The dilemma’s set before Şenol Güneş this season

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Updated: September 7, 2016

With the transfer window now closed and firmly behind us it’s time to take a step back and reflect on the transfer business conducted by Beşiktaş over the past Summer.

Several players departed the Black Eagles the past three months, including key players such as last season’s top goalscorer Mario Gómez (Wolfsburg), José Ernesto Sosa (AC Milan) and Gökhan Töre (West Ham – loan). While Ismail Köybaşi also left after his contract had expired, he joined rivals Fenerbahçe but will probably be the departure with the least amount of impact.

With the departures of these players there were also ten new arrivals this Summer, Beşiktaş invested heavily in improving their squad’s depth.

Back positions noticeably improved

The priority at the start of the transfer window seemed to be improving both the left and right-back positions.

Gökhan Gönül was the first transfer to completed and was not without controversy as he joined from rivals Fenerbahçe after spending nearly an entire decade on the Asian side of Istanbul. Gönül will have to compete with Andreas Beck for the starting position.

Adriano will compete with Caner Erkin for the starting position at left-back

Adriano will compete with Caner Erkin for the starting position at left-back

Beşiktaş looked at several possibilities including Alex Kolarov (Manchester City) and Fabio Coentrão (AS Monaco) but ultimately ended up signing FC Barcelona’s Adriano Correia for the left-back position. With the departure of Ismail Köybaşi to Fenerbahçe the Black Eagles brought in Caner Erkin from Inter Milan on deadline day to offer more depth at said position. Although both men will probably be starting when everyone is fit, as either player can play as a left winger aswell.

Coming from Dusko Tosic and Ismail Köybaşi, nobody will dispute that the Black Eagles have gone up int he world when it concerns their left-back position. The same could be said on the right side where Gökhan Gönül replaces Serdar Kurtuluş.

No major change in the heart of defence

Despite Şenol Güneş insisting on a strong addition in the central midfielder position Beşiktaş were unable to deliver. President Fikret Orman revealed that they opted to bring back Atinç Nukan on loan rather than another foreign defender as that would cause issues with the UEFA list. (read his quotes here)

Atinç has of course gathered more experience over the past season in Germany but he isn’t exactly the seasoned veteran with Champions League experience the coach was hoping for.

Other than that Marcelo remains at the club as the option-to-buy in his contract was used, Alexis Delgado on the other hand already departed after just six months at the club. But arguably most importantly Luiz Rhodolfo has recovered from his knee injury and should be fully match fit in the next couple of weeks, which will certainly give a huge boost to the side.

I say there is no major change to the heart of defence but in truth there really is as Marcelo and Rhodolfo haven’t played together yet for more than 90 minutes in an official game. Whether they have chemistry or not is something we’ll need to discover in the upcoming weeks, add to that 3 new sidebacks, our defensive line as a whole is certainly going to look a lot different this season.

How will our midfield take shape?

So far this season we’ve seen a midfield of Tolgay, Atiba and Oguzhan in the 3 official matches Beşiktaş have played. Despite being at the club for one and a half season already Tolgay has played very little together with Oguzhan prior to his knee injury last Summer and he’s a very different type of midfielder than José Sosa. Tolgay is more similar to Oguzhan rather than Sosa so I’m expecting Güneş to use him more as an alternative to Oguzhan rather than the replacement of Sosa, that role will most probably go to one of our new transfers: Anderson Talisca.

Anderson Talisca should provide the Black Eagles with more goals from midfeild this season

Anderson Talisca should provide the Black Eagles with more goals from midfeild this season

Talisca however also is a very different player than Sosa. Where Sosa liked to drift wide and cross in the ball to the box, Talisca much rather likes to hang around the area or pop up in the box to find a goal rather than the assist. He could offer a presence in both midfield and the attack which I feel the team has lacked for many years.

