As one of the best administrated clubs in Turkey, İstanbul Başakşehir finally won the championship that they have been chasing for years. This season, with the novelties manager Okan Buruk brought to the team and the empty stadiums after the Covid-19 break, Başakşehir had a better chance of winning the league. Still, with their balanced game and consistent physical performance after the break, they deserved the trophy by all means. They had the most reliable strategy throughout the season and had a clear advantage over their main rival, Trabzonspor, in terms of defensive stability. Combined with the individual contributions of the experienced players like Demba Ba and Edin Visca, they were able to solve almost all problems they encountered this season.
At the beginning of the season my ideas about the team were mostly negative, due to the radical changes the new manager Okan Buruk brought to the team. His predecessor Abdullah Avcı had already built a reliable system in four seasons but Buruk changed all the dynamics from the day one. Even though I respect the authentic approach of each and every manager, I thought it was completely unnecessary to make a revolution in a system which works fine.
However, after losing the Champions League ticket to Olympiakos and starting the league with two defeats in a row, Buruk noticed his mistake. He tried to play with high pace and intense pressing, but his team was the oldest in the Süper Lig. Then he returned to a more controlled approach with two strikers, having more possession and slowly reaching to the opponent’s goal. That was the plan which brought Avcı’s Başakşehir close to the championship in the last three years and through that Buruk’s Başakşehir slowly recovered from the bad start. First the victories in the Süper Lig and then the qualification to the last 32 in the Europa League arrived.
During this recovery period Buruk started using classical strikers, Enzo Crivelli and Demba Ba. This meant that the team was more bound to crosses and the real issue was to supply these strikers with lots of crosses. In exactly that part Avcı’s set pieces came in handy as Başakşehir was one of the best teams in transitioning from defence to offence. Basically, Buruk took Avcı’s organized, systematic approach and added a bit of chaos to the final third. In the end, both Crivelli and Ba contributed 14 goals and 4 assists, showing the consistency Buruk achieved in offensive plans. One other issue that made Başakşehir different than other teams was the similar performances it showed before and after Covid-19. Unlike Galatasaray, which lacked the great support of its fans and collapsed after the break, Başakşehir’s game stayed almost the same. They used the advantage of playing without fans even before Covid-19 and preserved their performance. With this consistency in performance, came the consistency in results and hence the championship. They were not the fastest, strongest or most talented team in the league, but they found the right balance. As it turned out, being the jack of all trades but master of none was enough to be the masters of Turkish Süper Lig.