Michalis Tsochos writes about the four “Europeans” and the first part of the season touching on their commitments both in the league and in European competitions…
With the season almost a quarter completed, plus the summer qualifiers stage plus the first two group stage matches, we have a clear preliminary draft of the teams that continue in Europe and are expected to compete for the tournament.
Eek, Panathinaikos, Olympic And PAOK With the order they completed last year, they have a reason to smile for this year. And to smile and be optimistic. They may have started from different starting points, Olympiacos obviously started at the back, due to the many changes in roster, coach and technical director, but today after the first big break, everyone has reason to be optimistic about the year, the teams they have are improving the quality of football they are playing.
It’s rare, which is why I notice it. This time last year, for example, Olympiacos had no reason for optimism, only worry. Last year, AEK was a team without any direction. But this year everything looks very different. It is one of the rare cases where you can tell the four that they are on the right track and that everything they do makes sense, makes football sense and creates expectations. Obviously they also have problems, some small and some big, but in the big picture all four are progressing.
AEK, who have the fewest substitutions ever (logically because they are the team that won the double), certainly carry a missed goal (it wasn’t easy, but it was a realistic goal to play in Champions League groups), but they showed they have the character and stamina to overcome. on her. Both their run so far in the European group and in the league shows that they are still at the highest level they were last year and are looking to better absorb players like Ponce, Pizarro and Kalens to become even better. Several injuries early in the season are a problem, as is certainly their ineffectiveness. There are many matches in which AEK create more goals than they score, the most common examples being the match in Antwerp and the match against Ceres at home.
AEK feels they are the favorites to win the tournament, and it is too early to tell if they are five points behind the leaders. How far he will go in Europe is a serious question, and it is not independent of domestic competitions. The further AEK advances in Europe, the more difficult it will be to win the tournament again. Of course, this generally applies to all four, with the difference that AEK consumes more energy than all of them in their matches and this costs a lot in consecutive matches.
It seems that Panathinaikos has not changed much, but that is not true. Many additions have been made to the roster, even in important positions, and Ivan Jovanovic is working to diversify the way his team plays. Panathinaikos is not last year’s team, not in terms of faces, but especially not in terms of style and style of play. This change now at the start of the season will cost them in some games, as Panathinaikos is still searching for the best balance between their attacking style and blocking function.
Some new players have been assimilated quickly (like Mladenovic, Gedvaj, and Djuric), while others will take longer (like Velina), but assimilating the new way of playing will take better adjustment and more time than any other player. Ultimately, however, Panathinaikos is sure to be a better, more complete and more individual team than last year’s version.
The same undoubtedly applies to Olympiacos. I would also like to point out that since the starting point in this case was much further away, Olympiacos is running at a faster pace than anyone could have imagined. A new technical director, a new coach, a different way of playing, and many transfers of key players. Olympiacos has completely changed this summer, and the fact that they are alone in first place in the league is important in itself, but not the most important. These are good transfers overall (especially compared to last year), but also good work by the coach, who has shown very quickly a team with a modern start, middle, finish and methods.
Sure there were many problems, but this was not only inevitable, it was absolutely certain to happen. The universality of the roster and the fact that the new coach wanted time to get to know the players also masked some of the weaknesses in the roster, such as in the middle of defence. But for a team that has changed almost everything this is normal. It was certain that an additional transfer window or two would be needed to complete the puzzle. Olympiacos, although not the favorite to do so, looks capable from Martinez’s first year and all those transfers to win the tournament until the end.
As for PAOK, who finished fourth last year, they had a difficult summer, with no room for error in Europe and they became very strict. It was difficult, but he was able to join the groups and for this very reason he was able to continue the project he started last summer and complete it this year. Gradually changing the entire team that achieved the unbeaten championship, and moving on to creating the next team that will largely rely on the new kids from the club’s academies. After all, the conversions that were made were of high quality, and simply because they came late they needed time to confirm it.
Marcos Antonio, Desputov and Mete came late and still couldn’t make it… PAOK is happy, while Samata was slow to adapt. When these four are ready and coordinated with the team, we will see the true picture of PAOK this year. Lucescu told us this would happen at the beginning of January, but we’ll certainly find out much earlier. Most people think that PAOK will not win the tournament and others think that they are just an outsider. I personally think that if he doesn’t fall too far behind now at the start of the season and gets closer to the top spots in December, he will definitely be one of the title contenders.
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