The other new addition in midfield is Gökhan Inler, who I expect will be used mainly as an alternative to Atiba Hutchinson. Inler is a defensive midfielder but still has a very different playstyle to Atiba I’d say. They are both very active on the pitch, covering much ground and both are quite good at distributing the ball but Inler is still a more offensive minded player than Atiba and won’t hesitate to hav ea shot at goal if he sees the chance present itself.

Much as when it comes to the back positions I think Güneş will have a luxury problem in midfield with Inler and Tolgay both being very talented players who will keep Atiba, Oguzhan and Talisca on their toes.

Whether Sosa’s departure will turn out to be a blow to the team will have to be seen, he was clearly a key part of last season’s Championship team. But Beşiktaş surely have much more depth in midfield and should Talisca find the way to the back of the net easily, he’ll make the fans forget about Sosa soon enough.

The offensive wings

When saying the offensive wings I’m obviously referring to the attacking wingers rather than our sidebacks who undoubtedly will have their fair share of contribution to the attacking aspect of the Black Eagles’ game this season.

In truth not all that much has changed here, Gökhan Töre has departed and Aras Özbiliz has come in his place. Töre was without a doubt a key player the past few years but all-in-all didn’t play a major role in last season’s title victory due to injury woes. So far it doesn’t seem like Güneş will be banking too much on Aras though with Kerim Frei seemingly getting the nod over him as “third” winger with Olcay and Quaresma being the two starters.

But that all could change now with the arrival of Caner Erkin who was always more a winger than a left-back.

Caner has been transformed in to a left-back over the years and this has largely been successful as his limited defensive ability has not been overly exposed in the Turkish league while playing for Fenerbahçe. But in European matches you can clearly see that his defensive instincts are lacking.

But offensively Caner is an incredible asset to any team, with his pinpoint crosses and set-pieces he is a constant threat for the opposition. With the addition of Adriano Correia who I expect will be the main left-back, I am expecting to see Caner feature quite oftenly as a left winger this season.

Caner and Adriano can both play as left-back or left wingers

Caner and Adriano can both play as left-back or left wingers

In the past years Olcay has always had a place in the starting eleven due to his high workrate and defensive contribution. But bar his first season at the club his productivity in terms of goals and assists has been mediocre. He’ll get a good 10 goals per season, but not much more than that. Whereas Caner has the ability to provide much more than that and with his history as a left-back and his defensive workrate I could see him giving Olcay a serious run for his money.

Now it’s always possible that Güneş will opt to play Olcay on the right, dropping Quaresma to the bench. And I could certainly see him do that in some tougher away games, but I think that in home games which he wants to dominate he’ll opt for the superior individual ability of Quaresma and Caner on the wings.

Add to that Adriano who can also play as a left winger and frequently has for Barcelona and Sevilla previously in his career, where Caner can provide the assists Adriano is known for finding his way to the back of the net really quite easily.

Aras is someone I rate highly but I’m not yet convinced that the coach shares that opinion. I expect he’ll get the chance to prove himself in the cup games and if he shines there he may get a run in the first team should someone get injured or be over fatigued. With Quaresma turning 33 this month I wouldn’t be surprised with him getting a rest every now and then eventhough he is the type that wants to play every match.

Töre’s departure doesn’t seem to be a big blow at all here and with the addition of Caner and Aras Beşiktaş have gained some quality options on the wings.

The frontline

Without a doubt the departure that hurt the fans and perhaps the team the most this Summer was that of Mario Gómez. The German International scored 26 league goals last season and was the first Beşiktaş player to become Turkish Süper Lig topscorer since Ilhan Mansiz in 2002.

aboubakar-likmac

While Mario Gómez left this Summer, Vincent Aboubakar was brought in as his replacement

Cenk Tosun played the role of super-sub last season and always delivered, scoring 17 goals in all competitions and so far this season has scored 3 goals in 3 official matches.

In addition last week Vincent Aboubakar joined Beşiktaş on loan from FC Porto, the 24-year old striker will battle Cenk for the starting position up front with Ömer remaining as the third striker.

