Another Tough Day in the Office: Olympiacos vs. PAS Giannina Post Match Analysis
Have you ever had one of those days at work that just will not end? A day where the coffee just is not strong enough even after 4 or 5 cups? When the day finally ends, it does not matter what happened. The only thing that matters is that it is over. That’s pretty much how I felt after the Giannina game.
We knew from the outset that this game would be ugly. PAS is picking up where they left off last season with a strong defense and a tight, disciplined formation forcing offenses to the wide areas. Prior to this game, the Epirotes only allowed 2 goals in their first 5 games. They were tied with Olympiacos and Aris for least goals conceded through the first 5 gameweeks. I expected a draw and if we were fortunate a 1-0 or 2-1 win. Most of all I was hoping that their field would be in order and our players would not get hurt.
We started the game in a 4-2-3-1 with Tiquinho leading the charge, Baby Camara at the 10, and a double pivot of Mady/Bouchalakis. The game started off with us seeing the lion’s share of possession in the beginning of the match as we expected. The problem, as it has been all season so far, was that all of that possession amounted to little end product. If we look at the quality of the opportunities we created in the first half, we see a grand total of .26 xG from 3 opportunities. Those chances included Onyekuru’s blocked shot, Baby Camara’s goal, and the Mady strike from the top of the box. We were extremely fortunate that Aguibou had a wonder strike on that first goal. It was not a great opportunity and the angle was tough as well.
To be fair, it is not as if PAS really threatened us that much. Sure in the final 15 minutes of the first half they had a salvo of opportunities against us. The most threatening opportunity; however, was from Gardawski at a really tough angle. I never really felt concerned that anything was going to happen even with how ugly that first half was. What PAS did very well though, was hold their formation and keep things tight. They made it very difficult for us to get anything going into the final third. They succeeded for the most part as our average shot distance was over 21 meters.
Game Management by Martins
As the game progressed Martins adjusted our tactics a few times. It started with an on-field switch in the first half. As we continued to struggle breaking through the final third, Martins moved Masouras to the #10, Onyekuru to the right, and Baby Camara to the left. This change, although drastic, really did nothing for us. As evidenced by the possession chart and xG chart it neither succeeded in helping us maintain possession nor helped us break into the final third.
At halftime, Martins opted for another big change. He subbed on Yann Mvila for Onyekuru. Not only was he changing a deep midfielder for a winger, he effectively changed our formation to a 4-3-3. The reason for this being that PAS succeeded in stifling our play through the midfield and thereby disrupting the spine of our possession.
The purpose of Yann Mvila’s introduction was two-fold. First, to help us re-establish our dominance in the possession game. Second, to help diffuse the press that Giannina had slowly begun working up against us. Yann Mvila’s presence had the desired effect. To start the second half we not only dominated possession against PAS, but their press was nonexistent. For the first 15 minutes of the second half, they barely attempted 1 defensive action per 71 passes. Despite the return of our possession game, we still were not producing quality opportunities in the final third. Pressure then was added when we conceded the penalty in the 61st minute.
In the 67th minute, Martins made another major adjustment to personnel and lineup. He subs on Youssef El Arabi for Bouchalakis. By removing a defensive midfielder for a striker, the intent from Martins was clear. Game flow was back in our favor despite the penalty and it was time to go for the win. El Arabi’s introduction saw us change to the 4-4-2 and immediately there were results. Within 2 minutes of his return, he gets involved in a buildup that leads to a free-kick and a Sokratis header off target. Immediately after that, he links up with Baby Camara to set up a Masouras opportunity that gets missed afterwards.
It did not take long for Martins to smell blood in the water following the El Arabi sub. In the 78th minute, he brought on fresh legs and pace in Garry Rodrigues along with experience and tactical acumen in Valbuena. As the pressure mounted, PAS conceded the freekick that would lead to our 2nd goal. Then our good old boy Avraam came in to lock down the result.
Eyes on Frankfurt
The most important thing about this game is that everyone made it out healthy. We knew the fixture would be tough, we knew things could be ugly, and we received the best possible outcome. Now the team needs to use the momentum from this win to bring our A-game against Frankfurt. A win here sets us up for a top table finish in the group.