Player Profile: From Arsenal to Besiktas – The Rise of Ozyakup

Turkey's midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup celebrates after scoring a goal against Netherlands during the Euro 2016 qualifying football match between Turkey and Netherlands at the Arena Stadium in Konya, on September 6, 2015 in Konya. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Oguzhan Ozyakup will be a name familiar to Arsenal youth football aficionados having risen through the ranks of the academy playing a major role in Arsenal’s Under-18s side that won the Premier Academy League title in 2009.

Ozyakup looked to have a bright future at Arsenal which is why his €500,000 transfer to Besikas came as a bit of a surprise. The once Netherlands U21 national team captain turned Turkish international has gone onto establish himself as a first-team regular at the Black Eagles but his real rise to prominence is unfolding as we speak.

Besiktas were left with a number of issues following the departure of Slaven Bilic to West Ham over the summer. The most poignant being how to cope with key central midfielders Tolgay Arslan and Veli Kavlak both being sidelined for at least six-months with injury. Bilic’s replacement Senol Gunes decided Ozyakup would be his main man in the middle and the former Arsenal man has not disappointed.

The 23-year-old has established himself as a leader taking on central, defensive and attacking midfielder roles at times this season. Ozyakup has improved defensively averaging 1.5 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per-gamg in all competitions and has strengthened physically. The Besiktas star pulls the strings in midfield and has eight goals as well as seven assists to his name.

Wenger admitted last season that Ozyakup’s development has impressed. “I’m happy that he came here,” he said. “He was educated by us and we saw that he had top quality and technically he is very good. Physically he can run all day, he has very good stamina and a good final pass.

“I always thought he could make a career but at our club he had big competition in front of him and that is why we let him go.

“It is good to see he has made it to the top level and is now an important player in Turkey.”

Ozyakup may just end up doing something Wenger has failed to for the past decade – win a league title. The Black Eagles are currently first in the Super League four points clear of Fenerbahce and it would not be a surprise to see the former Arsenal man as a candidate for player of the season. Whoscored have him down as being – statistically – the fourth best performing player in the league.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 12.04.28

Perhaps a move back to north London could be on the cards.