARNING

I’m not saying Besiktas doesn’t have expeirenced players. Demba Ba is turning 30 in 11 days and he has plenty of experience in the Premier League, Bundesliga and the Chamipons League. But he has pretty much delivered all season, the Senegalese hitman has scored 27 goals so far this season in all competitions. But is it realistic to expect him to carry the team on his back for the entire season? Ba played several games in the second half of the season which he probably should have sat out due to minor injuries. But he simply couldn’t because both Cenk Tosun and Mustafa Pektemek were out injured at the time. This took the win out of Ba’s sails and had an effect on his tremendous form of the first half of the season. Despite still picking up his goals on a regular basis, he is not performing at the same level he was in the first half of the season and therefore hasn’t always been able to lift the team’s level up the way he did in that first half of the season.

While Ba has certainly delivered (naturally he has also dissapointed a few times this season, last week against Gaziantepspor he really should have scored atleast once but in general, he has dissapointed very few times this season) others simply haven’t. Or have they?

I mean, who are Besiktas relying on to win them games? Gökhan Töre is one of hte most notable players, but honestly. Gökhan has developed tremendously, let’s not forget that before he came to Besiktas last season he had NEVER scored a goal at professional level. Now, in two seasons, he has scored more than 15 goals already and assisted 20+ more. He has definitely been developing and he is showing signs of being a huge talented player. But at the same time, he is looked at to win games week in and week out. And honestly, Töre simply isn’t ready yet to carry a team to win prizes on his own or even in partnership with a guy like Demba Ba. Töre is a player, who in a well oiled machine of a team would probably shine as one of the brightest stars. But at 23, he is not (yet) the man who is going to pull Besiktas forward in every game.

Oguzhan Özyakup is a player who in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 season had a very instrumental role in the success of the squad. Unfortunately, Oguzhan has shown us very little this season. Despite getting a few goals and a very decent amount of assists across all competitions, Oguzhan simply has not developed at the rate that he did the two seasons prior. On the contrary, he lost his place in the first team in favour of José Ernesto Sosa. Oguzhan was one of those players we all expected more from this season but unfortunately he hasn’t been able to deliver.

José Ernesto Sosa is probably the guy we should be looking at as the guy in midfield who should be winning us game son a regular basis. And honestly, Sosa is doing a decent job. He is definitely an important player in the team and hei s very influential. But while he is known to be a set-piece specialist, Besiktas have only scored two goals on a corner. He scored two direct free-kicks, but honestly the amount of assists he has provided on set-pieces is very underwhelming for a player who Diego Simeone brought in at Atlético Madrid last season (on loan) purely for his set-pieces.

But honestly, Sosa has 5 goals in the league and 7 assists. With guys like Tümer Metin, Sergen Yalçin, Ahmed Hassan and Matias Delgado in the past, Besiktas have often looked at their playmakers to be an important source of goals and assists. Compared to these men, Sosa is definitely not living up to the expectations of a Besiktas number 10.

But when we take a look at Sosa’s career, honestly should we have expected 10-13 goals and 15+ assists from him? While he was an instrumental player at Metalist Kharkiv and a very useful player at Napoli and even Atlético Madrid, Sosa has NEVER been a player of tremendous goal or assist contribution.

Honestly, Sosa was a cheap option for Besiktas. the first choice was always Younés Belhanda but the Moroccon playmaker of Dynamo Kiev was simply too expensive for Besiktas’ coinpurse. So Besiktas ended up settling for José Sosa, who only cost the club €2,4 Mio in transfer fee’s and is only on a €1,5 Mio a year contract.

Honestly, for the money Sosa earns in contrast to the rest of the team, his contributions are actually what you’d come to expect. He is roughly on the same wage as any other first team regular bar Demba Ba. But Demba Ba has contributed to what? 34 goals this season? (27 scored, 7 assists if I’m not mistaken) so naturally you expect more from Ba and he has delivered pretty much the entire season.

