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Monday, February 14, 2011

Beşiktaş Are At A Crossroads.

It wasn't supposed to be like this for Beşiktaş.

After stealing the transfer headlines in Turkey last summer and this past winter, Beşiktaş looked to have a team that would not only contend for the Turkish Super League title, but perhaps win the title by a very comfortable margin. After the transfers of Hugo Almeida, Simao Sabrosa, and the loan of Manuel Fernandes right before the second half of the season started, there was talk of Beşiktaş possibly winning every match in the second half of the season. Adding the three Portuguese players to an already stacked roster which included Ricardo Quaresma and Guti, and Beşiktaş might have possibly pulled it off. But reality soon set in.

Since the second half of the Turkish Super League season began, Beşiktaş have only won one out of four games. After demolishing Bucaspor 5-1 in week 18, Beşiktaş have results of a 2-1 loss to Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor at the Olympic stadium in week 19, a 1-1 draw at home against Karabükspor in week 20, and a 1-0 loss on the road to Ankaragücü in week 21. Not the way Beşiktaş or their fans imagining the rest of the season going. In fact, with a record of nine wins, five draws, and seven losses after 21 league matches, this is actually Beşiktaş worst season in the last 30 years. Only in the 1980-81 season did Beşiktaş have a worse record after 21 league matches, having seven wins, six draws, and eight losses at that time.

Injuries have taken a toll on Beşiktaş. Defender Ersan Gulum is out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear, which left the Beşiktaş defense with a huge hole to fill. Young goalkeeper Cenk Gonen is also out for 6-8 weeks with an injury, leaving Beşiktaş to call upon the very mediocre Hakan Arikan to fill in. Guti had not made the last two matches because of an injury, and that has proven to be a loss in terms of creativity, as well as some veteran leadership.

It got even worse after the Ankaragücü match. Longtime Beşiktaş player and club captain Ibrahim Uzulmez got released from Beşiktaş the day after the match after apparently punching teammate Ibrahim Toraman in the locker room at halftime. The two have had issues before, as there were reports of both of them getting into a fight with each other in a preseason camp and were suspended by the club for a period of time. With the punch to Toraman, Beşiktaş immediately said goodbye to Uzulmez, who had played for the club for 11 years.

Manager Bernd Schuster recently said to the media, after the match against Ankaragücü, that Beşiktaş plays against teams that play ten men behind the ball at all times, and that this is a problem. But he also went on to say that there are no excuses and that neither the referees nor their opponents are responsible for this run of poor form from Beşiktaş. The responsibility lied with the team and the team alone. Schuster is basically dead on with his statements. But, some Beşiktaş fans have started to make excuses about the team's poor form.

Many of them have placed blame varying from referee bias, to Schuster not having the team play to its full potential. The referee bias excuse is perhaps one of the most ridiculous statements that could be made at this point. Some fans have said that the only reason that Trabzonspor, Bursaspor, and Fenerbahçe are ahead of them in the standings in because of referee bias towards those teams. Perhaps the best example of how ridiculous the referee bias statement is, would be the in the match when Beşiktaş hosted Karabükspor. Ibrahim Toraman went with a studs-up tackle of Karabükspor striker Emmanuel Emenike early on in the first half of that match, and did not get a straight red card from that. While Turkish referees are, in fact, of a very poor standard, quality teams should be able to overcome the shortcomings of Turkish referees and win matches in spite of those shortcomings. It seems that Beşiktaş is not the quality team that everyone thought they were. As for Schuster not having the team playing to its full potential, his words after the Ankaragücü loss, mentioned earlier, are dead on. Some lower ranked teams in the Turkish Super League generally play with ten men behind the ball, and counter when necessary. This is usually seen when such clubs playing against the bigger clubs, such as Beşiktaş. Schuster probably has never experienced the sport played in such a manner, and it's hard to get used to that sort of style that opponents play.

Going back to the excuse about referee bias, Mahmut Özgener, the president of the Turkish Football Federation recently said that Beşiktaş were connecting their poor form to alleged referee bias. Beşiktaş chairman Yıldırım Demirören has recently come out and that Özgener was "a fascist" during a meeting of the Beşiktaş financial general assembly. Demirören said that "if you (Özgener) are saying that there is no democracy in football, then you are a fascist and a dictator." … "You are biased and not equal. Our stars have been crushed under." If the chairman is resorting to those sorts of statements, then he must be losing his mind.

Regardless of excuses, poor form, or however the opponents play (or not try to), Beşiktaş have only themselves to blame here. There is no team chemistry. With all of the signings made, they have not been able to really mesh together with the players already there. Bernd Schuster may be a good coach, and he is right about Beşiktaş can only blame themselves for their form. But considering all of the hype surrounding this team, Beşiktaş should have done way better than what their record after week 21 indicates. But perhaps there is old sports adage that can be applied to Beşiktaş at this point, "you can't buy success". Of course, there are exceptions to this adage, but in general, money does not fix everything. For Beşiktaş and club chairman Yıldırım Demirören, that is the lesson to be learned, and they better learn it fast.


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