"I believe the worst is behind us," said Vahid Halilhodžić, with UEFA Europa League successes a relief after a shaky domestic start to his second spell at Trabzonspor AŞ.
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Vahid Halilhodžić is not having an easy time in his second spell in charge at Trabzonspor AŞ, but the 62-year-old is convinced the Black Sea side are on the verge of a breakthrough.
The Bosnian-born former Yugoslavia forward, who spent the bulk of his playing and coaching careers in France, has been angling for another crack at the Trabzonspor job since his last stint was cut short in 2006 after less than a year – despite a creditable fourth-placed finish. Current club president İbrahim Hacıosmanoğlu was then second-in-command at the Turkish Süper Lig outfit, and having opposed the original decision to oust the coach, was eager to work with him again.
Halilhodžić reportedly turned down several lucrative offers after guiding Algeria to the FIFA World Cup knockout stage for the first time, as he honoured a commitment to Hacıosmanoğlu to manage Trabzonspor on a one-year deal with the option of a further 12 months. His arrival prompted a major squad overhaul, with 28 players shipped out and 22 brought in at a cost of roughly €30m. However, results have not been as expected.
After seven league games, Trabzonspor have recorded just one win – 3-1 at home to Mersin İdman Yurdu in round six – and five draws, making this their worst start in 12 campaigns. Their €6m record signing from FC Spartak Moskva, striker Majeed Waris, is yet to score, former SL Benfica hitman Óscar Cardozo is adapting slowly, with Algerian pair Carl Medjani and Essaid Belkalem the only players to have featured in all of Halilhodžić's starting XIs.
Halilhodžić, whose obsession with discipline and hard work in training is well known, insists that Trabzonspor's shaky form is not down to any lack of exertion on his part. "We are making tireless efforts to improve our build-up play, but some of our players don't get it yet," he said. "Maybe I should tell each player his exact role on the pitch one by one, but I believe the worst is behind us. On the other hand, we are far from perfect. We still need time."
Time is the great healer. "Harmony among players on the pitch and knowing each other's attributes is very important," Halilhodžić said. It seems that process of acclimatisation has been more successful in the UEFA Europa League. After three matchdays, Trabzonspor have six points, having won 2-1 at FC Metalist Kharkiv and 2-0 against KSC Lokeren OV – either side of a 1-0 home loss to Legia Warszawa.
However, even the Lokeren victory was not a massive comfort for the perfectionist coach. "We're still having some issues related to impatience when it comes to attacking," he said. "This is delaying the process of scoring goals." Nonetheless, should Trabzonspor and Legia each prevail on matchday four, both would be sure of a round of 32 place. As he waits for his team to bed in, such an outcome could also buy Halilhodžić a few weeks' grace from impatient fans.