Why Oğuzhan Özyakup is unlikely to join Bilic at West Ham

Updated: May 31, 2016

Oğuzhan Özyakup has enjoyed his best season to date in his young career. The 23 year old Turkish international was instrumental in Şenol Güneş’ side that conquered the 2015-2016 Süper lig title. With 9 goals and 7 assists to his name as a deeplaying playmaker, Oğuzhan managed to impress friend and foe and attracted the interest of several clubs, including but not limited to: Inter Milan, Chelsea and former coach Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United.

Despite the plethora of interest however Oğuzhan is not keen on an exit this Summer, wanting to remain at least one more season with the Black Eagles, win another title and get some Champions League experience under his belt.

Oğuzhan joined the Arsenal academy from AZ Alkmaar at the tender age of 15.

Oğuzhan joined the Arsenal academy from AZ Alkmaar at the tender age of 15.

Oğuzhan may be young but he’s got plenty of life experience, leaving his home country of the Netherlands at the age of 15 to join Arsenal’s youth academy. Oğuzhan decided to leave Arsenal at the age of 19, as he was desperate for first team football and his appearances for Arsenal were limited to a mere two in the League cup.

Unlike many who opted for the Turkish league just for it’s favourable 15% taxes and high wages, Oğuzhan picked a club who were in financial peril at the time and were looking for young talent to invest in. Many were surprised by his career choice as he was quite highly rated by Arsene Wenger and those who followed Arsenal’s reserve team closely. But Wenger did not want to stand in Oğuzhan’s way and granted him his transfer request, Beşiktaş snatched him up for just £ 400 thousand.

In his first season, under Samet Aybaba, Oğuzhan made a total of 28 appearances in the Süper Lig, scoring twice and giving seven assists. Starting mainly as a substitute early in the season behind Portuguese international Manuel Fernandes, Oğuzhan found his way in to the starting lineup as the season progressed as he showed everyone exactly of how much he was capable of.

During the Summer of 2013 Samet Aybaba left the club and Slaven Bilic took his place. Oğuzhan’s first season under Bilic was a great success for the then 20 year old midfielder, alongside Gökhan Töre (on loan from Rubin Kazan) he formed the creative brain of the team. Oğuzhan continued his development but at times struggled with Slaven Bilic’s training methods, leading to several injuries at unopportune times (just before crucial matches). Oğuzhan still lacked in the physical department and at times struggled to devide his strengths well throughout the games, often finding his tank to be empty towards the 70 minute mark.

Oğuzhan's talent was immediately apparent when he arrived in 2012.

Oğuzhan’s talent was immediately apparent when he arrived in 2012.

At the start of the 2014-2015 season the Black Eagles had qualified for the UEFA Champions League qualifiers and were drawn against Dutch side Feyenoord. As the club were still negotiating with Rubin Kazan to make Töre’s stay a permanent one at the time, the weight of leading the team’s attack, from a creative aspect, fell on Oğuzhan’s shoulders. He played two solid matches, seeing the Black Eagles through to the next round where they’d face his former club: Arsenal.

Despite two heroic matches, Beşiktaş ultimately bowed out of the Champions League play-offs on a 1-0 aggregate defeat, but Oğuzhan left a lasting impression on his former manager and fans, being the player with the highest amount of key passes throughout the two games. Unfortunately for Oğuzhan his key passes did not get converted in to assists as Demba Ba & co were twarted by Arsenal’s goalkeeper Szczesny.

As we neared the end of the Summer transfer window, Slaven Bilic brought in José Ernesto Sosa from Metalist Kharkiv (he had spent the previous season on loan at Atlético de Madrid with whom he reached the Champions League final). This transfer seemingly put the brakes on Oğuzhan’s development as Slaven Bilic seemed unwilling to play both players at the same time, rather opting for “safety” with two defensive midfielders (Veli Kavlak and Atiba Hutchinson) and Sosa’s experience.

With the arrival of Sosa, Oğuzhan’s confidence seemingly dwindled and was at times heavily critisized for his performances which had suffered as a result. Especially once Tolgay Arslan arrived from Hamburg during the January transfer window of 2015,  Oğuzhan’s role in Slaven Bilic’s team became even smaller. He only started a total of 13 matches in the league that season. Ironically he still finished the season as the team’s top assister (12 assists vs. Sosa’s 9).


Şenol Güneş was clear from the start, he was going to make Oğuzhan one of the Black Eagles’ pillars again.

After Slaven Bilic’s departure in the Summer of 2015, many were questioning whether Oğuzhan would be sold as Inter Milan’s Roberto Mancini was, and still is, quite keen on him. But with the arrival of Şenol Güneş, who has the reputation of getting the best out of his players, the club opted to keep Oğuzhan at the club, as Güneş had big plans for him.

And as they say, the rest is history. Oğuzhan went on and flourished under the reigns of Şenol Güneş. Establishing himself as one of the elite midfielders of the Turish Süper Lig and earning himself a spot on Fatih Terim’s Turkey squad.

While Şenol Güneş took a chance in building his team around a young but talented midfielder, Slaven Bilic prefered to opt for the “safe” choice with the more experienced José Sosa. In part this is of course down to Bilic not willing to sacrifice one of his defensive midfielders for another more attacking minded midfielder, whereas Güneş’ philosophy is build on having two creative players in his 3 man midfield in order to create a more offensively cohesive and productive side.

So would Oğuzhan be open to a reunion with Slaven Bilic at West Ham? It seems highly unlikely, Oğuzhan isn’t desperate to return to England in a hurry (unlike Gökhan Töre). Oğuzhan wants to establish himself further this coming season, starting next week during EURO 2016 and continuing with Beşiktaş in the Champions League. So that when he does move on, he won’t have to settle for sporadic appearances as a “talent” but will be seen as a player to build the team around, as Güneş did with him this season.



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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