• Konstantinos Lianos

Olympiacos’ win over Panetolikos proves Michel needs to build around these four players



Olympiacos picked up a much-need, confidence-boosting 2-0 win over Panetolikos in Agrinio on Saturday that came with an important lesson for manager Michel.


It is no secret the Greek champions are dealing with a considerably inflated squad that needs an urgent and dramatic makeover from the head coach as well as the powers that be.


That is indeed a daunting task for any manager - especially someone of Michel’s calibre – but some important steps can still be undertaken before the 2022 World Cup break, which the inconsistent Piraeus giants desperately need to take advantage of.


Last week I expressed the need to build the team around a select few players after the shock loss to PAOK at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.


Those are Pep Biel, James Rodriguez, Hwang In-beom and Cedric Bakambu – and the match against Panetolikos proved my point.


All four players started for Olympiacos, who absolutely dominated throughout the encounter as they controlled 71 per cent of possession, produced 16 shots – three of which were on target – and conceded zero shots on target.


If we delve into the stats a little deeper, we will notice that the aforementioned quartet were absolutely essential for Michel’s side.


So let’s strap in for a small deep dive after this quick housekeeping – sorry Ari…


Hwang registered the most tackles (3), most touches (152) and most accurate passes (128 out of 141). James produced the most key passes (4) as well as crosses (seven, four of which found their target) and picked up another assist.


Biel won the most ground duels (7), completed the most dribbles (3) and scored an absolutely stunning opener after 50 minutes proving that Michel should never EVER dare omit him from his squad again – especially in a derby.


Bakambu was admittedly not as influential but out of all strikers currently at Michel’s disposal, the Congolese ace is evidently the most logical candidate to spearhead the attack with three goals in five Superleague matches already.


But it took the 38-year-old Mathieu Valbuena once more to seal the three points with a beautiful finish eight minutes before time.


That shows there is still work to be done and odds are we won’t see any of it on Thursday at Freiburg. Michel will probably not show any improvement against Lamia at the Karaiskaki the following Sunday either, but something will have to change by the time his team hosts Nantes and visits high-flying rivals Panathinaikos.


We’re nearing November and Olympiacos have yet to register a statement victory in Greece or Europe. I’ve said it many times on the pod, the Greek champs have a lot of quality players especially for Greek standards – sorry boys and girls, Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t keen on reuniting with Marcelo and James…


All they need is to click, and a big win could do just that as it could help them gain some much-needed confidence they have been lacking since the summer.


A win against Nantes – in what poses as a potential Europa League final for the team – would allow them to approach the crunch clash against Panathinaikos with a lot less stress, especially for Michel who could be fighting for his job by that time…


And a victory against PAO could indeed turn this season around as it would lead to a rough landing for Ivan Jovanovic’s men and would give Michel’s side a massive boost back in the title hunt.


But a win over minnows Panetolikos, who are barely holding on to seventh place, is not enough to make us hope for an imminent season changer just yet…


FOR MORE POST-MATCH ANALYSIS CHECK OUT OUR POSTMATCH PODCAST (BELOW)



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