Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Ankaragucu half season review!
After a gruelling season last term where Ankaragucu held off a tough challenge from Gumushanespor to win the Lig 2 title, most Ankaragucu fans would have accepted the team avoiding relegation this season in Lig 1 with hopes of making the playoffs at a push.
Instead, the team are sitting top of the Lig at the winter break and expectations have changed to automatic promotion, with the playoffs being a minimum although most would be disappointed if the team doesn’t now go on and win automatic promotion back to the Super Lig where the club belongs.
İsmail Kartal is the man responsible for guiding Ankaragucu to the top of Lig 1 and has won the respect and admiration from the Ankaragucu support with his hard work and forward thinking ideas that have galvanised a squad of players flung together at the last minute in the summer after the club managers to lift the transfer ban only days before the transfer window closed.
Things haven’t always been positive for Ismail Kartal during his Ankaragucu tenure. He replaced Ismet Tasdemir in the summer who guided the club to the Lig 2 title last season, but the Ankaragucu board decided they wanted to go in a different direction with the appointment of Kartal much to the surprise of the Ankaragucu support. Failed spells at Fenerbahce and Gaziantepspor had saw the 56 year olds reputation in tatters, but he was determined to succee at Ankaragucu and installed a strict military style training camp at the club.
Ankaragucu signed 22 new players in the summer with only Korcan Celikay, Alihan Kubalas, Kenan Özer, and Enes Kubat remaining from last seasons championship winning squad. Fans favourites such as Omer Bozan, Cenk Kaplan, Muhammed Gonulacar, Muharrem Ozan, Serkan Balci and Harun Aydin were all let go and replaced with free transfers and loan signings as the club completely overhauled the squad. Concerns amongst the fans had already started to set in with many questioning the need for so many changes. The club had dismantled the squad that won a title and also parted ways with the manager.
İsmail Kartal faced a tough task of working with a squad of free transfers and loan signings, all players who had been released by their previous clubs, contracts had expired or were available for loan. Most of these players didn’t have a full pre season, while trying to get 22 new players to integrate and gel would be a difficult task for any manager. In pre season the team struggled to score goals and looked void of any ideas going forward.
In the days leading up to the closure of the transfer window, Ankaragucu pullled off a major coup in completing the loan signings of Umut Nayir and Tonia Tisdell on loan from Osmanlispor. Umut Nayir a former Ankaragucu player had the previous season played a huge part in helping Goztepe to promotion to the Super Lig.
The club also added the likes of Erdem Ozgenc from Bursaspor, Mehmet Sak from Yeni Malatyaspor, Gencer Cansev and Sedat Acgay from Basaksehir, Arif Morkaya and Yusuf Abdioglu from Altinordu, Abdulkadir Kayali and Ilhan Parlak from Gaziantepspor and Anton Putsila also joined late on from Gaziantepspor. A host of other players would also join the club as it became a whose who of new players in the opening couple of games.
İsmail Kartal got off to the worst possible start with 2 draws and 2 defeats in his opening 4 games. Draws with Erzerumspor at home and Altinordu away weren’t the worst of results especially as it was the teams first couple of games together against pretty decent sides. The 2-0 defeat at Elazigspor was blamed on new signing Lanre Kehinde who was sent off early in the game for a shocking head but letting all his team mates down and fans how had travelled to the game. The next week Ankaragucu lost 2-1 at home against Balikesirspor after leading 1-0 and that’s when the first chants of İsmail istifa rung around the 19 Mayis Stadium.
Social media was awash with Ankaragücü fans looking for the board to sack İsmail Kartal and bring back Ismet Tasdemir. The fans complained that İsmail had dismantled a good side letting the likes of Muhammed Gonulacar, Cenk Kaplan and Omer Bozan go and replaced them with old players such as Sercan Kaya and Sedat Agcay who were failing to live up to expectations.
The new Ankaragucu manager was under pressure early on in his Ankaragucu career but the management team stood strong and backed their man. Their loyalty would be rewarded as İsmail and Ankaragucu were about to go on a remarkable run that would take them from bottom of the table to the top.
The turning point was the match at leaders Caykur Rizespor. It was top against bottom with most predicting an easy home win for Rizespor. Ilhan Parlak had also come in for a lot of criticism from the Ankaragucu support due to his poor for in the first 4 games. İsmail Kartal like the board had done with him, stood by his man and it paid off as Ilhan scored a double in a fantastic 4-1 win which set the benchmark for the rest of the season for Ankaragucu.
After the jubilation of winning at Rizespor, the team were knocked out of the cup by Afyon Afjetspor which again raised questions of İsmail Kartal and his ability to be Ankaragucu manager.
Ankaragucu would win 9 and draw 2 of their next 11 matches including stunning wins at rivals Eskisehirspor, Giresunspor and a home win against Umraniyespor who were 2nd in the table at that point. The 3-1 victory at Eskisehirspor was a particularly pleasing result against a rival team and one which saw İsmail Kartal win the hearts of the Ankaragucu fans.
After a stuttering start, this Ankaragucu team were playing like a team who had played together for years. İsmail Kartal has installed a well organised, hard working ethic which also includes flair and skill when needed, with everyone knowing their role in the team.
Korcan Celikay in goals has proved to be a great signing for the club. He signed on loan last January and was instrumental in helping Ankaragucu winning the Lig 2 title. The club moved to make his signing permanent in the summer and again he has become a key player for the club.
Erdem Ozgenc at right back had a huge task of replacing fans favourite Serkan Balci, 6 months in and Balci is a distant memory. Erdem has had an excellent first half season creating 7 goals and has been a constant threat with his runs down the right hand side. And excellent crosser of the ball, Erdem has also been fantastic defensively and is the complete wing back.
Gencer Cansev like Umut Nayir helped Goztepe win promotion to the Super Lig and has formed an excellent partnership with Alihan Kubalas at the back. Both players are excellent in the air and Alihan has earned the nickname Rambo for his physical presence and all out commitment which see him as a fans favourite.
In midfield, Arif Morkaya and Sedat Agcay do all the dirty work winning the ball, breaking up play, closing the opposition down which allows Anton Putsila to get forward creating chances for the forwards. Kenan Özer has again shown his worth and that he is capable of playing at this level with some excellent performances and consistency which is so often missing in wingers.
Umut Nayir and Ilhan Parlak have formed an excellent partnership up front with both scoring 6 goals, Umut having played 12 games and Ilhan 16. They have both delivered in the big games and have been excellent additions to the team.
Ankaragucu saw their undefeated run come to and end at Adana Demirspor at the weekend, but the team will be delighted they go into the break 2 points clear at the top. Tonia Tisdell, Nduka Ozokwu and Mbamba Kibong will all be available having missed the first half due to injury. While the club will also look to lift the transfer ban. We await the 2nd half in anticipation of Ankaragucu making it 2 titles in a row and a place back at the top with Turkeys elite!