AEK vs. Olympiacos Post Match Analysis: The Battle that Cemented First
It feels great after a small hiatus from writing to return on such a great occasion. Not only did we win yet another derby against one of our favorite pelates, but it gave us a nice lead at the top of the table. Before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m not saying we destroyed them. Far from it. Nonetheless, we got the job done and now carry some momentum going into the return fixture against Fenerbahce. Unfortunately, we are also carrying some of the same troubling patterns into that game as well.
AEK vs. Olympiacos Match Overview
As I mentioned on the show, the game flow went about how I expected. Despite what many of our entitled fans think, it is not realistic to have expected we would dominate AEK in OAKA. AEK has been one of the more competent teams in Greece in possession and buildup (more competent than Paok at the very least). I expected that they would control the game and dictate the pace of play. I also expected that they would not have more than a couple of solid opportunities. More importantly, I expected that despite having less of the ball, we would make our chances count because of AEK’s poor defense.
What I did not expect was how poor we would be in possession and how difficult it would be for us to convert in open play.
I know I just told you AEK dominated possession, but I had to show you just how much they did. Aside from the first 30 minutes of the game, we never maintained more than 40% possession. This was due to a number of reasons. First, when we did have possession it was usually quite poor. Our team pass accuracy of 71% represents the WORST that we have had this year in a match. AEK on the other hand was over 80%. AEK also had some splendid moments of interplay. There were more than a couple of one and two touch moments of interplay that created some interesting opportunities for them down the wing. Most of them did not amount to much, but it sure looked better than anything we had to offer.
Despite looking poor in possession and relatively inept in open play, we did have a surprising number of chances. Only two of our opportunities were of real quality, but the finishing star power of El Arabi and a wonder strike from Baby Camara propelled us to victory. It also speaks volumes about our defense when AEK’s 37 open play attacks resulted in a whopping 6 shots and 0.67 xG.
At this point, there is a question you should ask yourself.
How did we win when we were poor with the ball?
How does any team succeed when they barely complete 150 passes over 90 minutes? They capitalize on the mistakes of their opponent. I mentioned earlier that I expected us to capitalize on a weak AEK defense, but I never thought their defense would literally gift us a goal. Have to admit, that one caught me by surprise. The build up that led to goal number 2 after a lovely ball from Kenny Lala is more what I had in mind. But, as they say in the old country, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”.
“But, Ari,” some of you are asking, “there’s that thing called a press you talk about. That’s why AEK made those mistakes.”
As you can see, our pressing intensity was virtually nonexistent. It did pick up towards the end of the match when El Arabi got his gift of a goal, but otherwise we did not press at all.
Something else we did well in that game? We crushed AEK with our counterattack. Our two best opportunities came off of two unbelievable counters. The first counterattack was the aforementioned play where Kenny Lala assisted El Arabi. Our best opportunity of the night would come on another counter later through Aguibou Camara and be missed by Masouras. The counter attack has been one of our strongest weapons so far this season.
The Patterns Leading Up to Fenerbahce
I said it on the show and I’ll say it again. I am worried about this Europa League match. This season’s Olympiacos is nothing like any of Pedro Martins’s teams of previous seasons. Our tempo has dropped, possession play is markedly worse, we struggle to create in open play, and we rely on few counters and low xG opportunities for victory. For those of you basking in some of these glorious shots from Aguibou Camara, every single one of them is a low xG, low probability opportunity. Mark my words, there will be a time where we stop converting these; probability dictates that. If we cannot find a way to manufacture chances in the opposing third, this is going to be a very stressful end to the group stage.
Until then, let’s hope for a repeat of our match in Turkey. Let’s hope a solid mid block and excellent finishing can give us back some control of this group.