Sosa is a hard worker, he combines well with Ba & Töre and he is always a threat to the opposition. But honestly, while he’s good, he’s not GREAT (for Turkish standards). He doesn’t have that killer through ball which Sergen Yalçin or Guti Hernandez had. He doesn’t have a ferocious long range shot like Tümer Metin or Matias Delgado had. And he definitely doesn’t have the goalscoring ability Ahmed Hassan had.

Sosa is a very decent cog in the machine, but he’s not the engine. And that’s what our machine needs. But can you blame Bilic for that? Besiktas are a very sturdy side, a team who can make it difficult for pretty much any team. They showed that in Europe against big English clubs. But Besiktas still lack that creative mastermind. Neither Töre or Sosa are that “Meastro’esque” player we so badly need. With envy we looked at how Fenerbahçe “stole” Diego Ribas from under our noses, but in hindsight it appears that even a big name like Diego is no guarantee for success.

But still, where Fenerbahçe does have a player like Diego. Despite not performing up to expectations (whichis  also showing in the factt hat they’ll be missing out on the title). And Galatasaray have a big name like Wesley Sneijder, who also may not be providing the amount of assists you’d come to expect; he’s scoring a lot of crucial goals from outside the box and his passing and quick thinking is something that definitely adds an edge to Galatasaray’s game. Even if Sneijder isn’t performing at his best, he is still able to decide games. He’s done it quite a few times this season, in games where Galatasaray did not deserve to win he has come and lifted them up. This is something we need from our number 10, but while Sosa has definitely decided some games, these were usually games he helped decide thanks to the team effort. I can’t honestly remember a single game where Sosa decided the game, while we were on the back foot the entire game as Sneijder has done this season for Galatasaray and even last season.

As a team I’d argue we aren’t lesser than either one of our rivals. And honestly I’d dare say we have a far superior striker in Demba Ba. But sadly, when it comes to the creative department I think we’re lacking behind. People blame Bilic, that he is playing too defensively, but honestly I don’t think that’s the case. How often have we been in a situation where the opposition is parking the bus in front of their own box and we simply can’t find that breakthrough? Those are the games I’d dare say we lost the championship in this season and those are exactly the games in which you need that little spark of brilliance to win the match.

It’s unrealistic to expect Demba Ba, who in those games is on an isolated island, to decide the games. If you have 8-9 guys of the opposition in their own box, your delivery needs to be PERFECT. How often have we seen that Töre & Sosa’s final delivery is just not good enough? You can not expect Demba Ba to score when he’s barely getting a ball, last week’s game aside against Gaziantepspor (where he did get two fantastic opportunities he really should not have missed). But so often this season, despite scoring 27 (!) goals already, Demba Ba has been in matches where he’s simply not gotten a single clear cut goalscoring opporutnity; and no this is not due to bad position play, this is simply due to a lack of propper delivery.

And honestly, what can a coach truely do about that? You can train on passing, sure. But passing is a gift, briliance is a gift. You can’t train brilliance.

It’s not Bilic’s fault that Besiktas have not had the possibility to get a player of that caliber.

STRUGGELING WITH THE BUDGET OF A FINANCIALLY RECOVERING CLUB

Besiktas was left in financial turmoil by former president Yildirim Demirören after an 8 year period of ludicrous spending. Besiktas has been repremended by UEFA’s Financial Fairplay twice now, the club is trying to live within their means and spend relatively concervatively. Despite that several big transfers have still happend (Töre & Demba Ba mainly), but where Fenerbahçe spend €40,000,000 and Galatasaray spend €50,000,000 annually on player/staff wages. The Black Eagles only spend €25,000,000 and this is difference is simply too big not to take note of.

Besiktas have put together a fine squad with relatively limited resources, but still see their rivals spending large amounts of money on players which, sadly, at the moment seem unrealistic transfer targets for the Black Eagles.

Despite that we have shown that the difference in quality truely isn’t that big, in fact it’s probably insignificant if you look at pure talent. But the big difference is that where Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray can afford to spend big money (or maybe can’t afford it but still do it regardless) on big names with a lot of experience, players who (and I feel I keep coming back on this time and time again) know what it’s like to be in a title race and who know how to cope with the pressure that goes allong with this.

