After a very unexpected promotion last season, we were most definitely tipped for relegation this season. Could we survive our first season in the top flight?
Firstly, we picked up Ahmet Sivri, a young attacking midfielder/striker from Eyüpspor (a Yorkshire lass like myself appreciates the name). Benhur Keser comes in to possibly be a first team regular, he is a very versatile player who I think can add a bit of quality. Enes (who set us back £175k) is who I see as being the replacement to Hamza as he wouldn’t renew his loan deal.
Paul Osew comes in on a free from Wimbledon, not the best technically but I think his pace will give us a better outlet on the left wing. Jean-Pierre Longonda (CM) and Mohammed Tahiri (ST) were both being released by their respective clubs so I decided to take a chance on them both.
Christopher Mamengi is probably our biggest signing to date, I am a fan of him IRL so when I saw he was available on a free I didn’t hesitate to sign him. I think he and Kaan will be able to form a good partnership in central defence.
Malcolm Barcola is hopefully the keeper we have been looking for, he is undoubtedly a step up from literally all of our previous keepers. Youngster Mete is in on a free, I really like the look of him, bags of potential and possibly a healthy profit for us later on.
Our final signing of the summer… Yacine Bammou, at 31 he brings some experience to a young squad and gives us a bit more fire power in attack.
There were no real notable transfers out other than some youngsters going out on loan for first team experience.
We had strengthened the squad as best we could, time to kick off our first season in the Super Lig.
We had an okay start to life in the top flight, sticking with our 5-3-2 formation from last season we were largely inconsistent. Mete was a shining light for us. Defensively we struggled, I never felt completely confident when watching us. It was more ‘when’ we self implode rather than ‘if’.
Then December happened, it can only be described as dreadful. We could not buy a win, or a clean sheet. We completed our annual fifth round exit of the cup so with only our survival in the league to focus on I decided to use the January transfer window to make some changes.
January Transfer Window:
2 additions, Noam Bonnet a DM/CM we signed on a free and Yusuf comes in on loan from our senior affiliate Galatasaray.
The New Tactic:
I thought for a while about what was going wrong with the 5-3-2 formation, in truth I think the biggest problem was that because the promotion was so unexpected I was almost anticipating us to lose. It dawned on me, we are predicted to finish bottom of the league, the board want us to fight bravely against relegation so we have nothing to lose. Teams coming up against us would not expect us to play attacking football and force them back into their own half. Teams will be expecting to dominate us. So let’s just go attacking and see what happens.
We saw an instant impact! The speed that we could transition caused all kinds of chaos for our opponents. New signing Noam Bonnet was really the catalyst, he just fitted in perfectly in that Half Back role, providing extra cover in defence when needed. His passing ability is what was the biggest influence in us being able to turn defence into attack so quickly during games.
Yacine Bammou and Mete were our stand out players, without their goal we really would have struggled.
Our form continued right until the end of the season. As you can see, we were a different team in the second half of the season. Things just clicked for us.
Where did we finish? Our media prediction was bottom of the league.
8th! Completely secure in the league and 8 points off the European places. Who would’ve thought?! Even I didn’t think this was possible at the start of the season.
Our Under 19s also did well this season, gaining promotion to the top level. Maybe the HOYD was right about that golden generation.
Mete was undoubtedly our star player this season, as I write this he is attracting interest from the likes of Arsenal and PSG. Hopefully he is here next season and we can build on what can only be considered an overachievement this season.
Our youth intake this season was also very good. I think we can be positive about our youth prospects. With the right development we might see some of them feature in the first team sooner rather than later.
While this tactic was amazing for half a season, I am not sure it is sustainable going forward. Hopefully our status as a Super Lig team for the second season may enable us to sign some better players. We also need to move some players on who have stayed with us since last season but just aren’t good enough for this level. Likely another busy transfer window ahead.
An unexpected season where we overachieved again. Can’t complain at that! Life at Sakaryaspor is going well so far.