Following the resumption of the German Bundesliga, the Portuguese Primeira and the Austrian Bundesliga, the Turkish Süper Lig will also join the host of European leagues restarting after the COVID-19-forced break. With the imminent restart of Turkish football, Stats Perform is on hand to provide a data-driven reminder of the key narratives from the Süper Lig.
Trabzonspor and Başakşehir tied at the top, Galatasaray not far behind
As the clubs paused for the winter break that marks the halfway point in the season it was actually Sivasspor who led the league with 37 points. The Sivas-based side were four points clear of second-placed Başakşehir, five ahead of Trabzonspor and a giant 10 points clear from record-winners Galatasaray. Since then, however, Sivasspor have faded badly picking up only 12 points from a possible 27 and they now sit in fourth position, one point behind Galatasaray.
In recent seasons, Galatasaray have made slow starts followed by second-half surges somewhat of a habit. In 2018/19, they sat in fifth place as Turkey’s winter break started. Gala then embarked on a 16-game unbeaten run, picking up 40 points on their way to their 22nd title.
This campaign, Galatasaray languished in seventh place at the turn of the year, with a 10-point deficit on leaders Sivasspor to make up. Attacking impotency was their biggest weakness. After 12 games Galatasaray had only scored 13 goals, their lowest tally in the 3-point-for-a-win era, and their lowest since the 1981/82 season (9 goals).
More worrying for the Turkish giants was the lack of goalscoring chances they were creating. As the table below shows, they’d only created 18 ‘Big Chances’ after 12 matches. Big Chances are chances that are subjectively judged by analysts to be an excellent goal-scoring opportunity where the player should have scored – a clear cut chance, usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range. Only relegation-threatened Ankaragücü had created fewer at this stage.
Big Chance Creation Turkish Süper Lig (12 matches)
|Rank||Team||Big Chances Created||Goals Scored||League Position|
Compared to the same point in the 2018/19 season, Galatasaray had already scored 22 league goals and had created 27 Big Chances.
Clearly, a side blessed with the firepower of players like Radamel Falcao, Florin Andone, Sofiane Feghouli and Ryan Babel doesn’t belong so far down in these rankings. That said, during the early stages of the season, these key players were simply not performing: Falcao had managed 179 minutes and scored only one goal during that period, while Feghouli had contributed just one goal and one assist. Ironically, Ryan Babel, who was unhappy at the club and eventually left in the winter transfer window was the team’s top goalscorer with a meagre four goals, and only Ömer Bayram, who was playing out of position in the centre of midfield was level with him for goal contributions (1 goal, 3 assists).
Fast forward to the present day and Gala are just one win behind the top two and lead the Big Chance total table since then. Only Trabzonspor (36) have scored more goals than them (31). With Henry Onyekuru making an impact on loan, Falcao playing and scoring more regularly (8 goals and 1 assist since matchday 12), and Mariano rediscovering his creative form, Gala have rocketed up the table and now lurk ominously in third-place.
But it is Trabzonspor, currently tied for top spot, who are the hottest topic for discussion. One of only five sides to have won a Turkish league title, they’ve not won one since the 1983/84 season. They started this campaign brightly and since matchday six they’ve never dropped out of the top five. A 2-0 victory over Gençlerbirliği in matchday 20 saw them move into first place, a position they’ve kept since then. They have looked especially strong in the final third with outstanding performances from Alexander Sörloth and Anthony Nwakaeme in particular.
The tall Norwegian lefty Sörloth had a tricky time in the Premier League. He failed to score in his time with Crystal Palace, despite playing over 500 minutes. Only finding the target four times out of his 11 shots may have had something to do with that.
On loan at Trabzonspor, the Black Sea weather appears to be treating him well. So far he has notched 19 goals and seven assists in 26 games. His 26 goal contributions are comfortably the highest in the league (Edin Višća is second with 19). It is safe to say that Erling Haaland has found his probable partner in the Norway national team.
But he has not done this alone: Anthony Nwakaeme has been his main partner in crime. After 10 goals and 10 assists in 2018/19, the Nigerian is on course to match or even exceed that tally this term (10 goals, 6 assists). Out of his six assists, three have been served to Sörloth, which emphasises the connect the pair share.
Despite these positives, in one of the more bizarre managerial decisions of this term, Trabzonspor parted ways with manager Ünal Karaman mid-season after club president Ahmet Agaoglu revealed that he was not satisfied with the style of football Karaman insisted on playing, despite them sitting in third place at the time. Well, if Karaman’s style of football was too open for Agaoglu, he may have been onto something. Trabzonspor have thrown away a league-high 18 points from winning positions.
Başakşehir’s presence in the title race is nothing new now. They have slowly built a team and philosophy under Abdullah Avcı. This season, with Avcı leaving for Beşiktaş, they hired a young and promising manager in Okan Buruk. Under Avcı and now Buruk, Başakşehir has evolved from a very direct team to one that has become possession-dominant.
Başakşehir are the only Turkish team still left in a European club competition this season, having topped a very difficult UEFA Europa League group containing AS Roma and Borussia Mönchengladbach. After knocking out Sporting Lisbon in extra time they will meet FC. Copenhagen in the round of 16 when the competition resumes.
Edin Visca’s ongoing contribution to Başakşehir’s offence is unparalleled. He has been with Başakşehir since 2011, and in the Stats Peform era of the Süper Lig (since 2014/15) he only missed one league game, scoring 63 times in 195 games along with 53 assists. He leads the way this season in assists (eleven) and expected assists (7.9) which illustrates his creative force.
Where are Besiktas and Fenerbahçe?
The two Istanbul giants have had difficult seasons so far. Besiktas’ hiring of Abdullah Avcı ended prematurely, with the side seventh in the league, knocked out of European competitions and knocked out of Turkish Cup. Sergen Yalçın’s, whose previous managerial assignments mostly consist of taking teams over in mid-season, was warmly welcomed by the Beşiktaş faithful. Now they are fifth, nine points behind the leaders and fighting for a European spot.
Fenerbahçe, like Besiktas, have been struggling financially for the last two seasons. Last season was a dire campaign for them, with their name remarkably being bounded about as relegation candidates rather than title contenders. The Phillip Cocu era ended quickly and Ersun Yanal joined the club with strong supporter backing. Fenerbahçe would end the season in sixth place, shy of a European seat, but the captures of Max Kruse and Vedat Muriqi were shrewd transfers to settle things up front.
Looking at expected goals tells a slightly different, more positive story. Across the last two seasons, and looking at all teams from the Turkish Süper Lig and the top five European leagues, Fenerbahçe have under performed their expected goals tally more than any other team. This suggests that they are creating far more dangerous chances than they are actually converting and if it hadn’t been for a stretch of poor finishing, they’d have plenty more goals to their name.
The Danger Zone
At the bottom, a dogfight will resume. 10 points separate bottom-placed Kayserispor and ninth place Gaziantep FK. Kayserispor who have accumulated just 22 points look like they are in serious trouble. Out of the 50 teams with 22 points or less after 26 games, only three teams (Vanspor in 1996/97, Elazığspor in 2002/03 and Kayserispor themselves in 2004/05 season) have managed to avoid relegation in the modern era of Turkish football. Kayserispor will have to hold onto the fact they’re the last team to pull of such an escape act as they resume their uphill struggle.
Turkish Super Lig 2019/20 Bottom Half