Besiktas have acquired many talented young players in the past 3 seasons such as Gökhan Töre, Tolgay Arslan, Oguzhan Özyakup, Cenk Tosun, Kerim Frei, Pedro Franco, etc. but these are all players who while incredibly talented, aren’t quite ready yet to carry a team on their backs and drag them across the finish line. I can’t stress this point enough.

Bilic has helped several of these players to develop as footballers and to become instrumental parts in the squad, while others unfortunately haven’t been able to quite secure their spot.

The reality of our club is simple: we aren’t able to buy a title winning squad together in one, two or maybe even three seasons. For the past three seasons we have very patiently been building a squad which will be able to compete for several years down the road. Of those players I mentioned, none of htem are older than 25 right now, a football usually doesn’t peak untill he is around 28-29. That means there is a lot of room for improvement and these players will only become better (normally speaking).

Bilic is in a sense in the same boat as he is also still a young coch who is still learning. I pointed this out before, but just as a large portion of our squad, Bilic is only getting better with each passing year.

The progress that team is able to make in terms of quality every transfer window is limited due to the budgets that Besiktas have. In the past 3 seasons the club has spent maybe €27,000,000 on transfers. As opposed to Galatasaray who in the past 3 seasons has spent nearly €65,000,000 and let’s not forget that they won two championships in those 3 seasons, so really they have just been building on that.

So honestly I think it’s a bit unfair for us fans to DEMAND Bilic to be sacked if he doesn’t win the championship. Sure, there was a great opporutnity to win it this season, but how long has it been that we’ve been in the championship battle for this long? In the 2011-2012 season where huge names were brought in like Ricardo Quaresma, Guti Hernandez, Simao Sabrosa, Hugo Almeida, Manuel Fernandes… we didn’t even end in the top 3.

NO TRUE HOME STADIUM

Besiktas don’t even have a home stadium, Slaven Bilic has never coached a Besiktas match at the BJK Inönü stadium. Besiktas was always one of the strongest home sides at the Inönü stadium with their loyal and fierce fans backing the team at every home match. While our fans have been tremendous in the home games in Ankara and Konya, it doesn’t take away the fact that the home turf advantage has atleast partially been lost in the past two seasons.

Studies show that sports teams perform better at their home ground because of male testosterone levels. Unfortunately, when you’re playing in an alternative stadium, despite heavy fan support, it does not have the same effect on the male testosterone level as it does when you’re playing at your actual home grounds.

So, scientifically speaking. Besiktas simply don’t have an actual home advantage.

And while Besiktas are one of the absolute strongest away teams in their own domestic league in entire Europe (only bested by Bayern München). Their so-called “home” games don’t really fall under either home or away.

When you’re playing away, your opponents are usually a bit more adventurous and less enclined to park the bus from kick-off time; we’ve seen this a few times this season with for example Rizespor but most teams actually do take more initiative in home games. And Besiktas is actually probably at it’s best when they’re playing a team who isn’t parking the bus, so it’s quite logical that Besiktas do well in away games.

So why don’t they do well in those “home” games? As I explained the true psychological home advantage is lost when you’re not playing at your actual home ground and at the same time the opponents still see this is an “away” game, so in many cases that means they’ll be playing more defensively. And as we all know Besiktas struggle against defensive teams due to the lack of creativity, that missing spark of brilliance in midfield. So home games end in dissapointment more often than is normal for a “title contender”. If we compare our home record against that of either Fenerbahçe or Galatasaray, we see a signiciant difference.

Besiktas is only the 11th best performing home side with 28 points, while they are the #1 performing away side in the league with 35 points. Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray on the other hand are the #1 & #2 in home games, while Galatasaray also boast a very decent away record as they’re #2 in away games with 32 points.

When we look at the league table right now, Besiktas is 4 points behind the leaders Galatasaray and 1 behind Fenerbahçe. We can easily conclude that the difference in this 3 horse race has been made in those home games. The lack of wins in Besiktas’ so-called home games is significant enough to cost Besiktas the title at the end of the ride.

But again, despite all mistakes Bilic has made, can he be judged on this? It’s not exactly his fault that our stadium is being re-constructed. The lost home advantage is something which is beyond his control and it’s not something which he can be blamed for.

