Welcome back to Sakaryaspor! Last season went rather well. Going into this season my main focus was on maintaining our challenge for European places in the league. While our performance in the Europa League will likely depend on who is in our group. Let’s see how we get on…
With us having extra fixtures due to our Europa League adventure, I wanted to ensure we had enough depth in the squad to cope with the extra demands. First through the door we have Burak Ince on loan from our senior affiliate Galatasaray. He is there to add some competition in midfield. I doubt he will be a starter, more an impact sub. Next we have Cemali, also on loan from Galatasaray, we are paying all his wages but I felt he was worth the outlay. The main reason why I signed him is because of his versatility, he is equally adept playing at CB or LB which could prove vital if we get injuries. Gonzalo Alvarez is a newgen CB who was available on a free. He is a huge improvement for our defence.
HAMZA IS BACK! Hamza joined us on loan a few seasons ago and was a key player during our promotion season. I had been trying to sign him ever since but no luck. Finally Galatasaray agreed to let him go for £3 million. I am so happy he is back, Hamza is who I see as being the natural heir to Irfan in the Mezzala role. Nihat Gunes is a youngster we picked up for £1.7million from RB Salzburg, I think we can develop him into a good player. Finally, we have Jacob Ramsey who was available on a free. I am a fan of him IRL and I thought it was too good of an opportunity to miss. Adding some Premier League experience could be useful.
The majority of our transfers out was youngsters going out on loan. The most notable was Dustin Tayeb who went off to Milan after they met his release clause.
All our transfers were done and dusted and we were ready for the season ahead… or so I thought…
The board took it upon themselves to sell our best player. I understand why they thought that £9.75million was a good offer but Mbi had a release clause of £11million, I do feel we could have gotten that much. At least we have a percentage of any profit on the next sale.
So with our best player off to Germany we needed a replacement, and quickly.
Enter Anthony Rouault, he was on the transfer list at Udinese so we picked him up for £800k which is a good deal for us.
Using some of the money we had gained on the Mbi sale, I decided to invest just over a million in a few youngsters I had been keeping an eye on.
Muhammet Atkas is the only one going straight into the first team. The rest will be in the Under 19s and we will see how they develop over the season.
These two formations are what I think will be most useful to us this season. Since we did so well last season I think teams will no longer push higher up against us. Our success last season with strikerless counted on teams pushing higher up and us being able to exploit the space behind. I think we need to be on the front foot this season and take the game to the opposition more often.
The Europa League draw: Erm, can I redo the draw please?
Our season didn’t get off to the best start and our debut in Europe resulted in us being played off the park by Zagreb. When another heavy defeat to Celtic followed I feared the worst. I had visions of us finishing bottom of the group with zero points. Amazingly we turned it around and after a very credible 0-0 draw with Lazio we won our return games against Zagreb and Celtic. Which resulted in us finishing second and going through to the First Knockout Round!
Our league form was still faltering though. Heavy defeats against Galatasaray and the revitalised Trabzonspor reminded me of just how big the gap is between us and the top teams.
January Transfer Window
The January window saw two players joining us. Australian youngster Neil Griffin who had signed a deal with us at 16 was finally allowed to join us as he turned 18. Lars Leinonen also joins on a free as his HJK contract expired.
Sadly leaving us was another key player as Tezcan drew in offers from Porto and Arsenal, opting to join the latter he was loaned back to us for the remainder of the season.
We made it to the Quarter Final of the cup this year, then lost to a team we really should beat. That is probably a good summary of our league performance this season, we lost to teams that we should be comfortably beating. We faired better in the Europa League, dispatching of Ajax 6-3 on aggregate we progressed through to the Second Knockout Round where Tottenham put an end to our European dream. I can’t complain at that, we gave it everything, they were just better than us. When I saw the group I never thought we would get out of it so to get as far as we did was amazing.
Neil Griffin proved to be invaluable in the final stages of the season, his goals ensured we picked up vital points. Our end of season for meant we climbed the table and bagged ourselves a 4th place finish. One place lower than last season, we will be in the Europa Conference League next season. I am pleased we have managed to get into the European places again. It means we can keep attracting good players and the finances will keep improving. Our success has meant that our facilities have been able to steadily improve and we have gone from having below average training and youth facilities to now having great facilities.
Neil Griffin hit the ground running and chipped in with 7 goals and 4 assists in 16 appearances.
A Quick Look at the Data Hub…
We play a short passing game which ensures we keep the ball moving. Therefore we are very accurate with our passing. This is very beneficial to a team like us as many of our players are not brilliant at dribbling.
Our attacking efficiency is pleasing as we are less likely to waste opportunities. In the training schedule I placed a lot of emphasis on chance creation and conversion this season. I feel like it has paid off here.
Our defence is something we need to work on as we do concede a lot of goals. I think we need to look into some tactical and training tweaks for next season. We are still pressing quite high so we win the ball back before it reaches our penalty area which is what I like us to do.
While this season was undoubtedly a good season, I can see room for improvement. I think we are starting to build a really good team. Going into next season I would like us to at least ensure European football for a third season, I really want to focus on closing the gap in the league between us at the ‘top’ teams.
Thank you for reading!