Getting the Most Out of Masouras
Updated: May 16, 2022
As firmly an outsider looking in, the vast majority of Olympiacos related-fanfare and headlines are reserved for foreign imports looking to take that next step and trade Pireaus for somewhere west. You need only look at the UK search trends from the past year and see the overwhelming correlation between the names “Jose Sa”, “Mady Camara”, “Agibou Camara”, and “Olympiacos”. Half of me thinks that it’s an awful shame that the full extent of what Olympiacos as an institution, fan base, and group of players offer is practically invisible to those who don’t already know. However, at least there is some visibility. Outside of Greece and perhaps Turkey, you would be hard-pressed to find much if any interest or buzz around Giorgos Masouras, who, in my mind, is an unheralded member of the most recent Thrylos three-peat. This appreciation of mine for Masouras is new-founded. Before being asked by Ari to take a look at the winger, my knowledge of Masouras was limited to what was reported in the Turkish press concerning a potential move to Trabzonspor and his appearances against Fener in the UEL. In all honesty, I think he’s an equally talented yet frustrating top-end Greek talent who disappointingly can only be described as a “late-bloomer”. So let me explain my grounding behind that statement by looking at where and when he thrives and where he fails to do so.
When watching Masouras, he physically stood out. Despite holding down the right-wing for the most part, he’s built more like a striker, with a long frame and a strong posterior chain, perhaps some foreshadowing! He isn’t quick but also isn’t slow, firmly in the lane of runners and dribblers who rely on technique and intelligence over raw pace. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if Olympiacos were able to compliment Masouras with a dynamic and quick partner on the left or at striker. However, the repeated failure to do so has been a personal and collective limiting factor.
If we move towards his data profile, Masouras must have one of the most unique and puzzling profiles I’ve seen from a winger. The graphic below shows it. Here we see a winger who is elite at scoring and assisting goals, but besides an impressive defensive contribution, it's, dare I say, uninspiring at best and terrible at worst. The disparity between his chance creation metrics and actual assists is almost paradoxical. However, regardless of how he gets there, he still manages to put it on a plate for teammates. But, as we will discuss later, his ability or, better put, inability to move with the ball is incredibly un-winger like, and perhaps the biggest slight on his game.
As stated earlier, Masouras has had the archetypal trajectory of a “late-bloomer”. He only joined Olympiacos in 2019 at the age of 25; however, since joining, he has steadily seen his value and stock increase and even sky-rocket during the calendar year of 2021, as seen in the graphics below.
Classical Winger Tendencies and Success
Despite lacking a few strings that your average winger would have in their bow, those he has are incredibly potent. Despite the paradoxical data evaluation regarding chance-creation, Masouras is an excellent facilitator and does his best work on the wing. Below we can see Masouras’s shot assists and goal assists from the past calendar year. The first thing of note is the abundance of deliveries from the right-wing, many in the form of crosses. Beyond this, there is a healthy serving of through balls played from deep and interplay both in and around the box.
Despite playing on the right, for the most part, Masouras is given license to roam, especially in counter-attacking situations where he and the ST often form an impromptu two. An example of the benefits can be seen below; here, Masouras receives the ball, turns, and has one thought in his mind: play in the ST. He does this with great precision, managing to evade two defenders and providing the ST with a 1v1 opportunity.
Another example of his ability to thread the needle can be seen below from a match against AEK. Here Masouras has picked up the ball on the left side and drifted inwards. He’s attracted the RCB, who has taken a step forward to engage, in turn, opening space for the ST to run into. The ST recognises this and offers a run; Masouras finds him, managing to whip it past the RCB, again generating a 1v1 opportunity.
Despite being adept in situations like the two previous, Masouras’s creative juices flow freest when out-wide and crossing the ball, which he is fantastic at. Whether whipped, driven, from a dead-ball or open play, Masouras has a knack for finding his desired target.
Above is a perfect example of Masouras manufacturing a chance for his teammate with an effective cross despite the overriding difficulty. At this point, Masouras has both the onrushing goalkeeper and the two CBs marking the striker to deal with. Acknowledging this, Masouras plays the ball with the appropriate pace and pitch, allowing the ST space and time to volley the ball first time at goal.
Above is an entirely different situation, but the common denominator is a fantastic Masouras cross, leading to a goal-scoring opportunity. Despite the presence of upwards of 6 defenders, Masouras identifies the substantial space back post. He has a runner offering and plays him in, circumventing both his defender and the goalkeeper with his right foot. Despite the perfectly placed pass, the forward somehow misses it; Masouras was robbed of an assist.
The vision and spatial awareness in the final example above are incredible. Despite cutting in from the left and having his eyes firmly set on the goal, Masouras picks out an on-running right-sided teammate, who has been left in plenty of space. The almost 90-degree difference in position is outrageous. Regardless, Masouras contours his body to get this pass off quickly and accurately; sadly, again, his teammate fails to challenge the goalkeeper.