Of course having and actual home turf is still no guarantee for more points, but as I pointed out before it’s been scientifically proven that male testosterone plays a huge role in home game performances. And honestly, in many of those games where we “came up short” in the last 20 minutes, where we couldn’t finish thoe last minutes winners or equalizers… that is heavily affected by the fire in a team, a fire as it’s commonly described. But as we all know, that fire stems from testosterone and adrenaline levels. I truely believe that next season in the Vodafone Arena our home performances will be notably better.

With our away game record this season any other team in Europe would win their domestic chamiponship. Becuase it would usually be paired with a very compareable home record (Barcelona, Bayern München, Chelsea, etc.). But due to our circumstances, we are not in such a position.

Again, Bilic gets blamed for not winning any derbies. As I explained for this season’s derbies, that is very heavily influenced by key referee calls. But also at the same time, it is heavily impacted by that home turf advantage. Look, losing an away derby isn’t a big shame, let’s be honest. The home team is always the favourite, but a team like Besiktas should be able to win their home derbies atleast. If we had than just that we would have 6 points more at this stage and Fenerbahçe/Galatasaray would have 3 less each, that alone would have us on top of the table by now and celebrating the league title most probably.

But while Bilic made notable tactical mistakes, the home turf advantage was never truely there and the ref’s decisions also heavily impacted those games.

I think it’s not fair to judge Bilic and call for his sacking based on the fact that “he can’t win derbies” when taking ALL factors in to consideration. I’ve seen Besiktas win derbies in the past with coaches who showed much less confidence and belief in their squad, to mention a recent one: remember in the 2012-2013 season where we beat Fenerbahçe 3-2 at the Inönü stadium in 90+3? Honestly, Fenrbahçe did not deserve to lose on that day and was the better side, but we still managed to pull off that win because of the match’s circumstances, with a considerable portion of luck in combination with that “fire” that we so desire of our boys.

One could say it’s the coach’s responsibility to motivate his players and to stir that fire in them, but a coach can only do so much. Besiktas’ lack of perormances in these key games isn’t a matter of motivation to begin with, our players have shown the right amount of motivtion nearly in every game this season. That is, I think, proven by our away game record; where in the past we saw “big name” players not being propperly motivated to traven to Gaziantep or Konya, our lads showed that every game is important not just the “home” games. On the contrary.

I think our away record proves that Bilic actually has done an incredible job in motivating his squad and putting the right mentality in them.

But unfortunately Bilic is a victim of circumstances, you could go and inject our players before every home game with testosterone but that would be considered “doping”. So, realistically speaking, Bilic has done everything he could have.

Of course the fact that our team has caved under pressure is in part his fault but it’s also simply down to the lack of experience in the squad. Age isn’t necessarily equal experience. Tolga is one of our olders players but never won a title, Sosa may have won one at München but wasn’t a big factor in. Ba never won one either as far as I know. Only Tomas Sivok and Atiba Hutchinson won chamionships in their career…. that is a very important factor when you enter those final 4-5 weeks when it TRUELY matters.

IN SHORT… SHOULD BILIC BE SACKED BASED ON HIS PERFORMANCE THE PAST TWO SEASONS?

In short: No.

I believe that Bilic and the squad have made sufficient progress in the past 18-something months to warrant him to stay. Honestly, this season has been a good season. I wouldn’t see why you would sack a coach after an acceptably successful season:

  • Besiktas was/is in the title hunt untill the final 4 weeks of the season. This hasn’t happend a single time in 12 years outside the two chamiponship seasons (2002-2003 & 2008-2009)
  • Besiktas has put in one of their best European performances in history, only bested by Lucescu’s 2003 side which reached the Quarter finals of the UEFA cup.
  • The team has consistantly improved uppon previous seasons for two consecutive years now in terms of points acquired by atleast four points per season.

