So many times, when watching Olympiakos over the last 5 years, I have had to endure the constant Anti-Bouchalakis rhetoric from people who, for all intents and purposes, have had no experience in football, and quite frankly no idea what they’re talking about.
However, it is when you hear it from pundits and journalists that you start to question your own summation, but it’s like anything in this new age we live in. If there is no instant gratification, or if the results start trending south, people scramble to lay blame, and in this squad Bouchalakis is the unfortunate sacrificial lamb. If you need an example of this, just research the newspaper articles the morning after the Porto away match in the most recent Champions League campaign.
In the summer when Yann M’Vila was signed, the overwhelming sentiment was joy and relief; we had found someone to compliment Mady Camara and fill the void left by the outbound Guilherme.
Whilst M’Vila is a fantastic out and out number 6, and he is probably our best midfielder, for me Bouchalakis offers something the other midfielders cannot. He gives you that extra 10% effort, and over and above all else, he sticks to his tactical role. Finding players with that level of discipline is rare, and whilst people might roll their eyes, I would have Bouchalakis’ name on the team sheet before any other player.
I draw your attention to a recent guest on the Gate 7 International podcast, Peter Philipakos. In his interview he mentioned that nowadays kids do not want to play the simple pass; they’d much rather play the long ball and gather the kudos that comes with the successful cross-field pass.
The 5m-10m direct pass is much more valuable to coaches who value ball possession and territorial tactics. It allows for quick inter-play and brings others into the game at a quicker pace. Most importantly, it allows repeated overlapping to take place on the wings; a trait which was synonymous with Olympiakos in the last 3 years under Martins.
The discipline to continuously play those 5m-10m balls is not something to take lightly. Most players want to stand out in big European matches and tend to over-commit.
If we look at this year’s statistics, it brings what I am saying into sharper focus.
UEFA Champions League Campaign 20/21':
90% Passing Accuracy.
52.1km covered (8.6km average p/match)
23 balls recovered.
In a group with Manchester City and Porto, both of which made it at least as far as the quarterfinals of the Champions League, to have 90% pass accuracy when your side only wins 1 match and is outplayed in the majority of the other games, is a testament to Bouchalakis’ discipline and composure.
It’s no coincidence that there is interest from Bundesliga clubs. Their scouts obviously see the value in tactical discipline, not to mention his anaerobic capacity speaks for itself.
I feel that if, and when, Bouchalakis does leave to ply his trade abroad, only then will people see the value in what he brings to this team.
A young player who waited his turn, went out on loan, came back and fought his way into the squad and is now a staple for Pedro Martins.
Captain Boucha, we salute you.