When building OpenWrt the image seems to no contain the packages I would expect

so a while ago, I set up environment to build openwrt images because I wanted an image for netgear r7500 with quantenna drivers.
I am on linux and even through I got the build environment to work easily using the wiki and everything compiles fine etc, BUT in the end the generated images in bin/targets/ipq806x/generic do not seem to contain all the things I am expecting it to, i.e. i flash the factory image using tftp and there is no luci or ssh.
If I afterwards use the imagebuilder generated to build a image with the packages I need and that one does just fine. Do i misunderstand something about the images in bin/targets/ipq806x/generic ?

I started with checking out v21.02.1 (the tag) and modified nothing, updated and installed the feeds (as per wiki ./scripts/feeds update -a and ./scripts/feeds install -a, I run the 2nd one twice through, because first run gives warnings about dependencies that do not exist)
downloaded wget https://downloads.openwrt.org/releases/21.02.1/targets/ipq806x/generic/config.buildinfo -O .config
then, make defconfig
then, make menuconfig (and set ccache and the path to the directory)
then make download && make -j16

I thought this is supposed to create images in bin/targets/ipq806x/generic that contains the packages that are in the image you can download from the website, but if I flash the self built one it seems to just be bad (i don't get luci or ssh connection). So I wonder if I just misunderstood something about the image created there or the config.buildinfo file from the releases.

You are adding the relevant packages when you do make menuconfig aren't you?

I am not actually adding any package then, but when I look e.g. luci seems to be already selected with y.
I had assumed that the releases config.buildinfo should already contain them and so they should be selected?
Like if I didn't say it in the post, just assume I didn't do it.
(this is not about quantenna driver, just build to plain stock release like image)

If it's supposed to actually spit out a working image like this, just tell me so because I am just gonna try again a new in a new directory ... (again)
I just did it twice already and was wondering if I just have some misconception about what the releases config.buildinfo contains or what the image built in that specific location is supposed to contain.

Leave out the make defconfig. Unneeded if you download the .config

Check the .manifest file in bin/targets/ipq806x/generic. It contains a list of what is included in the image.

You need to also select a device in menuconfig, to the get needed packages relevant for the device. Plain target is not enough.

To arrive at the same package selection as the release, you just need to just select your router device and add LuCI (the luci-ssl package). All other packages should get selected through dependencies.

(You can also start menuconfig with a missing .config in order to start with a clean slate.)

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