AT LENGTH… THE MIRCEA LUCESCU FACTOR

There are two very important factor when our board sits down and considers next season and the club’s future:

  1. Is Bilic comitted to stick with Besiktas?
  2. Is Mircea Lucescu an option?

1) Slaven Bilic is growing as a coach together with his team, this is worth the time invested in both but only if Bilic is comitted to stick with the club for several more years to come. Slaven Bilic’s contract expires at the end of next season. And several Premier League clubs have repeatedly been brought in connection with Bilic, most notably West Ham United.

  • Sticking with Bilic is only worth it IF and only IF he is commited to the club, I’m not saying Bilic needs to stay for 11 years like Lucescu did at Shakthar, but atleast 3 more years. Right? Besiktas invested in the future with their new transfer policies but also by appointing Bilic as head coach. Bilic was also an investment for the future, he was basically given two seasons in which the club did not expect major success to improve himself and his team in order to compete for prizes once the Vodafone Arena is finished. If Bilic does manage to accomplish success once we play in the arena but only ends up leaving the following summer, then the time invested in him may not be spent all that prudent. Depending on point 2 of course.
  • Normally I’d dismiss all this though, I’d say it’s only newspaper banter. They’ve been linking Bilic with English clubs and they’ve been stirring the pot that he is looking to leave Besiktas in the not so different future for an English club. Normally I’d say, that’s just newspaper talk… unfortuantely, as you know I have my sources. And those sources have told me that Bilic has indeed spoken to atleast one player about “taking him with him” when he does eventually make that move to England. England is Bilic’s ultimate goal, I’m sorry but that’s simply the way it is, I’m not saying this because I want my readers to turn against Bilic. On the contrary, I had very much hoped that Bilic would stick with us for a longer period of time but unfortuantely I don’t think that will be the case. And it’s not like I blame him either, I mean Turkey is a very toxic environment for a coach, more toxic than any other major European league I’d dare say. And Bilic will no doubt have offers from England and it’s his full right to take those opportunities presented to him when he feels he’s ready for it. However, I am not a fan of Slaven Bilic I am a fan of Besiktas JK. And in that sense I always wnat the best for my club and the best for my club is to invest in the future, but if part of that investment isn’t planning on staying around for an extended period of time then I think the club should consider other options. Now, if Lucescu was NOT a factor, I’d still say stick with Bilic. Because I do really believe that in the Arena, he will lead us to a championship title. But since Lucescu is a factor, I am of a different opinion.

IS MIRCEA LUCESCU AN OPTION?

This is, by far, the most important aspect of my entire wall of text. And if you stuck with me till this point I commend you and I truely appreciate it. Now to get to my point:

Mircea Lucescu was our coach between 2002 and 2004, he brought us the coveted 2002-2003 championship in our centenary year. To this date, my most beautiful memory as a Besiktas fan. And in general, one of the most beautiful moments in my life.

Prior to that Lucescu brought Galatasaray the league title in 2001-2002 aswell as the UEFA Super Cup.

What I’m saying, Lucescu knows his craft, he knows Turkey. In my humble opinion he is the absolute best and most suited coach for any major Turkish club.

I don’t think even Pep Guardiola or Diego Simeone could do what Lucescu can do in one season with a Turkish club. Honestly, when it comes to Turkish clubs he is the absolute best option.

Now comes the important part, Mirceau Lucescu announced this week that he will be laving Shakthar Donetsk after 11-years and I believe 8 Ukrainian league titles. He shattered the dominance of Dyanmo Kiev in Ukraine and the only reason he’s leaving is the civil war in the country. He literally said: “This is Europe, not Africa. I can’t stay here under these conditions.”

Lucescu also admitted that he had atleast one offer from a Turkish club, but that they have not yet been in talks.

That Turkish club is most likely Fenerbahçe. There is no chance that Fenerbahçe will be sticking with Ismail Kartal, not even if they’d win the title. They’re simply not sticking with him and Lucescu is the most likely candiate for the job.

I don’t think I need to explain to you that if Lucescu would come back to Turkey that whoever he ends up coaching has a very huge chance at becoming the dominant side in the league for probably as long as he decides to stick around.

That is, as long as the shenanigans of the 2003-2004 season doesn’t repeat himself.

