Oly vs. Pao Post-match: Maybe The Performance We Wanted, But Not the Result
When it comes to derbies, we always expect things to be tight. When it comes to THE derby, it also has the tendency to be ugly. This derby in particular had one more caveat that tends to make it just a little bit more tricky as well. It came following a major European match. Throw all of that together and on top of it remember that our green friends see this game as a cup final. This game was set up to be a “grind it out” match from the beginning.
Although the result ended 0-0, the match was not at all what we expected. Instead of a tight, ugly battle of attrition, we saw something a lot more one sided.
Possession and Game Flow
In the first half, Panathinaikos saw a slightly more even share of the ball. Unfortunately, there was not much they could do to break down our stalwart defense. As the half wore on, Olympiacos got into more and more dangerous scoring positions. When looking at the xG chart, Olympiacos saw its most threatening opportunities towards the end of the first half. Most of those came down our left side of the field. Taking this into consideration, it is not surprising that Jovanovic transitioned from 4-4-2 to a more compact 4-2-3-1. Although he ceded control of the game to us, our overall goal scoring threat was negatively affected. It was quite clear in the 2nd half Panathinaikos was not playing for the win, but rather playing not to lose.
It is not very often you see a game end 0-0 when your team’s xG is over 2 with 22 shots. Unfortunately for Olympiacos fans, this has now happened twice this season. First against Atromitos and now again against Panathinaikos. So how is it that a team can muster 22 shots against their opponent and not score a single goal?
Well if you want to score you probably need to get more shots on frame. For those of you that can count and do basic arithmetic, there are not 22 balls placed on this picture. The balls that you see here are the ones representing shots that were not blocked. When your team dominates possession for the entire game and manages 22 shots, it is hard to point to something other than finishing as the problem.
If we compare this match to the Atromitos match, there is a similar game script and outcome. The only underlying similarity was the formation, 4-4-2. Why is it that when we play this formation we always seem to underperform relative to our xG? Why are we switching to a 4-4-2 when this team was finally clicking with the 4-2-3-1? How does Tiquinho go from seeing incredible volume and scoring opportunities to mustering 0 shots and 3 touches in the penalty area with 111’ of playing time?
There are too many “coincidences” for me not to suspect the 4-4-2 is the culprit. Even if Tiquinho and El Arabi eventually find chemistry, their use on the field limits our game management. Martins currently does not roster a third striker which makes it difficult to sub off either Tiquinho or El Arabi. Furthermore, we only have 1 winger with an end product, Giorgos Masouras. This team cannot afford to forego a #10 and trust our wingplay. We’ve already seen twice how this works when we create numerous opportunities in this setup.
The 4-4-2 may be the magnet for our ire today, but we cannot forget that this is not the first time we have lamented our performances against Panathinaikos under Martins. In some derbies, we have given entirely too much respect to our opponents when we should have approached them more similarly to mid and lower tier clubs.
Time for an Update to Derby approach?
The charts above paint a very interesting picture. A picture that is slightly counterintuitive to how we’ve viewed these derbies. Even on the podcast we have discussed how this derby is a completely different animal. Panathinaikos shows up differently for this match and the rules of engagement completely shift. The question is, why should it? Have we let the buildup of the historical rivalry overrate our technical assessment of Panathinaikos?
I should preface this by saying that I am not downplaying this rivalry nor its history. Panathinaikos will always be our biggest rivals as Costa Levoyiannis mentioned. Nothing will change that. But when we look at how often we dominate performances and how little Panathinaikos creates (especially in the last year and a half), they bear a lot of similarities to how we play mid table and lower tier sides. Should we be approaching these games with a more aggressive and offensive mindset? This is not the Panathinaikos of old that challenged us for the title and could go toe to toe with us. This Panathinaikos team is a shadow of its former self with a mid table club’s mentality. After all, are mid table clubs not thrilled to simply avoid a loss against us?
Results in these derby matches can determine titles. We must always show a certain level of respect to our rivals, but the data is clear. We are the lions of this rivalry. Time to act like it.