Lamia 2-1 Olympiakos Post-match Analysis: Even Uglier by the Numbers
It’s not very often that you wake up the morning after a win and feel bitter. It’s even less often that you wake up annoyed after a 2-1 victory that preserves your team’s undefeated record. If Twitter is any kind of indication, I was not the only one that felt this way. Since we started Gate 7 International, I have become accustomed to waking up to dramatic takes from overly reactionary fans in both the motherland and the diaspora (including my co-host Lambro). Unfortunately, this time I found it hard to disagree with them. To speak plainly, this game was downright ugly.
If you thought we deserved to lose points from this game, you were probably right. If you’re waiting for me to pull some data that highlights the positives, I’m sorry. There is no Wyscout silver lining for you today.
The General Picture
If you want my honest opinion, we were REALLY fortunate to win this match. Our buildup was poor, interplay was poor (especially in the final third), movement was poor, and there was no real semblance of a game plan. If not for Cisse’s gargantuan figure getting us on the scoresheet from a set piece early, alongside an absurd strike from distance by Bouchalakis, this game ends in a draw--best case scenario. What would you call a team that only has 2 shots on target, 0 through balls, and connects 0/4 crosses all game? Unconvincing. Don’t take my word for it, see the data for yourself:
If this looks bad to you, then trust your instincts. This is underwhelming, to say the least. There is no universe in which we should be getting dominated in possession by Lamia, let alone allowing them more and better scoring opportunities. If you need a reference point for how poor this was, this was the worst offensive performance by us in an official match since our 1st leg match against Neftci Baku in Champions League qualifiers. That being said, there are some takeaways from the charts above.
1st Takeaway: The Kunde Effect
It should surprise no one that the majority of our opportunities were created in the period we controlled possession the most. This was inspired by an important substitution: Kunde for Valbuena. Kunde’s energy on the pitch, both on and off the ball, swung things back in our favor. Almost immediately after his introduction, we intensified our defensive pressure (measured in passes per defensive action or PPDA) throughout the rest of the match, as seen below:
PPDA measures how many times a team allows their opponents to pass before performing a defensive action. Until Kunde’s arrival on the pitch in the 62nd minute, the team allowed Lamia to maintain possession throughout the game, especially in the beginning of the second half. Although we were dominant in possession at this point, the quality of our possession continued to get worse. The fact that we controlled possession and the game at this point was due to our continuous ability to win the ball and get it forward as a byproduct, not because our buildup improved. In other words, Kunde’s relentless pressing and overall energy prevented additional opportunities that could have led to an equalizer.
This begs the question: why did we not start Kunde? When playing smaller sides like Lamia that have a tendency to pack the box, it is really important to have players with energy and stamina. Smaller clubs like these buckle under consistent pressure, especially while playing the ball in their backfield. Furthermore, why is Bouchalakis getting run into the ground for the likes of Lamia?
2nd Takeaway: Valbuena CANNOT be the #10 of this team
My co-hosts and I have said this multiple times on the podcast. It is UNTHINKABLE that we continue to rely on a 37-year-old Mathieu Valbuena to run our offense. Valbuena has been a soldier for this club and a consummate professional, but this club needs more. It’s undeniable that he’s a set piece master and links up well with many of our other players, but this team misses Fortounis. This team needs a #10 that can break down the defensive lines and exploit the gaps between midfield and defense, while also running at defenders. We can no longer afford having a 37-year-old that creates 0 scoring opportunities in open play in this role.
To Mathieu’s credit, it was not just him that was ineffective at the #10 position. Aguibou Camara started out at the position and was not able to create much. When Aguibou and Valbuena switched, that’s when we saw the run and pass that led to the Bouchalakis goal. Even when Kunde made his way on the field and debuted his skills in the elevated position, it was not his ball skills or possession that impacted the game directly. It should concern all of us that if we combine the performances of every player in this game that played the #10 position, NONE were able to play a single pass into the penalty area nor attempt a through pass.
We hoped this game would further what we thought was a turning point in our victory against Antwerp. Unfortunately, it left us mulling over the patterns that continue to haunt us and asking more questions. Did Martins go all in on 4-4-2 because we lacked a day in and day out #10? Did Rony Lopes disappoint so much so that we abandoned the initial idea of him taking Fortounis’s place?
I don’t envy the job Martins has ahead of him. With mounting pressure amid high expectations for this season, he will need to figure this out and time is ticking ahead of Fenerhbace.