Limiting Factors Out-Wide
Masouras firmly exceeds the requirements for chance creation; however, the same can’t be said for a few other critical fundamentals of winger play. First, as mentioned in the data section, Masouras doesn’t dribble much, and when he does, he is mainly unsuccessful. Being able to beat your man and excite the crowd is perhaps the cardinal expectation of wingers; Masouras just doesn’t fulfil it. We can see this below, where the starting positions of all of Masouras’s dribbles in the past year are plotted. For most wingers, especially of Masouras’s level, this graphic would be littered with white, black, and blue dots; however, it’s just not. As mentioned earlier, if he had someone on his opposite wing who could, for the most part, carry the load, this problem would be primarily averted, but that partner seldom appears at Olympiacos.
Secondly, Masouras's consistency and role in build-up out with the final killer ball is limited. Below we can see his passing radars in the five spots he's seen most often in. It's mainly filled with small reddish bars, suggesting he doesn't play many passes. They are much like his dribbles when he does, largely below par in terms of accuracy. But, as discussed earlier, this doesn't detract from the fact that he becomes a magician when in the final third; however, it's fair to want his influence to extend beyond the final third, especially when playing for a side possession dominant like Olympiacos.
This concern manifests itself again when you look at his progressive action map below. Again it is not the primary concern of a winger to progress the ball as that is primarily differed to CMs and FBs. However, the shallow levels of progression are disappointing if not concerning.
A Wide-Forward/Striker Hybrid?
Occam's Razor would suggest that you place Masouras in a position where dribbling, ball progression, and an active role in build-up are largely irrelevant. That can be only two positions, ST or GK, and Masouras will not have a late-career revelation that his true home is between the sticks. At striker, you could streamline Masouras’s game into a player that purely operates in the final third. I think he could be best partnered with a taller target man, giving him the ability to play off him and have a constant target for those trademark crosses. Masouras’s penalty-box play is excellent for a winger, as is his finishing. Below is his shot map from the past calendar year, littered with high-quality chances and goals. Despite playing on the wing and wingers getting a bad reputation for poor choice selection, Masouras’s shots, for the most part, are in or around the penalty spot, more striker-like than anything.
Perhaps as exciting is the fact that Masouras can score in any number of ways. For example, he's a talented ball-striker. This allows him to take on the goalkeeper from both in and outside the box, though, as always, shots from inside are preferred. These can be seen in both examples below, where he leverages both the defenders obscuring the keeper's view and the GK's position, leaving them no chance of saving the well-struck efforts.
Masouras also maintains a threat in the air; ideally, he would be on the end of his crosses, but he has to make do with deliveries from teammates. As mentioned earlier, his frame is striker-like and coupled with his intelligent movement, it makes him a tangible aerial threat; see below for a good example.
An even more impressive example of Masouras’s movement in-game can be seen below. Here his national team teammate is sizing up for what looks like a shot. Understanding the unlikelihood of this going in, Masouras gambles and follows the shot, which is misplaced and turns into a cross. Masouras meets it and is just 6 yards from goal, where he quickly turns it into the net.
It would be wrong to say that all of the qualities mentioned above don't serve a purpose when playing as a winger, as they do; Masouras’s career up to now is a testament to it. But, despite this, I do think that considering the frailties in his winger resume, there should be a discussion at the very least about adapting his role and, should you want to go further, changing his opposition altogether.
Comparison with Peers
Masouras’s label of statistical anomaly is only backed up by comparisons with the Super League’s other outstanding wingers. Let’s start with AEK’s Steven Zuber, with a radar comparing the two below.
Masouras comes out on top regarding both expected and non-penalty goals and expected assists but fails to challenge Zuber in any of the other nine categories. Undoubtedly, Zuber's deeper role helps him rack up better statistics, as does the presence of the dynamic Levi Garcia. Still, you wouldn't be blamed for wondering why Masouras can't at least pick up the slack in goal-scoring related metrics.
A similar comparison is forged, this time with PAOK’s Andrija Živković. Živković’s role differs from Masouras, as he is afforded more of the ball and is PAOK’s undisputed talisman. Masouras easily beats Živković when it comes to goal-scoring metrics and foul differential. Still, much like when compared with Zuber, Živković trounces him elsewhere. At least statistically, they appear to be an excellent match to play alongside one another. However, I doubt either one fancies crossing the line.
Finally, to end, an intra-squad comparison. Agibou and Masouras are the only AM/Ws who have played over 1000 mins in the Super League, which is highly concerning and a complete failure from the club to build a functioning and consistent front-line, which no doubt perpetuates Masouras’s particular struggles. Agibou plays far more centrally and deeper than Masouras or the other two used for comparisons but still constitutes an attacking midfielder. As expected, Masouras beats him out in goalscoring metrics and foul differential. Yet, Camara takes the rest, a concurrent theme in all three radars.
Masouras was a fun player to watch. His goals, assists, crosses, and line-breaking passes are so easy on the eye, though that can be said for other parts of his game. But, as highlighted throughout, the failure to provide dynamism on the left-wing and at striker doesn't help Masouras at all. I can imagine a universe where he is fully optimised playing alongside an electric left-winger and a mobile striker, and it's a fun one. The links to Trabzonspor were interesting; given his age, should you receive a reasonable offer, let's say around the £7.5-10m mark, Olympiacos should take it. This summer is one of few junctures left where significant funds could be raised off the back of a Masouras sale. Despite that, I can see him seeing out his prime at Olympiacos, where he should remain a key player domestically and a net-positive when in UEFA competition.