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Arda Güler

Profiling the Turkish prodigy breaking out at Fenerbahçe SK

Arda Güler playing for Fenerbahçe SK in a pre-season friendly in the summer of 2022
Stephen Conroy

AUGUST 19, 2022

Who is Arda Güler?

Following a long summer of speculation that spawned approximately 600 “Arda Güler – Welcome to *insert club*” videos, Fenerbahçe SK gave the diminutive Turkish talent his first league minutes of the season in their second Süper Lig game against Kasimpasa. In those 22 minutes, the 17-year-old completed all of his dribbles on the bobbly turf and, more impressively, struck two brilliant goals to round off a 6-0 rout.

Hopes are so high for Güler that when Mesut Özil was frozen out and stripped of his numer 10 shirt, the iconic digit that has been worn on the back of players like Jay-Jay Okocha and Robin van Persie, was quickly passed on to the youngster, a move which only intensified “The Turkish Messi” shouts.

While Fenerbahçe fans will be quick to claim him as one of their own, Güler was actually born and raised a six-hour drive away from the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, growing up in the capital of Ankara rather than the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul.

It was at the age of just nine when Güler first joined up with the Gençlerbirligi academy, gaining a big reputation in Turkish youth football circles for his technical ability before being picked up by Fener in 2019 as a 14-year-old. In the three years since, he has made such an impression that he was handed his debut in a European tie against HJK shortly after his 16th birthday this time last year. Just three days later, it was time for his league debut, where he assisted the 90th minute winning goal in a 1-0 victory.

After a strong debut season that yielded three goals in 12 games, there’s already been plenty of talk of interest from clubs such as Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Manchester United, with reported fees reaching as high as £25 million, which would break the record for a 17-year-old set by Jude Bellingham’s move from Birmingham to Borussia Dortmund.

Any moves are yet to materialise, however, and it seems this season could see a lot more playing time and responsibility for the clubs next big star as Fener look to end a long nine-year wait for a league title.

Arda Güler asking to receive the ball during a Süper Lig game for Fenerbahçe in the 2022/23 season

Arda Güler's style of play

Strengths

Weaknesses

The majority of Güler’s minutes last season came in the 10 position, operating there in interim manager Ismail Kartal’s 4-2-3-1 shape, often coming off the bench in place of Hakan Yandaş. This suited the teenager’s game as it gave him freedom to drift out wide as well as license to drop deep and dictate play from there, with goal-scoring midfielder Miha Zajc filling the spaces vacated. 

This season, however, in the brief time Jorge Jesus has been in charge, it has been a 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 system deployed. This has meant that Güler has been seeing a lot more of the right-side channel, replacing one of Enner Valencia or Josh King, and being given an almost withdrawn second striker role.

This has enabled him to showcase his game cutting inside on his left foot as opposed to spending much of his minutes in the left half-space as he has done for most of his senior career to date. While the right-sided role is one that he will grow into with time, it accentuates a few of his weaknesses.

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On the left, his half-space passing and crossing is impeccable; his weight of delivery is always high level as he lofts the ball towards the back post. To create the space for his deliveries, Güler often drives at the opposition right-back before playing in the left-back on the overlap then slightly readjusting his position to receive the return ball. From there, he only needs one touch to steady himself and play it into the box on his left foot.

The problems arise when he plays on the right, though. This is because the majority of his biggest weaknesses collide in his questionable decision-making in attacking areas and his distinct one-footedness. Due to the fact he doesn’t possess a good right foot, all of his touches take him inside on his left. From there, he can’t help but shoot from distance regardless of his passing options.

While this is a viable strategy for a lot of wide attackers, it doesn’t quite work for Güler as his distance shooting is inconsistent at best. Near enough all his shots from outside the box either trickle towards the goalkeeper or clear the bar, and sometimes even the stadium. There’s definitely potential for him as a right winger due to his crossing and dribbling ability but, for now, he should be kept on the left where he can really impact games decisively.

Arda Güler’s dribbling ability and comfort in the half-space makes him a perfect match for modern football; he’s a valuable asset both in settled possession against a block and on the counter attack.

 
 

 

 

Speaking of his dribbling ability, this is the aspect that the ‘Turkish Messi’ comparisons really stem from. His ability to keep the ball close to his strong left foot whilst travelling at full speed is mesmerising and a nightmare for defenders.

It’s not just in attacking areas that Güler is dangerous either. Due to his penchant for dropping deep, he finds himself being pressed receiving from the centre-backs relatively often. He waits until the opposition have committed before turning away at pace and carrying the ball upfield to create an opportunity. 

His overall athleticism complements his carrying ability well. Capable of running at frightening speeds with the ball, he’s extremely difficult to keep up with and, despite needing to fill out a little, he’s not too tiny at 5”9. His low centre of gravity enables him to get out of tight situations with possession intact.

He also knows when to go down, while having no issue absorbing kicks and staying on his feet. He has a good sense of when to win a foul in order to relieve pressure on his team, a very valuable asset when Fener have their backs against the wall. Furthermore, it’s a skill that players usually gain with age and experience – but Güler already has it at 17 years old.

His composure in the box is that of a player well beyond his years, both in terms of picking a spot for his finishes and taking an extra touch before squaring the ball, or getting a shot away. While most players of his age thrash at opportunities, Güler always seems to give himself time to make his decision – even if that decision isn’t always the correct one in the end.

This composure is probably the main reason he has such a good record for Fener in his short career so far. In fact, in domestic competition since his debut, he’s played 13 and directly contributed to eight goals in those games, an incredible record for a 17-year-old.

If you have any doubts on his composure in scoring situations, take this as an example: last season in a must-win game to keep their title hopes alive, Fener entrusted Güler with taking (and converting) a crucial penalty at 1-0 up with 10 minutes remaining, despite seasoned goal scorers like Enner Valencia and Diego Rossi being on the pitch. That encapsulates his ability and the club’s trust in it.

Forecasting Arda Güler's future

With the number 10 position becoming more obsolete as football progresses, it seems likely that Güler spends his career in a creative role on the left-hand side which he already has a good grasp of. His dribbling ability and comfort in the half-space makes him a perfect match for modern football; he’s a valuable asset both in settled possession against a block and on the counter attack.

This season, it seems like there will be more play time afforded to him even under a coach with a patchy record (at best) when it comes to young players in Jorge Jesus. This season is looking promising for Fenerbahçe, and a successful individual campaign coupled with team success could mean the Ankara-born attacker could be big club bound this time next summer.

While there are certainly some flaws to iron out, he already displays a relatively mature game. With the right coach and some well-managed development this season, it seems feasible that Güler would be ready for a big move even with his career still in its infancy.

scoutedftbl.com

Arda Güler is a high-level technican that bears some similarities to Lionel Messi. He is excellent at travelling with the ball at speed, as well as creating danger from the left half-space with passing and crossing into the penalty area. He is also a remarkably composed player for his age.

Arda Güler needs to improve his decision-making in the final third, something which will come with more experience on the pitch. He also has a big margin to improve his long-distance shooting and, if possible, developing his weak right foot.

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