The power shift in Turkish football

Mention Turkish football and your typical football fan will most likely picture pyrotechnics, fireworks, and fanatical fans on Twitter, emphasised by the ‘Come to Besiktas’ phase from last summer to announce the club’s signing of Alvaro Negredo, which led to swarms of the Black Eagles supporters spamming comment sections of other players all over social media with that phrase.

Many may also struggle to name any teams other than Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce which is hardly surprising as the trio have been champions in 55 of the 62 seasons since the Super Lig was formed in 1959.

Trabzonspor have six of the other seven titles but haven’t finished top in over three decades and Bursaspor’s success in 2010 can be filed under ‘doing a Leicester’.

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However, something very peculiar is occurring in the Super Lig this season. The three powerhouses have been way off their best making the league table look very intriguing going into the midway point.

Furthermore, Besiktas embarrassingly dropped out of the Europa League losing at home to Malmo when they only needed a point to progress in a campaign which also included a 4-2 home defeat to Genk, this just 12 months after they booked their place in the Champions League last 16.

The support of the big three has often been renowned for intimidating opposing players, just ask Timo Werner, but this season, the club’s players have been receiving the brunt of the menacing actions of the ultras themselves for their substandard performances.

Home advantage has seemingly gone right out the window. Last season, the top four lost only three home games between them, the current top four have already lost more than that and we still have over half the season to go.

Some remarkable scorelines have popped up too, the current champions Galatasaray lost back-to-back away games 4-0 and 3-0 to Trabzonspor and Akhisarspor respectively, the latter repeated the feat against Fenerbahce too. Meanwhile, Besiktas have also suffered home defeats to Antalyaspor and Sivasspor.

This has paved a perfect passage for the hated, lesser known Istanbul club, Basaksehir to take a six point lead at the top ahead of, amazingly so, Yeni Malatyaspor in second who were in the third tier three years ago.

There is no doubting the sublime talent within the squad, mixing players with huge experience like Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Eljero Elia with the league’s best player in Edin Visca.

Nobody in the league has contributed to more goals than Visca since the start of last season (36 in 48 starts) and it is astounding nobody from the top five leagues has been able to prize him away yet as he has also performed well for Bosnia over the last couple of years.

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However, the way the club is run at a boardroom level with accusations swirling around that the club has links to Erdogan’s government, which isn’t exactly popular in Turkey, means practically everybody except Basaksehir supporters, which there are not many of, want to see absolutely anybody but Basaksehir win the title.

They have none of the typical characteristics of a Turkish club, no passionate supporters, no tradition and attendances which rarely top the 5000 mark.

Opposing fans will argue a team like that do not even deserve success, which does more to truly emphasises the fanatic spirit of football supporters in Turkey, especially those of the big three.

But on the pitch, they are the only side showing consistency. Falling to Burnley in the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League seemingly looks more of a blessing in disguise by the day.

Malatyaspor who sit second, and Kasimpasa who have spent much of the season in second place also had no continental football to worry about, whereas the big three have been completely incapable in both competitions with none of Besiktas, Fenerbahce or Galatasaray reaching a double-figure points tally in their respective groups, while also being a substantial distance adrift of the leaders.

Being six points clear, and eight points ahead of realistic challengers in Besiktas and Galatasaray, Basaksehir will be utterly devastated if this is not their year finally.

They went into the final day last season with a chance of the title but were pipped by Galatasaray who were able to defeat Goztepe to claim title number 21.

Despite this, the story of the season is without question Fenerbahce’s demise, who are having an absolute nightmare.

Three wins from 16 so far sees them sitting second from bottom level on points with Super Lig debutants Erzurumspor who pegged them back from 2-0 up to draw 2-2 this week, another result to add to the list which will horrify Fener fans.

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Phillip Cocu lost his job just two months after being appointed following a 3-1 home defeat to Ankaragucu with Fener sitting in 15th, Erwin Koeman (brother and assistant to Ronald at Southampton and Everton) looked to have steadied the ship as caretaker until they ended up 17th and a loss at Spartak Trnava in Europe hardly helped his case so Ersun Yanal was brought in this week, and a draw at home to Erzurumspor is far from an ideal start.

Selling the Brazilian duo of Giuliano and Josef de Souza both to Saudi Arabian clubs completely destroyed the spine of the team while Islam Slimani has not been an inspired signing so far in the slightest, picking up as many red cards than goals in the league.

Fener have a tricky away tie to Antalyaspor on Christmas Eve who have overachieved so far this season so there is every possibility that they could be sitting in the bottom three come the winter break which would have been totally inconceivable back in August.

Yanal needs some turnaround in fortunes if he can make this season look in any way respectable for a faltering Fener.

The Author

Andrew Delaney

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