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Yakin moulding Basel into winning force

Tuesday 4 December 2012 10.59 CET
Basel coach Murat Yakin

Murat Yakin has occupied the coach's office at St. Jakob-Park for two months now. His instalment in the top job at FC Basel 1983, Switzerland's foremost team, was one that had always seemed inevitable.

Yakin succeeded Heiko Vogel in mid-October at a club where he won three league titles and as many Swiss Cups as captain between 2001 and 2006. To many observers, it had only been a matter of time until the 38-year-old, who started his coaching career six years ago, was appointed.

His start has certainly been promising: seven wins from the last eight games in all competitions, the most recent a 1-0 victory over high-flying FC St Gallen, mean that a fourth consecutive Super League title is a realistic prospect. Likewise, qualification from UEFA Europa League Group G, where wins against Videoton FC and Sporting Clube de Portugal have left Basel requiring a draw with KRC Genk on Thursday to progress to the round of 32.

Yakin has not been afraid to put his mark on the squad. His predecessor, Vogel, was a popular figure, and a coach whom Basel captain Marco Streller recently described as a "tactical genius". Confronted with this, Yakin responded: "I had to deal with that in a clever fashion. As a new coach, it's very important to have the courage to make changes, regardless of whether the club was successful before."

With Yakin in charge, Basel have adopted a more aggressive style, predominantly deploying a 4-1-4-1 formation. Fabian Schär has emerged as a regular in the centre of defence and Valentin Stocker has moved from the left wing into the centre, with Alexander Frei taking his place on the flank.

Yakin believes one of the reasons why Basel, following an indifferent run of form between late August and the end of October, have got back on track so quickly is because he knows the club so well. "I never really left," he said, despite having worked for local rivals FC Concordia, Grasshopper-Club, FC Frauenfeld, FC Thun and FC Luzern in the past six years.

Listening to Yakin evokes memories of another man who made his mark at Basel, winning four league titles between 1999 and 2009, Christian Gross. "Murat Yakin is like Christian Gross – his appearance, his speeches, his facial expressions and his gestures," said former Basel midfielder Benjamin Huggel, who knows both men well.

Yakin, though, wishes to cultivate his own image, saying: "I worked with Christian Gross for eight years and we had a very successful time together, so it's obvious that he shaped me in a few ways, but I have to take my own journey." It is a journey that, so far at least, has been quite impressive.

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