Ahmed Hassan: The Perfect Storm
Now that Olympiakos have officially wrapped up the Greek Super League title, I think it is high time I talk about a particular player that has come up big for us and may not get the credit he deserves. Step forward, Ahmed Hassan. The Egyptian striker has had a real rollercoaster of a season with huge goals, huge misses, and a near career-ending illness, but he has come out the other side and proved to his doubters that he is a valuable part of the team. Would we be in a different position in the league without the contribution of the man with the power header? Possibly? Would we have exited Europe far earlier if it was not for the impact of the Egyptian Zlatan? Definitely? I have spent most of the season loving the qualities of our fox in the box and yet equally enjoying how much I can meme him at the expense of Lambros Syrmos, and I would do it all over again if I could. So for a fun little blog that I have wanted to do for a very long time, I will be taking a semi-serious look at the contribution of a player who has his critics for the number of chances he misses and his limited skill on the ball. But he still comes up with the goods, the goals, and to celebrate having a player such as Hassan in our Thrylos squad, I’ll be taking a look at his season.
Coming Up Clutch when Called Upon
For the most part this season, Hassan has been disciplined by Pedro Martins as more of an impact substitute by coming on the midway or towards the latter stages of a match to play along with side first-team striker Youssef El Arabi. This has been done normally when the team is struggling for a goal in a match and gives El Arabi another player to play off of if the Moroccan forward is isolated by himself, while also diverting the focus of the opposing team on to him and giving Hassan the chance to find a clear chance and score it.
This for the most part has been a very successful plan B for Thrylos this season, as Hassan has been able to supplement the lack of technique compared to the more complete El Arabi with the uncanny ability to score hugely important goals at close range. Whether it be from tap-ins, rebounds or headers, he certainly does more of the dirty work to get on the score sheet. He reminds me of similar clutch players such as Park Ji-Sung for Manchester United or Nacer Chadli from his time at Spurs: both not the greatest players technically but they had the ability to be in the right place at the right time to score a vital goal off the bench.
In the past when Hassan was the starting centre forward, he was often criticised for missing a big chance at important moments which would cost his team a result, but strangely, the less game time he has, the more influential he has tended to be. hile he is still at fault for some misses now and again, for the most part, he has found a much more decisive way of making himself useful when on the pitch.
To reference my favourite quote from Leicester City manager Brendan Rogers when describing Hassan he certainly has popped up with some amazing moments of “sheer tenacity” this season. When Olympiakos have needed a deadlock breaker in a match or a late winner to keep them in a tie, Hassan has been that man to provide the goods this season.
Domestically, people forget that Thrylos started the season rather slowly. Despite remaining consistent with regards to results, the style of play was sluggish and lacked a cutting edge as Pedro Martins’ men took until the end of November to score in the first half of a league match. We were saved for the most part by improved second-half performances where the team would start to find their footing in games and see out the win, certainly in individual games thanks to the impact of Hassan from the bench.
He first showed this quality in the Champions League Group stage on Match Day 1 against Marseille, when the Egyptian came on in the 86th minute with the tie deadlocked at 0-0. Minutes later in added time he would score a late winner to give his side all three points. With that being the only points we would claim in the competition, ultimately finishing third and entering the Europa League Round of 32, Hassan's goal saved our European season. This would not be the last time the striker would come up clutch for Thrylos and save their campaign in Europe, as he was subbed on towards the end of the second leg tie against PSV with the Dutch side going through on away goals. The Egyptian Zlatan would grab a vital rebound goal in the 87th minute to make it 2-1 on the night to PSV but 5-4 on aggregate to Olympiakos, meaning the Greek champions progressed to the round of 16 for the second consecutive season.
Domestically, Hassan also started to get into the good habit of impacting matches and breaking the deadlock after coming off the bench against Apollon Smyrni where he scored a double. Upon his return from injury, he would also help his side take all three points by scoring in the 90th minute against a stubborn PAS Giannina side. He most recently and most importantly was the star man off the bench in last Sunday’s clash with Panathinaikos as a win would secure the title for the 46th time against our eternal rivals. Upon being substituted for the injured Oussenyou Ba and with the score at 0-1 to PAO, Hassan found a much-needed equaliser through a late first-half header and this was the catalyst for a Thrylos comeback. He would score his and the home side's second goal to put Olympiakos ahead and essentially claim a famous 3-1 victory over our eternal enemies, helping us retain the title.
While he has started and scored on numerous occasions, most recently in the Greek Cup semi-final first leg against PAS where he scored an overhead kick equaliser in a 1-1 draw, I wanted to highlight his goals from off of the bench, as that is where he has been the most useful and prolific to the team this season.
Overall the 28-year-old has matched his best goal-scoring record with 15 goals and 4 assists (19 goal contributions) in 31 games in all competitions\. This is a very decent return for a single season where he has not started consistently, has been given limited game time to grab his goals, and on top of that being kept out with Covid19 for longer than expected (due to health complications which nearly ended his career as a footballer). This record so far also reflects on Hassan's time at Olympiakos overall, where he has scored 38 in 82 games, just under a goal every other game, which is super consistent for a player of his calibre. He may have the limits; he may have his critics, and sometimes the criticism of him is justified, as he will never be as complete a striker as his teammate El Arabi. But what this campaign has shown more than any other is that Hassan can contribute on all fronts for this Olympiakos team and that he more than deserves some credit for our successes even without the spotlight only on him.