Olympiacos vs. Antwerp Post Match Analysis: What the Hell Was That?
It feels like Deja Vu doesn’t it? Another scenario where we go into a game with an opportunity and a relatively small chance of success? A scenario where we really do not have anything to lose but quite a bit to gain? It certainly sounds familiar to me. Even the part where we absolutely bottle the opportunity as well.
I’m going to preface this by saying that none of us expected Olympiacos to win the group going into this last fixture. Even if we were victorious, we needed to win by a 3 goal margin to overcome the deficit we had in goal differential. Not a likely accomplishment considering that this season we have only accomplished this feat against Apollon Smyrnis, Slovan Bratislava(first leg), and Fenerbahce(in Turkey). Regardless, I expected us to do more with this fixture. After finally seeing some signs of life in this team after the OFI came, I really thought we could build off of that momentum. I do not believe that was too much to ask either. After all, Antwerp conceded the 5th most goals in the entire Europa League going into this final fixture of the group stage. Add to that they were pretty much the worst in most broad goal/xG/goals allowed/xGC metrics.
Some of you might recognize the above charts from my show and tell in our UEL match preview. These 2 charts reinforce the point that Antwerp was literally the worst team in this group. They gave up more dangerous opportunities on average while creating the least dangerous opportunities offensively. With this knowledge in hand and Olympiacos coming off a rejuvenating performance against OFI, I truly believed the winds were blowing in our favor. How wrong was I?
Was Antwerp Good? Or Were We Just Bad?
What makes this whole thing worse, for me at least, is that I was not wrong about Antwerp. They still were quite poor when it came to opportunity creation, we were just worse.
If you did not watch the game and are just looking at this chart, I promise you the game went exactly how you are imagining it. Boring, mediocre possession, and an unimpressive goal from a deflection. With a Wyscout final game xG of .6-.78 it does not leave much to the imagination. When our best opportunity came off of a 10th minute Sokratis header from a corner, it tells you how drastic things were. Antwerp did not even have a “major goal opportunity”. In fact, their best opportunity is the one they scored off of which registered a .16xG. To further your depression, check out how poor our open play was.
If I have to see how shitty the data makes us look, then so do you. Less than .1 xG in open play against a team that leaked more goals and opportunities than almost any other team in Europa League. This is nothing less than steamy, hot garbage and exactly what I was worried about. For those that caught my match preview, I lamented how poor this team has been in open play and cited this as a potential problem. How stupid was I to hope that we could carry over the positive interplay in the final third from the OFI game?
Team Setup and Tactics
Maybe I was not completely out of my mind to think that we could carry over the momentum from OFI. Maybe if we had set ourselves up in a similar fashion we would have seen some success. Unfortunately, Coach Martins had a different idea. Instead of going with Aguibou at the #10 with Rony Lopes and Masouras on the wings, he went with a makeshift 4-3-3 that saw Mady further up the pitch flanked by Onyekuru and Rony Lopez. I’m not sure what the fascination is with Martins and overcorrecting what works. It has been a recurring theme of this season and it really needs to stop. The wholesale changes kill this team’s rhythm as does forcing the starts of a player that we vastly overpaid for. Add to that the fact that we still really do not know what our real starting 11 is.
Here’s what we do know. Over the course of the season so far, a few players have emerged as our core. Cisse, Oleg, and Aguibou Camara. These three players have contributed the most towards our campaign so far. With tireless effort, goals, assists, they are the backbone we should be building off of. Not to take anything away from El Arabi, as he has scored some important goals for us already this season, but his hold-up play has regressed. Anyway, if we go back through our performances and look at the positives it is always one of those three that pop up. The emergence of Rony Lopes in recent weeks adds to this foundation. Garry Rodrigues, if he can stay healthy, should fit in as well. The trick will be finding the other half of the 11 to complement them.