The quality of both Cenk and Aboubakar is beyond question, Aboubakar has proven himself both in the Champions League aswell as the Portuguese and French league and Cenk has also shown that he’s a more than capable striker. But everyone knows that neither can measure up to Mario Gómez in terms of experience and shear class in front of goal.

This is arguably the only position in which Beşiktaş have not moved forward, despite the obvious quality of the strikers they now have available. Does that mean they’re going to struggle up front? I really don’t think they will, both Cenk And Aboubakar are striekrs that should be capable of scoring 17-18 league goals this season with the quality Beşiktaş have on their wings and in their midfield, they won’t lack “assists”, it’s up to them to convert the chances.

It’s going to be really interesting to see who ultimately ends up on top here, Güneş will surely stick to Cenk Tosun for the time being but it’s going to be extremely interestingt o see how he decides to introduce Aboubakar to the mix. Güneş is a coach who is known to be very good with strikers and he wants to give his forwards confidence, that’s something he can only do by letting them play. With Aboubakar’s physical strength and speed perhaps he will start off as the most viable option in difficult away games where the Black Eagles are looking to counter.

One thing is for sure, Güneş once again has a luxury problem set before him and he’ll have to make a difficult decision or could he perhaps opt for two strikers?

Conclusion

With Mario Gómez the Black Eagles have lost a player that is probably impossible to replace. Not only did he provide the team with a steady supply of goals but he was also a leader on and off the pitch, an example for the younger players who has won almost everything a footballer can win in his career. Both Cenk and Aboubakar are significantly younger and much less experienced but their quality is still very clear for all to see. Still I feel that this is a position in which Beşiktaş have less overall quality than last season taking everything in to consideration. However, with a firm quality injection on the wings I think our strikers will be provided with even more quality crosses this season and I have no doubt that whoever starts will bang in goals at a steady rate. Had Gómez stayed I would have had no doubt that he would have surpassed the mark of 30 goals this season in the Süper Lig (given that he would stay healthy the entire season).

The goalkeeper position is one I didn’t touch on as for the time being I don’t expect Tolga to lose his place, eventhough I and many other Beşiktaş fans would like to see a change between the sticks. Fabricio is someone I think could add a lot to the team with his much improved footwork, but it’s something we’ll sadly have to wait for until Tolga slips up once again and has one of his mental breakdowns.

Despite not getting an experienced new central defender this window I still think our defensive line will be quite secure. Rhodolfo is someone I rate highly and Marcelo is someone that can be very dominant physically, Marcelo does make some silly mistakes from time to time though but with Rhodolfo next to him I think that should remain quite limited. With the back positions so drastically improved I think that is one thing we won’t have to worry about for the first time in a very very long time.

In midfield we certainly have a lot more depth this season, I think Talisca could fill a role that we haven’t really had much in recent years: an offensive midfielder who regularly scores important goals. In addition Talisca also adds some much needed gunpowder from outside the box, which could come in very handy in those games that remain hard to break open. Gökhan Inler is up there in age (32), but he’ll add a lot of experience to the team aswell. And we finally have some cover for Atiba Hutchinson who’s not getting any younger either (33).

Gökhan Töre is someone who on his day can be a worldbeater but he has never been consistant, Caner is the opposite and I expect a lot from him this season. I’m hopeful that we’ll see the pair of Quaresma and Caner on the wings this season, as I think their crosses can provide the team with a large amount of goals this season. In addition I was never too pleased with our set-pieces ever since the 2013/14 season with Manuel Fernandes, we don’t make the most out of our corners and freekicks and I think Caner will add a significant amount of goals scored from those deadball situations.

All-in-all the overally quality of the squad has really improved, Şenol Güneş will have his hands full deciding who gets to play every week and apart from one or two players I think that everyone has a worthy alternative.

I’d certainly argue that this is the best overall squad the Black Eagles have had in… perhaps ever.

Kaan Bayazit
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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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