After finishing at 43 points after only 17 games at the half point of the season with his Besiktas, and remaining unbeaten. He felt his title was stolen from him in the second half of the season as the team was severely sabotaged by referee’s, I watched that entire season as a very self-aware 16-year old and I can tell you Lucescu was 100% right, Besiktas was simply prevented from winning it’s second consecutive championship; definate foul play, no question about it. Fenerbahçe ended up winning that title.

Mircea Lucescu left Besiktas that following summer stating that he and Besiktas were robbed.

He showed a lot resentment towards Fenerbahçe at the time, that is also why I think that if Besiktas make a concrete offer for Lucescu that he will seriously consider, despite a better financial package offered at Fener, to sign for Besiktas once again.

Galatasaray dumped Lucescu after winning a title and UEFA Super cup and doing well in the Champions League after the 2001-2002 was over in favour of their legendary coach Fatih Terim who became available again. Lucescu paid them back the favor at the start of this season by “agreeing” to sign with them, which caused Galatasaray to sack Roberto Mancini, but as soon as they did that Luce pulled back and decided to stay at Shakthar for the remainder of the season.

In doing so Lucescu pretty much made a statement towards Galatasaray, that he had not forgotten how they treated him 13 years ago. And I would dare to guess that he has no lost love for the club dspite the success he achieved there.

I believe he harbors a similar resentment toward Fenerbahçe for “stealing” his championship in 2003-2004, whether it was Fenerbahçe/Aziz Yildirim who “fixed” that season or it was the gambling mafia, or whoever… regardless, I think Lucescu will still partially blame Fenerbahçe and judging by his track record, he has shown that his emotion trumps the importance of money.

Now as for Besiktas… Fikret Orman and his board have reached out to Lucescu in the past, playing a friendly earlier this season. They have established a decent relationship of mutual respect with Lucescu. I honesty think that if Orman went to Lucescu with the right offer and I don’t necesarrily mean money, rather the amount of control which Lucescu surely will desire (and which I highly doubt Aziz Yildirim will ever offer him), that Lucescu would always chose Besiktas over either Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray.

With the knowledge of Slaven Bilic’s ambition to move to England in the not so distant future. And Lucescu being available this summer. I think it would be the most ideal scenario to perhaps part ways with Bilic, to mutual benefit of course: Bilic would get to go to England while Besiktas would be able to bring in Lucescu once again.

If Bilic would be comitted to Besitkas for the long haul I’d say, keep investing in him, he’s a young coach and Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t start winning titles straight away either… but I simply don’t see Bilic sticking around past next season and honestly, I could see Lucescu ending his coaching career at Besiktas. However long that may be, worst case scenario he quits coaching in two years but in the meantime he could take… for examle, Sergen Yalçin or Antonio Carlos Zago as his assistant coach and groom them to take over once he decides to call it quits.

Regardless, ultimately the best option for Besiktas is to get Lucescu. If that is realistic of course.

The only problem I see with this is that Lucescu will wnat to bring 2-3 of his players from Shakthar with him. And while I believe that those players would add that much talked about “brilliance” factor which we so desperately need… I feat that those players might be beyond our price range.

IN CONCLUSION

If Mircea Lucescu is a a realistic option and the board can agree with him and get the contract signed they should mutually terminate Bilic’s deal so he can go to England while Besiktas bring in Lucescu.

Besiktas should not allow either one of their rival to acquire the services of Mircea Lucescu because this could seriously impact Besiktas’ chances to win any prize in Turkey in the coming years. With Lucescu becoming available, our club should try anything in it’s power to sign him. If Lucescu is not a realistic option, I don’t think we should part way with Bilic. But I do think we should atleast bring in Sergen Yalçin as part of the technical staff to perhaps take over when Bilic leaves, which he will inevitably do and it probably won’t be that far off.

 

Written by Kaan Bayazit, Editor & Publisher of Besiktas International

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Kaan Bayazit

Editor-in-chief at Beşiktaş International
Freelance sports writer specialized in Turkish football and Beşiktaş. Co-host of the Black Eagles podcast. Frequently featured in World Soccer Digest Japan and many other international media outlets. Following Turkish football for close to two decades. Proud father to Aedin.
Kaan Bayazit
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